For a gay, bald, chubby Jew, Matt Lucas is pretty comfortable in his own skin. Then again, the actor/comedian is perhaps better known for the multitude of other skins he inhabits in his BBC hit show _Little Britain_. These characters range from Daffyd, the self-proclaimed “only gay in the village,” to Vicky Pollard, a fast talking, gossip-spewing trashy teen, to Marjorie Dawes, a rude, overweight dietician and “fat fighter” who refuses to get on the scale yet has no problem commanding others to do so.
So, how did a kid with alopecia from Stanmore, Middlesex end up with a smash hit series on BBC, a cult following at home and abroad, and a version adapted for American audiences in the works for HBO? As Hereclitus said, “Character is destiny.” Part of it is, of course, the baldness. “I would always get cast in school plays in comic roles. I attributed this to the fact that i had no hair so it was easy to make me play an old man,” the 33-year-old says. “But even when it was time to do serious things on stage, people would kind of laugh.” During a remembrance service for World War I veterans, Lucas recalls being asked to read names of those who’d attended his school (the prestigious Haberdashers’ Aske’s boys’ School).
but instead of eliciting somber silence, he drew laughs from classmates and teachers.
Not surprisingly, school was “a hotbed of neurosis” for Lucas. “I didn’t enjoy it much at the time, but I wouldn’t have enjoyed any school,” he confesses. Nevertheless Lucas found humor to be “a great way to empower yourself when you’re at that sort of school—very academic—and when you’re at the bottom of the class, which was where I was.” But Lucas
wasn’t the only student to use comedy as a protective shield. In fact, there are five other Haberdashers’ alums of Lucas’s generation who currently make a living in comedy, including David Baddiel, Robert Popper and Sacha Baron Cohen (for whom Lucas has written).
If character is destiny, the rest is fate. At 16, Lucas attended the national youth theatre—a sort of summer camp for aspiring actors—where he met his _Little Britain_ collaborator David Walliams. “He was always flamboyant and charismatic, very funny,” Lucas reflects. The two became fast friends and within five years were writing and creating shows for the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. The pair is an ideal comedy match: Walliams’ dry wit and lean body type are the perfect complements to Lucas’s lower-brow posturing and hefty form, situating their show “squarely in the absurdist tradition of Monty Python and League of Gentleman,” according to _Vogue_ critic Adam Green. Lucas says. “I mean, yeah, I’m the gay one, I’m the Jewish one, I’m the short one, I’m the fat one, I’m the bald one—but we have enough in common to make it work. we complete each other’s sentences.” And if the show’s success in the U.K. wasn’t proof enough of the duo’s compatibility, audiences on this side of the Atlantic will get a chance to see the them in action sometime next year, when HBO’s version of _Little Britain_ debuts.