Monday, June 9, 2014


As a media-loving teen in the 80s it was full-time work following up on my various media obsessions. I was huge into Monty Python, and had a jones for all related British humor, staying up late to catch Fawlty Towers reruns on PBS, for example. So when MTV, in a then-novel foray into non-music programming, announced the airing of their first episode of The Young Ones, I eagerly tuned in.

There had been a timelessness to Python, but The Young Ones was more recognizably NOW, injecting elements of punk and other contemporary music that was beginning to fascinate me. The Young Ones seemed to jump out of the set; Python seemed to fester sillily, but The Young Ones was a moshpit. But its celebration of rule-breaking anarchy was tempered with self-reflection. Rik, the in-house anarchist, was often revealed to have crippling self-doubt, often stopping short when considering the reality of the party line he spewed so explosively. I wasn't surprised that Rik Mayall, the actor who played Rik, was one of the lead writers of the show, since Rik seemed to have more shade and substance than his three fellow students. He was a nice warning to a budding malcontent, and, in retrospect, looms large in my personal lexicon.

I'd kept only sporadically in touch with Mayall's oeuvre over the last few years - some swear that Drop Dead Fred is a classic, but it seemed much less than what it could have been. But I was pleased that he kept working, and was sorry to hear of his injuries later in his career. I was sad, though perhaps not surprised, to hear of his untimely death.

There's much to enjoy and appreciate in looking back on his work - memories of Rik's more insane moments, of Mayall's more bittersweet and shaded television experiments. And indeed of his role in a strong, countercultural movement in British comedy that has made as indelible a stamp on comedy as we know it as the surreal antic of Python before it.

I raise one to him, smiling even as I mourn.

Thanks, Rik. G'night.