Where The Young Ones are now – from BRIT awards and SpongeBob to tragic death

It has been almost 40 years since classic British sitcom The Young Ones first aired.

Initially broadcast on BBC Two in November 1982, the show ran for two series until it ended in 1984 – but during its short run, the show built up a huge cult audience.

It also inspired Comic Relief sketches, an American pilot dubbed Oh No! Not THEM!, and even its very own video game.

The show, starring Rik Mayall, Ade Edmondson, Nigel Planer and Christopher Ryan as four students sharing a rather grubby house, prided itself on its slapstick and often anarchic comedy.

From appearing on University Challenge to duetting with Cliff Richard, The Young Ones made waves in the cult comedy scene until they drove a bus off a cliff at the series’ end.

Its legacy has lived on ever since, helping to bring alternative comedy to British TV in the 80s and making household names of its cast.

It even became the first non-music programme to appear on MTV in 1985.

But what are the cast up to now? From tragic deaths to fire brigade blunders, we explore where the Young Ones ended up.

Rik Mayall

The loud-mouthed star of the show, Rik Mayall was nothing if not a loveable rogue.

He portrayed character Rick with a K on-screen, and was known for being a bit of a bossy so-and-so in the student house.

Rik first struck up a rapport with his comedy partner Ade Edmondson while they were students at Manchester University in the 70s. A notoriously bad student, Rik failed most of his O-Levels and even claimed he didn’t turn up to his final university exams – despite managing to graduate with a 2:2.

Best known for starring in The Young Ones and Bottom alongside his pal Ade, Rik also made a name for himself starring as the dad to Greg Davies’ character Dan in Man Down in 2013.

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Rik tragically died suddenly at his London home in June 2014, aged just 56, survived by his wife of 29 years Barbara Robbin and their three children.

He was praised as a "truly brilliant" comedian by BBC director Danny Cohen, with best pal Ade issuing a statement that said: "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 b*stard," he ended the touching statement by saying.

Rik’s final project was an appearance in the Dutch film The Escape as Eddie, with the movie being released in 2015.

Ade Edmondson

Hailed for his portrayal of the slightly psychotic punk Vyvyan, Adrian was the other half of the legendary comedy duo.

Along with starring in both The Young Ones and Bottom with Rik, Ade had his own lustrous TV career – and even appeared in BBC soap EastEnders in 2019 and 2020 as Daniel Cook.

Though best known for his comedy roles, including in 80s hit The Comic Strip Presents…, he’s been in everything from Holby City and Jonathan Creek to Star Wars: The Last Jedi.

Ade’s life is star-studded beyond his own acting career, as he has been married to fellow actress and comedian Jennifer Saunders for 35 years.

The couple have three children together – musician Ella, Josh actress Beattie and stylist Freya.

He made headlines when he got stuck on a window ledge after being locked out from cleaning his windows, and had to be rescued by the fire brigade, writing on social media: "Just trapped myself on a window ledge whilst cleaning the windows. Had to ask passerby to help. Fire brigade came. Small crowd gathered – thoroughly enjoying themselves.

"Fire brigade very kind and didn’t snigger too much as they rescued me. How’s your Bank Holiday?" he added to his amused fans.

He also had a musical career with his folk punk band The Bad Shepherds, and was crowned the winner of Celebrity Masterchef in 2013.

His latest telly role was starring as Lewis in Sara Pascoe comedy Out of Her Mind.

Nigel Planer

Dopey Neil was one of the best-loved characters from The Young Ones.

Played by Nigel Planer, the hippy character was the mother hen of the house, and even landed himself a BRIT award in 1985 for Best Comedy Record, and Nigel turned up on the night to collect his prize.

Despite his apparent success in the show, Nigel later admitted he only made "a pittance" from the show.

"The Young Ones was a big hit, but we only made 12 episodes and of course that was our first foray into TV," he said.

"I was only paid a few hundred pounds an episode – maybe £400.

"I do still receive royalties for the show, but that's worked out as a percentage of what I was originally paid," he explained.

"So it’s only a little amount."

Nigel went on to star in comedies like Upstart Crow, Inside No. 9 and The Comic Strip Presents…, along with other telly projects including Marcella, in which he played Reg Reynolds.

He has also appeared in plenty of West End musicals – from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory to Evita.

He last made a cameo in Jeepers Creepers in 2020.

Nigel has been married three times – first to Anna Leigh in 1988, then to Frankie Park in 1999 and finally to his current wife Roberta Planer in 2013.

He has two sons.

Christopher Ryan

Known for his portrayal of cool-cat Mike, Christopher also has a hugely diverse acting career since finishing up his Young Ones stint.

He popped up in Bottom with Rik and Ade as Dave Hedgehog, in Only Fools and Horses as Tony Driscoll, and played Marshall in Absolutely Fabulous.

The star has even lent his voice to a SpongeBob SquarePants character.

His theatre career has also spanned several decades, most recently appearing in Jeeves and Wooster in Perfect Nonsense in 2015.

Alexei Sayle

Alexei has gone from strength to strength since starring in the cult sitcom as various members of the Balowski family.

The comedian has appeared in everything from Holby City to Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, along with continuing his stand-up comedy career.

The actor has released five comedy singles with full musical backing, with his song Ullo John! Gotta New Motor? reaching Top 20 chart success in 1984.

He’s even tried his hand at writing, and has produced five novels, two short story collections and columns for various publications.

Alexei married wife Linda Rawsthorn in 1974, and owns two homes – one in London and one in southern Spain.

A keen cyclist, Alexei has been entertaining fans on YouTube during lockdown by filming his bike rides around London with a Go-Pro strapped to his handlebars.

Ben Elton

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Though he portrayed various characters in The Young Ones – including a "man in a beer commercial" and "student", Ben was one of the great minds behind the show’s premise.

Revered for his alternative comedy prowess, he was also a writer on hit shows like Blackadder, Upstart Crow and Spitting Image.

He’s also written a whopping 17 novels, and the musicals We Will Rock You from 2002, Love Never Dies in 2010 and a Phantom of the Opera sequel.

Ben joined Rik and Ade at the University of Manchester, where they became pals.

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