Catford’s Ben Elton has paid tribute to his good friend and comedy collaborator Rik Mayall.

Mayall, 56, died yesterday at his home in Barnes. It is not yet known what caused his unexpected death, though it is not thought to be suspicious.

The madcap comic was a leader in the alternative comedy movement and shot to fame as the poetry writing anarchist Rick in The Young Ones before going on to star in well-loved shows such as Bottom, Blackadder and the New Statesman.

Ben Elton, who was born in Catford, met Mayall at university and went on to write The Young Ones with him.

In a statement, he said: “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.”