This article is from the The Young Ones FAQ, by Andrew Wong BritCom@audiophile.com with numerous contributions by others.
During the late 1970s to early 1980s, the British "youth" culture was (yet
again) in a vague alternative rebellion. Punk had hit the music culture,
with bands like The Sex Pistols spitting on stage, and saying naughty
swear words on live television, shocking mainstream conservative Britain.
The comedy scene was no exception. Alternative comedians were now coming
to the fore, with their brand of "toilet" humour mixed in with a bit of
left-wing political satire and a few swear words.
During this time, Rik Mayall (Rick), Adrian Edmondson, (Vyvyan) and Ben
Elton had all graduated with a drama degree from Manchester University,
and headed for The Comedy Store in London. This was the "centre" of the
alternative-comedy scene. Ben Elton established himself as a stand-up
comedian and became the main compere at the Comedy Store.
Mayall and Edmondson had set up a double-act called Twentieth Century
Coyote, and then later created the manic "Dangerous Brothers" - a clear
template for Rik and Vyvyan. Nigel Planer (Neil) and Peter Richardson
(later in The Comic Strip) were also a double-act entitled The Outer
The original plan for The Young Ones would have throw these two
double-acts together. However, for some reason Peter Richardson either
rejected the idea, or was not considered. Apparently, (according to
someone who spoke to Adrian Edmondson), Ben Elton wanted to replace him,
but the production team felt he was a better writer than actor.
At this time, Christopher Ryan (a stage actor, not a comedian) was in a
play called CAN'T PAY, WON'T PAY. Andy De La Tour (an alternative
comedian) recommended him for the role, Paul Jackson (the producer) saw
him at the play, and the rest is history...