Farewell Lord Flashheart, you will be missed

23:47, Jun 10 2014

It's true that I don't usually plan too far ahead when it comes to writing the blog - I find I write better when something grabs me in the couple of days before.

But this week I had it all planned out. I had researched. I was angry. Practically frothing at the mouth.

And then Rik Mayall went and died.

It's impossible to underestimate just how much of an impact he had on me as a young comedy fan growing up in Scotland in the 1980s.

At school we would run around parroting lines we heard from the Young Ones, even if we didn't totally understand them.

I will never forget the episode (co-written by Mayall) when they went on University Challenge to represent Scumbag College against Footlights College.


Motorhead played 'Ace of Spades' in their living room and guest stars Stephen Fry, Emma Thomson, Ben Elton and Hugh Laurie were blown up after Vyvyan dropped a bomb.

It was insane and hysterically funny.

I watched Jackanory after school and listened with delight to his reading of George's Marvellous Medicine.

And I laughed long and hard at Filthy Rich and Catflap.

Later, he would give me my first taste of satire in The New Statesman as conservative politician Alan B'Stard and while at university his Bottom would leave me in fits (ooeerr).

I feel terrible for reducing his contributions to television history to just a few lines, but all of it, in my opinion, is overshadowed by two appearances in the greatest comedy series of all time - Blackadder.

Blackadder II and Blackadder Goes Forth are masterpieces of television - writers Ben Elton and Richard Curtis crafted something funny, touching and long-lasting from the reign of Elizabeth I and The Great War.

(If you haven't seen - and cried - during the closing episode of Blackadder Goes Forth then you haven't experienced perhaps the greatest single episode of comedy television ever.)

And yet as insanely good as those series are - and with Rowan Atkinson, Tony Robinson, Stephen Fry, Hugh Laurie et al in top form, they are - the two episodes in which Mayall makes an appearance are raised to a new level.

In Blackadderr II his appearance as Lord Flashheart, an old friend of Edmunds who is to be his best man, when he gets everyone on his side and then leaves with the bride-to-be is sublime.

I can't hear "Thanks bridesmaid, like the beard. It gives me something to hang on to," or "Nursey, I like it firm and fruity," without cracking up. Or wanting to cry.

And Squadron Commander Lord Flashheart's brief foray into the trenches is equally joyous.

"Have you any idea what it's like to have the wind rushing through your hair?" followed by a fart isn't exactly what you'd called classy comedy, and on its on would be groan-worthy.

But Mayall brought this character to life and put everything in to it. This made even cheap gags special and ensured no-one on set was left with a straight face.

I still find it hard to believe, even after writing this and watching so many videos of him in action, that he's actually gone.

At 56 it's hard not to think of all the years he could have had in front of him - surely Alan B'Stard would make a comeback with the current Government in the UK? Or perhaps the Comic Strip could have found another target to lampoon just one more time.

But it's not to be. And it's only appropriate I leave the last word to his partner-in-comedy, Ade Edmondson.

"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 bastard."