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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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When Rik Mayall opened an unverified Twitter account in 2010, his first and only tweet read: “Opening my very own Twitter to stop another bastard from doing it. So f**k off and don't expect to hear from me any time soon. Love Rik x.”

It was a fitting debut from the self-mocking master of alternative comedy, whose 2005 autobiography Bigger Than Hitler - Better Than Christ cover art featured his head photoshopped on the body of Jesus.

Rik Mayall and Adrian Edmonson. Click for more photos

Remembering Rik Mayall

Rik Mayall and Adrian Edmonson.

He spent five days on life support over Easter in 1998, following a quad bike accident on his family’s South Devon farm.

"I beat Jesus Christ,” Mayall quipped at the time. "When I crashed it was the day before Good Friday - Crap Thursday - and I was technically dead until Easter Monday – that’s five days. I beat him 5-3.”

The good opinion of colleagues and contemporaries was easy to discern from tributes that flowed at news of Mayall’s sudden death, at 56, from causes not yet confirmed.

Rik Mayall in 1999.

Rik Mayall in 1999.

Friend and long time collaborator Adrian Edmonson, who starred in Mayall’s The Young Ones as Vyvyan, told media: "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.”

Ben Elton said meeting Mayall at university in Manchester, and going on to create The Young Ones together, changed his life “utterly”.

“I met Rik when I was 18 and his friendship and extraordinary comic talent have been an inspiration to me ever since,” Elton told reporters. “He always made me cry with laughter, now he's just made me cry."

Monty Python star Eric Idle called Mayall “a very funny and talented man”, while Ricky Gervais said he was “an icon of British comedy”.

Little Britain creator David Walliams said Mayall inspired him to become a comedian and paid tribute to “a time when Rik Mayall ruled the world”.

Others, including Blackadder producer John Lloyd, praised Mayall's "extraordinary" acting ability and presence as a live stand-up comic.

"He could make an audience start laughing as soon as he walked on stage and just stood there," wrote comedian Alexei Sayle, who also appeared in The Young Ones. "Sweet Rik, much loved - what a loss."

Friends and colleagues also posted tributes on social media.