Comedian and actor Rik Mayall died this morning, a spokesman for Brunskill Management said today.

Daily Echo: Rik with long time comedy partner Adrian Edmondson

The 56-year-old was best known for his roles in TV shows The Young Ones, Bottom, Blackadder and The New Statesman.

In 2007, he last performed in Southampton as Alan B'Stard at the Mayflower Theatre.

More recently he has been appearing in television adverts for Bombardier, as a character similar to Flashheart, whom he played in the Blackadder shows.

Mayall started on stage in a duo, The Dangerous Brothers, with long-time collaborator Adrian Edmondson after they met at Manchester University.

The pair, who appeared together in The Young Ones, reprised their original act in the anarchic comedy, Bottom.

The circumstances around his death are not yet known.

He was left seriously ill after a quad bike accident in 1998 which left him in a coma for several days, but was working until recently.

Speaking about the accident last year, Mayall said doctors had kept him alive on a life-support machine for five days and were about to turn it off when he began to show signs of life.

He used to mark the occasion by exchanging presents with his wife and children and said the near-death experience changed his life.

He said: ''The main difference between now and before my accident is I'm just very glad to be alive.

''Other people get moody in their forties and fifties - men get the male menopause. I missed the whole thing. I was just really happy.''

Among those paying tribute to Mayall was David Walliams, who said: ''I am heartbroken that my comedy idol growing up, Rik Mayall, has died. He made me want to be a comedian.''

Impressionist Rory Bremner said: ''Oh no. Awful news about Rik Mayall - a fireball of creative comic energy and inspiration. Such brilliant raw talent.''

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.''

BBC director of television Danny Cohen said: ''Rik Mayall was a truly brilliant comedian.

''His comic timing was outstanding and his screen presence unique. For a generation of viewers he was a true comedy hero.''

Mayall's spokeswoman confirmed that the actor, who was married with three children, died at home in London.

Mayall, who was born in Harlow, Essex, to drama teacher parents, also appeared in shows including Filthy, Rich and Catflap.

Other notable characters included the conniving Conservative MP Alan B'Stard in The New Statesman and the feckless investigative journalist Kevin Turvey.