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Comedian Rik Mayall dies at age 56

One of Britain's best-known comic actors Rik Mayall has died at his London home.

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My brother and I refer to each other in all, and I mean all, correspondence as 'Nobend' - pronounced 'knobend' - and 'Poofarty'. Emails, Christmas cards, and texts are all sent to Nobend from Poofarty, or vice versa. I am Nobend, my brother is Poofarty.

The reason for this is Rik Mayall.

'I intend to watch <i>Drop Dead Fred</i> and remember a comedian who brought joy to millions of people,' says Adam Hills.

'I intend to watch Drop Dead Fred and remember a comedian who brought joy to millions of people,' says Adam Hills.

Back in the dim, dark eighties, I heard some kids at school talking about this amazing new TV show called The Young Ones. Not being one of the cool kids, I was not across the show, so I tuned in to the ABC on the appropriate night to catch the episode in which Neil (Nigel Planer) catches a cold and can't stop sneezing, so the others encase his head in a garbage bag. He sneezes snot into the bag for the rest of the episode.

It was close to the funniest thing I had ever seen. I’m not sure I have ever laughed as hard at anything on TV since. I showed my brother and my dad, and for years afterwards we would voraciously quote from The Young Ones. When we forgot our dad’s birthday not long afterwards, he carried a cupcake with a single candle into the lounge room, and in the voice of Neil the hippie, said plaintively: "Surprise".

I still have a photo of myself dressed as Vyvyan (Adrian 'Ade' Edmondson) at a school carnival. To this day, without the slightest of prompting, I can drop into a spot-on impression of Rik trying to spell his name at a job centre: "No, no, no, it's Wik. Oh just put Neil. Yes, put Neil." It goes without saying that I have copy of the Young Ones and Cliff Richard singing Living Doll.

Bless <i>The Young Ones</i> for being comic inspiration to Adam Hills.

Bless The Young Ones for being comic inspiration to Adam Hills.

After The Young Ones came a short-lived series called Filthy Rich & Catflap, starring Rik, Ade and Nigel. In one episode, they're visited by a couple of art critics whose names are 'N'Bend' and 'P'Farty'.

Rik’s character exclaims incredulously: "Nobend and Poofarty!?!" Once again, my brother and I were in stitches. I can’t remember when we started using those names, but it’s 30-odd years later and we haven't stopped.

Good comedy makes you laugh, great comedy stays with you forever and becomes a part of your life.

Rik Mayall and Adrian Edmonson. Click for more photos

Remembering Rik Mayall

Rik Mayall and Adrian Edmonson.

Whenever I perform at the London Comedy Store, I always take a moment to stand before the photos of Rik and Ade on that very stage, and remind myself that I am following in the footsteps of my idols.

I recently met Ade Edmondson on a quiz show, and pretended to chat to him like an adult, all the while hiding my urge to yell "My brother and I call each other Nobend and Poofarty!" For some reason I decided that information might cause him to call security, so I kept it to myself. Besides, I thought Rik would probably appreciate it more - I'll wait 'til I meet him before I blurt it out.

And I never doubted for a moment that I would meet him. Greg Davies, a friend and colleague, recently made a sitcom in the UK called Man Down, and cast Rik as his father. Another friend took a photo of Rik and Greg on set; a photo that shows the joy in Greg’s eyes at being next to Rik, and the joy in Rik’s eyes of just being Rik.

Today I have already watched a clip of Rik and Ade on stage cracking each other up in a live performance of Bottom, as well as an interview with Rik and David Letterman. I even watched the old Nobend and Poofarty scene, and realised that the two art critics were played by Stephen Fry and Hugh Laurie. Maybe one day I’ll tell them about my brother and I.

Tonight I intend to sit down with a glass of whisky and watch Drop Dead Fred, and remember a comedian who not only brought joy to millions of people around the world, but became such a part of the lives of two young Australians that they refer to each other by obscure, puerile nicknames - and will do until they die.

Goodbye Rik. You were loved by more people than you can ever imagine.

Yours sincerely, Nobend.