It's difficult to think of a death of a person I don't actually know that would have hit me as hard as the unexpected death of Rik Mayall today. It felt like a part of myself had been ripped out, and in a way it had. This man was my absolute hero as a teenager. I didn't care much for music, but comedy was everything to me. And though Python and Derek and Clive and Not The Nine o Clock News got me interested, but they had mostly stopped working together before I found out about them, they did not belong to me. Kevin Turvey and then The Young Ones were mine. And though I knew Rik Mayall's characters were slightly more idiotic than me (I was able to tell they were idiots), they were just like me and I wanted to be more like them. Like seemingly every other comedian in their 30s and 40s, I spent my schoodays impersonating Rik or Kevin. I might have been a comedian anyway (though I might not), but I wouldn't have been the same comedian. Mayall was the anarchic heart of alternative comedy. My teenage hero was dead. And the teenage me is diminished.
So I cried a bit and then felt I might be sick. And selfishly I felt annoyed. I been so happy to have written a script that would feature Rik for Man Down, as you may recall from this recent blog. I had hoped I would make my childhood hero laugh and I was looking forward to him having to lick Greg Davies' face to wake him and to take part in Naked Thursdays and talk about having borne Greg in his testicles for five minutes, so Greg owed him. The script may get produced with some rewrites, but that excitement of Rik Mayall getting a laugh with something I had written was gone. As I said at my gig tonight at the end of a heartfelt tribute (which came up as I mention the Young Ones in one of my new routines), "Fuck him, I am the real victim here."
And now my failure to say anything to Mayall on the one occasion our paths would cross seems all the more regretable. He was buying petrol in front of me at the Shepherd's Bush BP garage. I was inches away from him, but too scared to even say hello or tell him how much he meant to me. My guess is he knew how much he was loved and I suspect that bolder people than me told him every day how much he meant to them. I hope so.
And you know it's unbearably sad for all the human reasons too. But I knew him as a fan and I mourn him as a legend. I regret never saying thank you to him. So thank you Rik.
I didn't want to write a Twitter eulogy (even this blog feels a bit inappropriate) so hoped that a simple RIPrik (with a nod towards the University Challenge ep of the Young Ones) might be enough of a gesture. RIPrik.