The comedian and actor Rik Mayall has died at the age of 56, his agent confirmed.
Born in Essex and raised in Worcester, Mayall starred alongside Adrian Edmondson in The Young Ones and went on to appear in Bottom, The New Statesman and as Flashheart in Blackadder.
He was left seriously ill after a quad bike accident in 1998 which left him in a coma for several days, but was working until recently. A spokeswoman said that the actor died at his home in London.
Although he defied the doctors to make a good recovery, returning to work the following year, he was left with epilepsy for which he had to take daily medication. He had spoken in the past of suffering a fit after failing to take the pills.
His wife, Barbara Robbin, who is understood to have found him dead, said she did not know how he had died.
Speaking outside the couple's home in Barnes, south-west London, Ms Robbin said: "We don't know yet what happened. He had a strong heart, so I don't think it was a heart attack. But we just don't know until the coroner's report.
Rik Mayall: Career in pictures
Rik Mayall: Career in pictures
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Rik Mayall 'The Last Hurrah' CD signing, Falmouth Bookseller in Cornwall, 2013
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British actor and comedian Rik Mayall being interviewed in January 1985
3/15 Rik Mayall with his wife
Rik Mayall attends the Olivier Awards at the Dominion Theatre in London, 1989
4/15 Rik Mayall and Dave Allen
Rik Mayall and Dave Allen at the British Comedy Awards party in London, 1993
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Rik Mayall in 'Rik Mayall Presents', 1995
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Rik Mayall in 1999
7/15 Rik Mayall with his wife
Rik Mayall with his wife Barbara in 2000
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Rik Mayall in 2003
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Actor Rik Mayall arrives at the UK Film Premiere of the classic novel by Jules Verne 'Around The World In 80 Days' at Vue West End in London, 2004
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Rik Mayall at the National TV Awards in Royal Albert Hall in London, 2005
11/15 Rik Mayall and Marsha Fitzalan
Rik Mayall and Marsha Fitzalan pose as their comic 1980's TV characters Alan and Sarah B'Stard in London, 2006
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Actor Rik Mayall is asked to move on by police as he poses as his comic 1980's TV character Alan B'Stard to launch the four-month UK tour of the stage adaptation of the satirical TV series outside the Houses of Parliment in London, 2006
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Rik Mayall auditioning actors for the parts of Tony and Cherie Blair for his play 'The New Statesman - Alan B'Stard's Extremely Secret Weapon', Trafalgar Studios, Whitehall in London, 2006
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Rik Mayall standing on a Saltire painted cow outside the Scottish Parliament, 2006
15/15 Rik Mayall and Alan Yentob
Rik Mayall jokes with television executive and broadcaster Alan Yentob at the British Comedy Awards in London, 2011
"Maybe he had a fit, maybe it was his heart. We just don't know."
Police said they were called by the London Ambulance Service to a house in Barnes, south-west London where "a man, aged in his 50s, was pronounced dead at the scene", but added that the death was not believed to be suspicious.
Reacting to the news of Mayall's death this evening, Edmondson said: "There were times when Rik and I were writing together when we almost died laughing.
"They were some of the most carefree stupid days I ever had, and I feel privileged to have shared them with him.
"And now he's died for real. Without me. Selfish b*****d."
Mayall and Edmondson met at Manchester University, and formed an on-stage duo known as The Dangerous Brothers. They found fame with The Young Ones in two six-part series running from 1982 to 1984.
Playing an obnoxious, would-be anarchist called Rick, Mayall contributed to the rise of alternative TV comedy throughout the 1980s.
The pair revived their collaboration in the early 1990s with the slapstick and schoolboy comedy Bottom, before Mayall made a number of memorable cameos in the BBC series Blackadder.
Appearing alongside Rowan Atkinson in the second and fourth series as the lecherous Lord Flashheart, he crashed into scenes shouting catchphrases, chief among them being his trademark "woof!".
In 1998, Mayall had to be kept alive on a life-support machine for five days following an accident involving a quad bike.
Speaking about the incident last year, the comedian said doctors were about to turn it off the machine when he began to show signs of life.
He used to mark the occasion every year by exchanging presents with his wife and children and said the near-death experience changed his life.
He said: "The main difference between now and before my accident is I'm just very glad to be alive.
"Other people get moody in their forties and fifties - men get the male menopause. I missed the whole thing. I was just really happy."
Mayall's management, Brunskill, issued a statement saying: "We are deeply saddened to announce the death of Rik Mayall who passed away this morning."
It said that Mayall's family would be given time before a further statement is released in due course.
One of Mayall's first appearances on TV after his quad bike accident was as DI Gideon Pryke in Jonathan Creek, a role he reprised in 2013.
Other notable characters included the feckless investigative journalist Kevin Turvey and the conniving Conservative MP Alan B'Stard in The New Statesman, who also reappeared as an under-fire New Labour MP in 2006.
At the time Mayall said: "Alan B'Stard is a national treasure because he always comes to the nation's health when the nation needs cleansing.
"Alan B'Stard got rid of Margaret Thatcher and will get rid of Tony Blair," he added.
Among those paying tribute was the Blackadder producer John Lloyd, who said Mayall was "just extraordinary".
He told the BBC: "It's really a dreadful piece of news.
"I remember going to the very first night of the Comedy Store and thinking 'Where does this come from?'.
"It was the most extraordinary thing, him and Ade Edmondson doing the Dangerous Brothers, they were called, and you just felt you were in the presence of something, a whole revolutionary thing."
The actress Helen Lederer, who appeared alongside Mayall in The Young Ones, tweeted: "Rik Mayall, I loved you. Gutted. The man who taught me not to crash laughs, has crashed. Real love to wife, children. Massive loss."
BBC director of television Danny Cohen said: "Rik Mayall was a truly brilliant comedian.
"His comic timing was outstanding and his screen presence unique. For a generation of viewers he was a true comedy hero."
Monty Python star Eric Idle said: "Very sad to hear of the passing of Rik Mayall. Far too young. A very funny and talented man."
Writing on Twitter, Bob Mortimer said: "Last time I saw him he grabbed my crotch and said 'Not eaten yet then?' So sad.. Funniest man of his generation."
Mayall is survived by his wife, Barbara, and three children.