Rik Mayall, one of a generation of performers that injected post-punk energy into British comedy, has died. He was 56.
Mayall's management firm Brunskill Management said the comedian died at his London home.
However, his wife Barbara Robbin, said there was doubt over how Mayall had died.
"I don’t think it was a heart attack but we just don’t know until the coroner’s report," Robbin said.
"Maybe he had a fit, maybe it was his heart. We just don’t know."
In the 1980s Mayall was part of the Comic Strip, a hugely influential group of alternative young comics that included Dawn French, Jennifer Saunders and Mayall's writing and performing partner, Adrian Edmondson.
He was best known for co-writing and performing in The Young Ones, a sitcom about slovenly students that was much loved by those it satirized.
Mayall's manager Roger Davidson told the BBC it is a terrible shock.
"All we know... is that Rik died at home. He touched many lives, and always for the better," Davidson 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****rd."
On television Mayall memorably played Conservative politician Alan B'stard in the sitcom The New Statesman and lecherous Lord Flashheart in comedy classic Blackadder.
He and Edmondson also created and starred in Bottom, a surreally violent slapstick series about two unemployed slobs.
Film appearances included the title role in 1991 fantasy Drop Dead Fred — which gained him a US cult following — and 1999 British comedy Guest House Paradiso.
The cause of death was not immediately disclosed. London's Metropolitan Police force said officers had been called to the house by the ambulance service, but that the death was not believed to be suspicious.
In 1998, Mayall was on life support and in a coma for several days after a quad bike accident.
"The main difference between now and before my accident is I'm just very glad to be alive," Mayall said last year.
"Other people get moody in their 40s and 50s — men get the male menopause. I missed the whole thing. I was just really happy."
He was married with three children.
Actors Eric Idle, Chris O'dowd, Russell Brand and David Walliams are among stars who have paid tribute to beloved British funnyman.
Fellow funnyman David Walliams was among the first to take to Twitter.com to express his sadness at Mayall's loss, sharing a video clip of his role in Blackadder and writing, "I am heartbroken that my comedy idol growing up Rik Mayall has died. He made me want to be a comedian."
Simon Pegg simply posted YouTube footage of Mayall in The Young Ones with fans, while Brand tweets, "And all the grown-ups will say, 'But why are the kids crying?' And the kids will say, 'Haven't you heard? Rick (sic) is dead' RIP".
Irish actor O'Dowd adds, "Very sad to hear about Rik Mayall's passing. 'Bottom' was a huge part of my youth", and director Edgar Wright posts, "Shocked and saddened that a comedy hero is gone; for those who grew up on The Young Ones, Rik Mayall was one of funniest performers ever."