Matt Lucas: I think I'm fat, short and bald - maybe I need a gastric band

Feb 28, 2015

In his first newspaper interview for five years, the Little Britain funnyman discusses shyness, diets, gastric bands and his TV return in new comedy Pompidou

JNVisuals / BBC

From the skintight PVC bodysuits of Little Britain’s only gay in the village to the full-breasted fatsuit of Bubbles Devere, Matt Lucas could never be described as camera shy.

Off-screen, however, it is a completely different story.

Back acting on British TV for the first time in more than four years, the shy comedian admits he hides behind his outlandish characters – and is considering a gastric band after putting on weight.

Matt says: “I’m as uncomfortable looking at photographs of myself as anybody is and that’s one of the reasons I dress up.

“I do feel self-conscious and look at those photos and go ‘Oh, you’ve still got no hair, you’re still carrying too much weight, you’re still too short, and oooh, when you’re in profile look how big your nose is.’

“I have the same insecurities anyone else has about their appearance... well, probably more so.

“I lost my hair when I was six so the fact that I looked different was made apparent to me from a very early age.

“People always commented on it so I think my way of dealing with it through the years was to disguise myself. It felt like a safe thing to do.

“Oddly, when I’m in character, I tend to deliberately make myself look even worse. There’s no vanity in comedy, especially in this country.

“The characters that we love – Basil Fawlty, David Brent, Miranda, Alan Partridge and Mr Bean – are usually the misfits. These are the performances that are endearing to us.”

In 2010 doctors advised Matt to lose weight and he shed over three stone.

JNVisuals Comedian Matt Lucas speaks about his new show 'Pompidou'
Mirror man: But Matt is not always comfortable with his appearance

Since moving to Los Angeles and going on a self-imposed break from the public eye he has, by his
own admission, put it back on – with interest.

Now on a diet , the 40-year-old is “looking into” £12,000 gastric band surgery.

He adds: “I’ve been on a strict diet since the start of the year and just trying to be a bit sensible, eating less and exercising a bit more.

“I’ve just cut right down on all the things I love and started eating all the things I don’t love. And walking a bit more.

“I’m open to the idea of getting a gastric band. The thing is I lose weight but never keep it off. If I can find a way to help that, then maybe I’ll explore it.

“But this suit I’m wearing today, I couldn’t get into until recently. I don’t drink, I don’t do drugs and I don’t smoke so my vice is a large bar of chocolate.

“Everyone’s got their thing and for me, I’m like a child. I just really like sweets.

“I always say eating chocolate is like eating a smile... and clearly I’ve eaten too many smiles.”

He laughs: “What’s terrible is that a shop has opened a 45-second walk from my front door selling British chocolate.”

JNVisuals Comedian Matt Lucas speaks about his new show 'Pompidou'
Excited: Matt discusses his new show Pompidou with the Mirror's Clemmie Moodie

Home, for Matt, is West Hollywood and although he still has a place in North London, he’s been based in the States for the past few years.

He is, though, about as un-LA as it is possible to get. In the nicest possible way.

Apologising for being fractionally late for our interview – his first newspaper chat in five years – he is polite, friendly and remarkably grounded for a household name, especially one whose Emmy-winning Little Britain sketch show with David Walliams was aired in 140 countries.

Of his Hollywood lifestyle, he grins: “I happen to live in LA but this is slightly misleading, as if I’m out in nightclubs all the time and going to parties.

“But the truth is I live in a place with a quiet garden and grow fruits and spend time with my dogs. I live a quiet life.”

Today, the star is here to discuss his daring new BBC2 comedy series Pompidou starring the aristocratic title character who lives in a caravan after falling on hard times.

It also features a puppeted Afghan hound called Marion and much of the dialogue is in gibberish.

Or, as Matt explains: “Often kids liked Little Britain but I was often told off by their parents in the street because it was quite rude.

“So I wanted to do something people of all ages could enjoy.

“Little Britain had an international audience but often had to be dubbed or subtitled. So my thinking was that by doing something in gibberish, at least everybody could understand it – or not understand it – equally.”

BBC Matt Lucas as Florence and David Walliams as Emily in Little Britain
Quite rude: Matt as Florence and David Walliams as Emily in Little Britain

Twenty years after first appearing on TV as baby-faced George Dawes on Shooting Stars, Matt is used to being recognised.

And despite being “quite a private person”, it does not faze him.

Chatting over a bottle of mineral water at London’s ITV studios, he adds: “I’m quite shy in many ways.

“I’m not a fixture of the showbiz scene, I don’t really do the red carpets and I don’t tend to go to the openings of things.

“I’m quite private but I did choose to put myself here. I’m not the relative of some-one fam- ous who became famous by default, I’m not royal who was born into it.

“I made a decision to get into acting at a young age and don’t think you can put yourself on TV, inflict yourself on people, and then complain when people recognise you or want a photo. That would be churlish. The other thing I will say is, that because I was that bald kid, people used to stare at me anyway.

“I was used to being looked at. And actually, when I was on TV, it was nicer. Because rather than people just being curious as to whether I had leukaemia, which I didn’t, or was ill, which I wasn’t, people were actually recognising me for something I did rather than something I was.”

It has undoubtedly been a mixed few years for the comedian.

In 2008 he split from his husband-of-two-years Kevin McGee. A year later TV producer Kevin killed himself.

Devastated, this was one of the main reasons Matt escaped to LA and out of the public eye. It’s still too raw for him to discuss at any length.

But after throwing himself into Pompidou, a series of which he is “most proud”, the actor is once again smiling, and ready to date.

“I’m excited to be back making TV again,” he says. I feel that this is my best work and more of a reflection of where I’m at now. It was a conscious decision to take a step away from the public side of life and to just sort of clear my head.

“It was a chance to think about what I wanted to do creatively and where I wanted to be and what was right for me.

“Living in California suited me well; I just wanted to have a place I could go to find peace and tranquillity and, to be honest with you, I found that. I feel very lucky.

“I joined Tinder (a dating website) fairly recently but quite often I’d put a photo of myself up and people would assume it wasn’t me, or just a joke. Having said that, I have had some lovely cups of tea and been on dinner dates with a few very charming people. It’s been very nice.”

  • Pompidou starts on Sunday night on BBC2 at 6.30pm.
JNVisuals Comedian Matt Lucas speaks about his new show 'Pompidou'
JNVisuals Comedian Matt Lucas speaks about his new show 'Pompidou'
BBC Matt Lucas as Florence and David Walliams as Emily in Little Britain
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