Rik Mayall joins long list of comedians who died before their time

Rik Mayall wasn’t the only comedian to die too soon. Here are 10 more with some of their best gags, writes Dave Kenny.

RIK MAYALL, the genius who helped invent alternative comedy has died aged 56.

His breakthrough show, The Young Ones, was the Monty Python of the 1980s and launched the careers of stars like Ben Elton.

Here are 10 comedians who died before their time and some of their best lines.

Lenny Bruce

Bruce was the pioneer of free-style, critical comedy. He was considered “obscene” by the standards of mid-20th American society, and was found dead aged 40 in 1966 from a morphine overdose. One of his mourners said: “One last four-letter word for Lenny: ‘Dead’. At forty. That’s obscene.”

Quotes: “If Jesus had been killed 20 years ago, Catholic schoolchildren would be wearing little electric chairs around their necks instead of crosses.”

Bill Hicks

Hicks was one of comedy’s most influential — and controversial — stand-ups. He died in 1994 of pancreatic cancer aged 32.

Quotes: “It’s always funny until someone gets hurt. Then it’s just hilarious.”

Dermot Morgan

Former schoolteacher, Dermot Morgan, died aged 45 on February 28, 1998. He was one of our most talented comedians, and the lead in the classic — and still hilarious — Father Ted. Morgan died the night after the last episode wrapped.

Quotes: “Dougal, how did you get into the church in the first place? Was it, like, ‘collect 12 crisp packets and become a priest’?”

Andy Kaufman

Andy Kaufman was one of the most eccentric performers ever to grace an American TV set or stage. He is best remembered as Latka, the sweet but dim foreigner, in Taxi.

In 1979 he performed at Carnegie Hall and ended the show by taking the audience, in 24 buses, out for milk and cookies. He also invited them to meet him on the Staten Island Ferry the next morning, where the show continued.

John Belushi

Belushi will always be remembered for his role as Jake in the Blues Brothers, where he acted alongside Dan Aykroyd. He died aged 33 from a cocaine/heroin overdose. His best lines were probably ahead of him. Here’s one that was quoted by every teenager who saw the Blues Brothers back in the 1980s.

“It’s 106 miles to Chicago, we got a full tank of gas, half a pack of cigarettes, it’s dark... and we’re wearing sunglasses.” Classic.

John Candy

Candy, the sweet and cuddly actor who starred in Uncle Buck, Planes, Trains and Automobiles and Cool Runnings, died aged 43 of a heart attack in 1994.

Quote (from Uncle Buck where he persuades his niece to go bowling):

“How would you like to spend the next several nights wondering if your crazy, out-of-work, bum uncle will shave your head while you sleep?

“See you in the car.”

Chris Farley

Farley was a Saturday Night Live star. He struggled with weight and his best-known movie is Tommy Boy.

He overdosed at 33 in 1997.

Quote: “I want to live fast and die young.”

He did.

Tony Hancock

Hancock’s Half Hour was one of Britain’s most favourite shows during the 1950s and 60s.

In real life Hancock was an alcoholic. He committed suicide aged 44 in 1968.

Quotes: “I don’t want any publicity — you get too many begging letters. If they’re anything like the ones I send out I don’t want to know!”

“Hypochondria is the only illness I don’t have.” Phil Hartman

Canadian-born Hartman died at 49 in 1998 of an apparent murder-suicide by his wife. He was a regular guest star on The Simpsons, voicing shyster lawyer Lionel Hutz and Troy McClure, among others.

[As Lionel Hutz] “Now don’t you worry, Mrs. Simpson, I... uh-oh. We’ve drawn Judge Snyder.”

Marge: “Is that bad?”

Lionel Hutz: “Well, he’s had it in for me ever since I kinda ran over his dog.”

Marge: “You did?”

Lionel Hutz: “Well, replace the word ‘kinda’ with the word ‘repeatedly,’ and the word ‘dog’ with ‘son’.”

Tommy Cooper

Cooper died at 63. He collapsed on stage during a live TV broadcast in 1984. Don’t make the mistake of watching it on YouTube. It’s too sad.

Quotes: “I went to the doctors. He said, ‘I’d like you to lie on the couch’. I said, ‘What for?’”

“He said, ‘I’d like to sweep the floor’.”

“Later she said, ‘You’ll drive me to my grave’.

“I had the car out in 30 seconds.”

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