Rik Mayall, one of a generation of performers that injected post-punk energy into British comedy, has died. He was 56.
Mayall's management firm Brunskill Management said the comedian died at his London home on Monday (local time).
His wife Barbara Robbin spoke briefly after his death, the Daily Mail reported.
"We don't yet know what happened," she said. "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."
In the 1980s Mayall was part of the Comic Strip, a hugely influential group of alternative young comics that included Dawn French, Jennifer Saunders and Mayall's writing and performing partner, Adrian Edmondson.
He was best known for co-writing and performing in The Young Ones, a sitcom about slovenly students that was much loved by those it satirised.
On television he memorably played Conservative politician Alan B'stard in the sitcom The New Statesman and lecherous Lord Flashheart in comedy classic Blackadder.
He and Edmondson also created and starred in Bottom, a surreally violent slapstick series about two unemployed slobs.
Film appearances included the title role in 1991 fantasy Drop Dead Fred - which gained him a US cult following - and 1999 British comedy Guest House Paradiso.
"There were times when Rik and I were writing together when we almost died laughing," Edmondson said. "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."
Mayall’s manager, Geoff Stanton from Brunskill management, said: ''We are devastated and he will be missed by all who knew and loved him.''
Blackadder co-star Stephen Fry said he was ''simply distraught'' about the news, describing Mayall as ''an authentic comedy genius and a prince among men''.
British comedian Ben Elton has paid tribute to his mate. Elton said he met Mayall in his late teens when he asked him to help write the hit comedy TV series The Young Ones.
Mayall was also present at a very special moment for Elton in the late 1980s when Black Adder was hugely popular.
"I met Rik when I was eighteen and his friendship and extraordinary comic talent have been an inspiration to me ever since," Elton said in a statement released by Penguin Random House Books.
"I owe him so much, he changed my life utterly when he asked me to co-write the Young Ones and he was with me here in Australia on the day I met my wife.
"He always made me cry with laughter, now he's just made me cry."
The cause of death was not immediately disclosed. London's Metropolitan Police force said officers had been called to the house by the ambulance service on Monday, but that the death was not believed to be suspicious.
In 1998 Mayall was on life support and in a coma for several days after an all-terrain vehicle accident.
"The main difference between now and before my accident is I'm just very glad to be alive," Mayall said last year.
"Other people get moody in their 40s and 50s - men get the male menopause. I missed the whole thing. I was just really happy."
Mayall was a family man and is survived by children Rosie, Sidney and Bonnie and wife Barbara Robbin.
TRIBUTES TO MAYALL
Crossing the Atlantic with wifi. Simply distraught to hear of the death of Rik Mayall. An authentic comedy genius and a prince among men.
— Stephen Fry (@stephenfry) June 9, 2014
Oh no. Awful news about Rik Mayall- a fireball of creative comic energy and inspiration. Such brilliant raw talent. http://t.co/OdAJgjMgnu
— Rory Bremner (@rorybremner) June 9, 2014
Rotten news about the death of Rik Mayall - decades too soon. He taught a generation to laugh at the world - and ourselves. Rik Mayall, RIP
— Tony Parsons (@TonyParsonsUK) June 9, 2014
RIP Rik Mayall. Hard to believe we've been robbed of such flair and comic force.
— David Schneider (@davidschneider) June 9, 2014
Just heard about the passing of Rik Mayall, a comedy icon from my childhood. R.I.P. May you live on through your amazing work
— Dai Henwood (@daihenwood) June 9, 2014
RIP Rik Mayall. I feel like a little bit of my childhood just left with you... http://t.co/LHQJqgnXTO
— Jacinda Ardern (@jacindaardern) June 9, 2014
RIP Rik Mayall. An icon of modern British comedy.
— Ricky Gervais (@rickygervais) June 9, 2014
- AP, Stuff