Little Britain – Matt Lucas & David Walliams

Little Britain
This piece appeared in the Sunday Independent in September 2006

It’s a few hours until the curtain goes up and already backstage at the point Matt Lucas has had the first dabs of Daffyd applied to his face. A tanned, better-looking-in-real-life David Walliams lounges on the couch beside me, looking like he’s rather be anywhere else. Lucas is far more affable but, initially at least, the talk is weirdly earnest: audience figures, DVD sales, critics they don’t like. I have seen ample evidence that these are the two funniest people alive but here huddled in this little dressing room, neither seems too intent on raising so much as a smile.

Until, that is, I call Matt ‘Andy’ by mistake. Instantly he goes into the Yorkshire-ish voice of Little Britain’s (supposedly) wheelchair-bound Andy Pipkin. ‘Yeah. Mah name’s Anday ….’ he deadpans’ as I try to apologise and assure him he looks nothing like the string vest wearing layabout, ‘… let me tell you ‘bout mah life and all things Monster Trucks.’

It’s more difficult to connect Walliams with the playfully camp persona I’ve seen on show in televised interviews but like a lot of comedians you get the feeling he saves it for a bigger audience. And in fairness not many shows have had bigger audiences than Little Britain. Over the last few years Luca and Walliams’ creation has became one the most successful comedy shows ever made, capturing a slew of awards and establishing its’ creators as stars. Only three series have been made and yet phrases like ‘the only gay in the village and ‘I’m a laydee’ have already lodged themselves firmly in the public consciousness.

But there’s a lot more to the show than the catchphrases. ‘There are shows that aim to have a lot more depth but people take from it what they want’ Matt tells me ‘We see five and six year olds in the audience and they think it’s funny because of Daffyd’s clothes or whatever. But for instance in the ‘computer says no’ sketch contained in that phrase is a lot about that person: She’s someone who’s delegated all responsibility from herself to a machine.’

Inevitably given its overwhelming popularity there has recently been something of a backlash against the show. The third series received some poor reviews and some commentators argued that the show mainly satirises the weak and vulnerable in society. ‘That’s ridiculous’ Walliams tells me. ‘We credit the audience with more intelligence. Daffyd, for instance, is not representative of all gay men. And anyway if you can’t satirise a social type then you wouldn’t be able to make a comedy programme! And actually there are posh characters in the show. What about Bubbles?’

As the show’s popularity has grown there has been more focus on the lads’ personal lives. Matt is engaged to his boyfriend and David, having been linked to Courtney Love and Abi Titmuss, amongst others, has won a reputation as a bit of a ‘laydee’s man.’ He looks through me when I mention this. ‘And your question is?’ he murmurs. How does he feel about the depiction of him as a playboy? Is there any truth in it? ‘They (journalists) don’t understand how a man can become friendly with a woman’ he growls. ‘They cast you in a role and soon you’re in this soap opera, which they’ve created.’

Moving swiftly on. Is it true they can’t ‘do Irish?’ ‘Oh you don’t have to tell me’ Matt begins in an accent somewhere between a genuine West of Ireland lilt and Tom Cruise in Far and Away ‘I can’t do Oirish at’all’. ‘Sadly it’s true’ David adds. ‘That was part of the reason that in the Rock Profiles (Bono) sketch we had him with an English accent.’ In the scene in question Bono admits he only pretends to be Irish for the American market and is still waiting for his royalties from Live Aid.

‘I like Bone-O though’ Matt chimes in. ‘When he came offstage at Live 8 he patted my head for luck.’

Be it his head or his girth Matt is brutally self-deprecating about his looks ‘I look at myself and see this pale, hairless, rotund, deeply unflattering sight with stretch marks and all sorts. But when the camera’s on you can be someone else. If there’s any thrill in dressing up in women’s clothing it’s that.’

The first fans are already gathering outside – they are getting excited about glimpsing ‘Paul from Fatfighters’ strolling down the quays – and Matt and David don’t have long to eat and become laydees. I leave them.

A few hours later I’m one of twelve thousand people struggling to control their bladders as the lads do their thing onstage. This is what they were saving themselves for. And unlike a lot of our chat, it’s bloody funny.

Little Britain is at the Odyssey Arena, Belfast tomorrow and Tuesday and at the Point Theatre, Dublin on Thursday. Tickets from 34 Euro to 40 Euro are available from Ticketmaster

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~ by Donal Lynch on February 29, 2008.