I usually greet news of famous people’s deaths with a bit of a shrug. Of course, it’s sad to hear about someone dying, especially when they are young. Thoughts always go out to people’s families at such times. But I’ve never really understood the outpourings of grief from people for the death of someone they don’t really know.
So what was different about Rik Mayall? I didn’t know him after all. He could have been a complete and utter bastard for all I know.
And there you have it. His comedy has been around for so much of my life, I find myself using his phrases without even realising it.
The Young Ones hit our screens when I was at university. We were glued to it from the off and, before long, its language had found its way into our everyday speech.
The one where they had a party and the house was wrecked was screened the Tuesday after we had been at a party where the house was wrecked.
“What’s that? It’s a hippie, isn’t it?”
The one where they were in trouble for not having a TV licence was on the week after we got a nasty letter for not having a TV licence. Unlike the Young Ones, we decided to get a licence, as none of us fancied eating the telly.
“It was the other three, not me. I had no idea what was going on.”
The episode where they were revising for University Challenge was just before our finals.
“You’re a creepy little swot you’ve done about 15 million tons of work for this, just like a girl!”
“You’ve come bottom in the whole world!”
Fortunately, I didn’t but I thought I might until I saw my marks up on the board a few days later.
A few years later, I found myself living near Hammersmith, spending far too much time in its riverside pubs. And so were Rick Mayall’s and Ade Edmondson’s characters in Bottom. By then, property prices in the area had risen to the point where even the slum they were living in would have been unaffordable to a couple of no-hopers like Richie and Eddie. I seem to remember this was explained by Richie having a legacy from an aunt, or something.
The opening credits featured the building site that would eventually become the new Hammersmith tube station, the shopping centre and, mostly, Coca Cola’s European HQ.
The two of them have a fight on a bench on Hammersmith Broadway. Last week, someone put a fake blue plaque on it.
And so it went on, from Alan B’Stard parodying the worst of Thatcherism through Blackadder to the most recent “pint of me” Bombardier adverts.
Many others have written about his comic genius. That’s taken as read. For me, though, there’s something more personal. Rik Mayall’s comedy has paced my adult life. He was a few years older than me but, as is is often the case, those who make the music are slightly older than their fans. I consider Rik to be very much part of my generation. He died way too young. His death feels like losing one of our own.