Tuesday, 10 June 2014

How can Rick be dead when we still have his poems? My tribute to Rik Mayall

Can you hear it? all the kids are crying. On every street the punks and skins and rastas are holding hands in sorrow for their fallen leader. The confused parents cry out: ‘but why are the kids crying?’ And the response is swift: ‘Haven’t you heard? Rick is dead! The peoples’ poet is dead!’ It seems that overdose of laxatives finally caught up with him after 30 years.

Yes, the funniest man of a generation has shuffled off the mortal coil and will soon be auditioning for the choir invisible. Yesterday, Rick Mayall the forefather of the UK alternative comedy movement passed on; in unexplained circumstances at present.

And I for one am one of those weeping children who, although wasn’t around in the heyday of The Young Ones, Filthy Rich andCatflap, Blackadder and Bottom, owe a huge debt to the man who could make obnoxious anarchic characters something to die laughing over. I firstly thank my dad for bringing home a Young Ones VHS when I was 11, which certainly shaped the person I am today. And here, without further ado, are the best things Rik Mayall brought into my everyday life. A true comedian is one who christens your taste in comedy. But one who shapes the way you behave and the pursuits you seek is something out of this world. Here's to the man who got me into poetry and social science.


I might have mentioned before, that I have a degree in political science from the University of Surrey. As a teenager I was tuned into the news and followed the lies, cheats and terrible decisions made by the politicians who bring the country down further and further with every new government. 

Until The Young Ones arrived in my life, I had no idea whom Margaret Thatcher was, nor what the difference was between Labour, Liberal and Tory. I can still recall spending hours every day glued to Rick’s obnoxious rants about the Thatcherite junta and asking mum and dad what it all meant. Learning about politics made satire all the more funny, and I must thank Mr Mayall for making me learn more about politics, government and history than any other boy in my class. 


For many years now, I have regarded myself as an anarchist of sorts. When I tuned into the Young Ones I was curious about the symbol the peoples’ poet had on his back, and several years later, following lots of reading and research, I felt I could certainly relate to Rick’s calls to smash the state. 

It was also Rick’s liking for Karl Marx in series two of Young Ones that got me into communism and eventually see me donning a punk rock guise and spouting anarcho-communist slogans which made me feel confident and politically aware. The wittiness of co-star Alexei Sayle made me a more left wing person, and I must thank Ade Edmonson for getting me interested in Punk, but it all comes down to the works of Mr Mayall that got me interested in Anarchy, peace, freedom and equality – all under a red flag.


With the politics aside, Mr Mayall and his side splitting chemistry with Mr Edmonson, introduced me to my all time favourite insult: BASTARD!

You’ve probably read why I like my insults to bequirky and why we need to new ones every so often, but BASTARD stood out as the funniest insult to throw at an enemy. Nobody else at school used the phrase and I always felt triumphant when I used it on a nemesis whose favourite choice of insult was a homophobic slur. The English language is the finest language of all time and certainly the best gold mine for words that harm and ashame. 

This selfish bastard may have left us too early, but he leaves behind a legacy of beautifully putrid insults to add to any youngblood’s vocabulary. Mr Mayall graced TV when comedy was at its most subtle, and he left us with more than a set of silly catchphrases.


 Finally, my aspirations to go into higher education and enjoy the anarchy and chaos of student life can also be attributed to the man with the many CND pins.

Lord Flasheart was more than enough of an influence on my obsession with 20th century history, and the poetry spouting anarchist helped in my choice of studies. Later on, when I discovered the short lived classic: Filthy, Rich and Catflap, I don’t think I’d have decided on a career in journalism or the media. 

The best type of comedy, in my book, is the type that can educate as well as entertain. And through the escapades of the talentless Richie Rich and his alcoholic minder Edward Catflap, I eventually learnt everything there is to know about British newspapers, television careers, the theatre, the sex industry and Rupert Murdoch. Although this classic was from the 80s and the dialogue is easily dated, I suggest anyone who hasn’t seen this show to give it a shot. If you’re curious about the Leveson Inquiry, just watch the final episode of Filthy, Rich and Catflap and you’ll know just how bad Mr Murdoch’s empire was at its peak in the 80s. 

But above all, Mr Mayall came to prominence with a comedic take on political activism and the ongoing fight for freedom and human rights in today’s post-industrial society. I’ve always been interested in giving equal rights and justice to all human beings and nature, and Mr Mayall told me I am not alone. He also made it clear that political activists can have a sense of humour too. 

Thank you Mr Mayall. Without your work, I would not have been protesting at Thatcher’s funeral last year, nor would I have got involved in human rights and non-profit work. You were the voice of a generation  before me, but your life, hope and poetry will live on forever in the hearts and minds of my generation and our children.

Sleep well you bastard.

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