Rik Mayall dead: 'We don't know what killed him yet,' says wife

Mayall starred in The Young Ones and appeared in Blackadder and The New Statesman

Adam Withnall,Adam Lusher
Tuesday 10 June 2014 10:04 BST

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.

"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."

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.

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