The comedian and actor Rik Mayall has died this morning at the age of 56, his agent has confirmed.
The news of his death has shocked the comedy world and brings the curtain down on a glittering career as a stand up and television performer.
Mayall’s breakthrough role came as Rik in the hit BBC comedy The Young Ones. He followed this up with his two-hander Bottom with his comedy partner and old university friend Ade Edmondson. He was also much loved for the role of the priapic Flashheart in Blackadder series two and four and as the odious Tory MP Alan B’Stard in the ITV comedy The New Statesman.
Most recently he starred in Channel 4 comedy Man Down playing the father of Greg Davies’ main character who spends his time devising cruel and unpleasant practical jokes to play on his son.
Mayall's character was set to be more prominent in series two, said Davies, who plays the lead character of the hapless teacher Dan and is understood to be currently writing the second series of the show.
“I am sure we will see a lot more of Mr Mayall. He is one of my comedy heroes," Davies told RadioTimes.com earlier this year, adding that he he was keen to further explore and explain the show's relationships in series two – including delving in to why Davies' son and Mayall's character have reached the point they have.
The cause of Mayall's death is unknown. However he is understood to have continued to suffer the ill effects of a quad bike accident which nearly killed him in 1998.
He suffered a fractured skull and severe haemorrhaging and spent five days in a coma after the accident on his Devon farm.
Of course, as a comedian he also saw the funny side of the accident: one of his favourite jokes was that because the accident happened the day before Good Friday he “beat Jesus Christ” who was only dead for three days before being resurrected.
But Mayall was reputed to have continued to suffer memory loss due in part to the accident.
Mayall is survived by his wife, the Scottish make-up artist Barbara Robbin whom he married in 1985, and his three children Rosie, 28, Sidney, 26, and Bonnie, 19.
A spokesperson for his agent Brunskill Management said: "We are deeply saddened to announce the death of Rik Mayall who passed away this morning.
"We will be issuing a further statement in the fullness of time."
The BBC’s controller of comedy Shane Allen said: “A sad day indeed for British comedy. Rik was one of the pioneers of the alternative comedy scene whose searing talent led to a fast rise to more mainstream success. A real live wire of comedy power who was never short of mesmerising on screen. His influence was immense and his loss is monumental.”
Jon Plowman, the producer of Bottom, added: “He was a very original comedian whose slapstick abilities were second to none. He was the stupid kid in the class who never grew up and we loved him for it , both as a performer and as a great guy. How could you dislike a man who’s first Edinburgh show was called Death on the Toilet…”