Rik Mayall. Photo: Getty
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Actor, comedian and Young Ones star Rik Mayall has died, aged 56

The iconic comedian has passed away.

The English actor, writer and star comedian of The Young Ones and Blackadder fame Rik Mayall has passed away at the age of 56, his manager has said today.

He is best-known for playing the feckless, anarchic role of Rick in alternative 1980s sitcom The Young Ones (1982-84). His character was a poetry-writing, attention-seeking, self-proclaimed anarchist, who one of the show's creators Ben Elton once described as a "try-hard wannabe leftie".

Here's Mayall in action as Rick:


Mayall was also much-loved for his appearance as the thrusting, flambouyant rogue Flashheart in Blackadder (1983-99). Here's his grand entrance:


He went on to act alongside his Young Ones co-star Adrian Edmondson in cult series Bottom (1991-95), and also played the sociopathic right-wing Tory MP Alan B'Stard in a show called The New Statesman (1987-92), which satirised the Conservative government of the time (he even had a column in the NS). Below is a party-political broadcast from the backbencher:

Mayall also appeared in children's television programme Jackanory (1986). The BBC received complaints following his eccentric portrayal of Roald Dahl's George's Marvellous Medicine for being "dangerous and offensive". Watch his take on the classic children's tale here:


In a copy of the New Statesman dated 8 February 1985, Mayall's turn as the main part in The Government Inspector is reviewed by writer Benedict Nightingale, who describes his performance as "a very bright, busy performance, but it could be subtler":

In a later New Statesman issue, dated 2 May 1986, Mayall's performance on Comic Relief was praised by writer Hugo Williams, who wrote, "I love his winsome audience chat-up":

He will be remembered as a pioneering, fearless alternative comedian. Here's his first, and final, tweet:

Anoosh Chakelian is senior writer at the New Statesman.

Harry Styles. Photo: Getty
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How podcasts are reviving the excitement of listening to the pop charts

Unbreak My Chart and Song Exploder are two music programmes that provide nostalgia and innovation in equal measure.

“The world as we know it is over. The apo­calypse is nigh, and he is risen.” Although these words came through my headphones over the Easter weekend, they had very little to do with Jesus Christ. Fraser McAlpine, who with Laura Snapes hosts the new pop music podcast Unbreak My Chart, was talking about a very different kind of messiah: Harry Styles, formerly of the boy band One Direction, who has arrived with his debut solo single just in time to save the British charts from becoming an eternal playlist of Ed Sheeran’s back-catalogue.

Unbreak My Chart is based on a somewhat nostalgic premise. It claims to be “the podcast that tapes the Top Ten and then talks about it at school the next day”. For those of us who used to do just that, this show takes us straight back to Sunday afternoons, squatting on the floor with a cassette player, finger hovering over the Record button as that tell-tale jingle teased the announcement of a new number one.

As pop critics, Snapes and McAlpine have plenty of background information and anecdotes to augment their rundown of the week’s chart. If only all playground debates about music had been so well informed. They also move the show beyond a mere list, debating the merits of including figures for music streamed online as well as physical and digital sales in the chart (this innovation is partly responsible for what they call “the Sheeran singularity” of recent weeks). The hosts also discuss charts from other countries such as Australia and Brazil.

Podcasts are injecting much-needed innovation into music broadcasting. Away from the scheduled airwaves of old-style radio, new formats are emerging. In the US, for instance, Song Exploder, which has just passed its hundredth episode, invites artists to “explode” a single piece of their own music, taking apart the layers of vocal soundtrack, instrumentation and beats to show the creative process behind it all. The calm tones of the show’s host, Hrishikesh Hirway, and its high production values help to make it a very intimate listening experience. For a few minutes, it is possible to believe that the guests – Solange, Norah Jones, U2, Iggy Pop, Carly Rae Jepsen et al – are talking and singing only for you. 

Caroline Crampton is assistant editor of the New Statesman. She writes a weekly podcast column.

This article first appeared in the 20 April 2017 issue of the New Statesman, May's gamble

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