Comedian and actor Rik Mayall died this morning aged 56, his management have confirmed.
No further details of the cause of his death were immediately available.
He shot to fame playing pompous Rick in anarchic sitcom The Young Ones, which he co-wrote. His career included appearances in shows including Blackadder, Bottom and The New Statesman.
Ade Edmondson, who co-starred with him in The Young Ones was to become his longtime comedy partner, and the pair were seen as one of the biggest comedy duos of the 1980s.
Mayall was left seriously ill after a quad bike accident at his farm in Devon in 1998 which left him in a coma for several days, but was working until recently.
Last year the father-of-three joked about the incident in a typically outspoken manner with The Daily Mirror: “I beat Jesus Christ. He was dead for three days at Easter.
"When I crashed it was the day before Good Friday, Crap Thursday, and I was technically dead until Easter Monday - that’s five days.
“Jesus was nailed up on Friday and came to on Easter day. I beat him 5-3.”
Clips from some of his most famous shows
(Some clips may be unsuitable for younger viewers)
The Young Ones
The New Statesman
Drop Dead Fred
Actor and long-time friend Adrian Edmondson 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*****d."
Ben Elton, who like Edmondson was a university contemporary of Mayall, said: "I met Rik when I was 18 and his friendship and extraordinary comic talent have been an inspiration to me ever since.
"I owe him so much, he changed my life utterly when he asked me to co-write The Young Ones with him and he was with me on the day I met my wife. He always made me cry with laughter, now he's just made me cry."
Blackadder producer John Lloyd said Mayall was "just extraordinary".
Speaking to BBC News, he said: "It's really a dreadful piece of news.
"I remember going to the very first night of the Comedy Store and thinking 'Where does this come from?'.
"It was the most extraordinary thing, him and Ade Edmondson doing the Dangerous Brothers, they were called, and you just felt you were in the presence of something, a whole revolutionary thing."
Responding to enquiries about his death, a Scotland Yard spokesman said officers were called by London Ambulance Service to a house in Barnes, south-west London at around 1.20pm where "a man, aged in his 50s, was pronounced dead at the scene".
The death is not believed to be suspicious, he added.
It is believed the star's wife found him at home in London this morning, the Press Association reported.
Here are some of his most memorable lines and scenes:
- As Lord Flashheart in Blackadder II:
(To Baldrick [Sir Tony Robinson], dressed in drag as a bridesmaid): "Thanks bridesmaid, like the beard. Gives me something to hang on to!"
- As hero pilot Squadron Leader Lord Flashheart in Blackadder Goes Forth (1989):
Flashheart: All right men, let's do-oo-oo it! The first thing to remember is: always treat your kite [taps chalkboard picture of a biplane] like you treat your woman [whips the air with his cane].
- As Alan B'Stard in The New Statesman (1987-92):
"Why should we, the country that produced Shakespeare, Christopher Wren, and those are just the people on our banknotes for Christ's sake, cower down to the countries that produced Hitler, Napoleon, the Mafia, and the the the, the the the, the the the Smurfs!" "Remember my friends, God is dead. Marx is also dead. But the market lives. The market must become your new God."
- As Richard "Richie" Richard in Bottom (1991-1995):
Richie: Some people are short-tempered, aren't they?
Eddie Hitler (Adrian Edmondson): Yeah, well, about four or five thousand of 'em, by the looks of things.
Richie: Yeah. But it's wonderful, though, Eddie. I mean, look. All the local communities are out there, on the streets.
Eddie: Beating the sh*t out of each other.
Richie: Yeah! Oh, I love carnival time. Oh, look at that policeman over there!
Eddie: Which one?
Richie: The one jumping up and down, waving his arms.
Eddie: The one that's on fire?