Matt Lucas, best known as the star of Little Britain and for his appearances in hit films such as Bridesmaids and Alice in Wonderland, has offered an apology for some of the humor from his time on TV. Lucas has revealed that he would take back some of the skits that he made while starring on Little Britain, which ran on BBC from 2003-2007, and on Come Fly with Me, which aired in 2010. In the skits, Lucas portrayed “transvestite” characters and appeared in blackface.
“If I could go back and do Little Britain again, I wouldn’t make those jokes about transvestites,” Lucas said. He added that he “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.” Lucas says that society has “moved on” since then and that his ideas have “evolved.”
The skits, widely available on YouTube, show Lucas as black pastor, “Jesse King from the ghetto” and a “transvestite” named Florence Howard from Little Britain. He portrayed a woman of Jamaican descent on Come Fly with Me. Blackface comedy fell out of vogue in the United States in the 1950’s and by the 60’s (mostly – remember Ted Danson’s 1993 roast of Whoopi Goldberg?), was seen as offensive as the Civil Rights Movement progressed, but lasted in the United Kingdom well into the 1980’s. Lucas’ transvestite character alternates between true transvestism and insisting that she is a transgender woman. In one episode, Florence’s sister, Emily (David Walliams), tries to use the women’s locker room at a local pool, but being denied because she is not seen as “passing.” The locker room scenario is an especially sore spot for trans men and women, brought to the forefront of the LGBT conversation by recent political actions restricting their personal freedom.
Lucas says that at the time, “There was no bad intent there – the only thing you could accuse us of was greed. We just wanted to show off about what a diverse bunch of people we could play. Now I think it’s lazy for white people to get a laugh just by playing black characters. My aim is to entertain, I don’t have any other agenda. As I’ve got older, I’ve become more empathetic, I care more about hurting people.”