Little Britain stars Matt Lucas and David Walliams have issued a public apology for having “played characters of other races” in their TV shows.
The comedy duo used blackface and make-up to portray various characters in sketch show Little Britain and their 2010 show Come Fly With Me. Over the last week, both have been removed from BBC iPlayer, Netflix and BritBox (variously) as broadcasters re-considered whether they wanted these shows on their platforms.
On Saturday night, Lucas and Walliams tweeted out statements about their “regret”.
Stating that they had “both spoken publicly in recent years of our regret that we played characters of other races,” they added: “Once again we want to make it clear that it was wrong & we are very sorry.”
Matt & I have both spoken publicly in recent years of our regret that we played characters of other races. Once again we want to make it clear that it was wrong & we are very sorry.
— David Walliams HQ (@davidwalliams) June 13, 2020
In 2017, Lucas said: “If I could go back and do Little Britain again, I wouldn’t make those jokes about transvestites. I wouldn’t play black characters. Basically, I wouldn’t make that show now. It would upset people. We made a more cruel kind of comedy than I’d do now.”
Walliams was more reserved on the subject in 2018, telling Radio Times that he would “definitely do it differently” in today’s cultural landscape “because it’s a different time now.”
He added: “You’d make any comedy differently… It’s hard to say specifically how it would be different. There’s all kinds of tolerances that change. People understand people’s predicaments more now. Maybe it’s, ‘We see this differently, we’ve got more information,’ and it would be a different type of joke.
“I wouldn’t rule out anything because I basically think you have to be able to make jokes about everything, everyone. Otherwise there is no point having comedy.”
In Little Britain, which aired between 2003 and 2008, Walliams used blackface and an afro wig to play Desiree DeVere, and Lucas blacked up to play Pastor Jesse King. Come Fly With Me aired in 2010, and was criticised at the time for its use of blackface and racial stereotyping.
Three years ago, David Walliams also faced criticism for his “yellowface” Kim Jong-un Halloween costume.