The first, is how funny they are.
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“Sorry I kept you up last night,” Matt, the shorter, cherubic faced one jokes to Access on the phone from New York City, after we apologize for being tired during our 7AM Pacific call. “I kept pulling the duvet.”
The second, is how after years of churning out “Little Britain” for the BBC back home, a show full of sketch comedy based on highly unusual, neurotic and disturbingly hilarious characters with raging regional U.K. accents, their real voices are rather posh.
“Don’t be fooled,” Matt chimes in when we remark about his natural tone. “When I lose my temper, I sound very cockney.”
Chim-chimeree then and a great American “Hello and welcome!” to Matt Lucas and David Walliams, AccessHollywood.com’s newest and very quickly Rising Stars.
After ruling the comedy circuit and scooping up just about every award that existed for being funny in their native England, the two men, who met in 1990 while studying at Britain’s National Youth Theatre, linked up with 19 Music’s Simon Fuller. After helping break the Spice Girls, create “American Idol,” and import “Dancing With the Stars” and David Beckham to the states, the managerial kingpin offered his hand to the duo.
“He approached us and said, ‘I think you should be on TV in America and I’d like to bring you over,’” Matt recounted. “He’s a guy you’ve gotta take seriously because he’s got a phenomenal track record… He’s been really supportive and he’s come up with some great ideas.”
One of those ideas was taking the men to HBO where after a meeting they thought might result in a Ricky Gervais “Office”-style situation, which would see their show re-done in the states with American actors, the two left the appointment with their own series, “Little Britain USA.”
The show, which begins its first season on HBO, Sunday, September 28, isn’t a remake of the original, which found success on BBC America and in USA DVD sales (numbering in the several hundred thousands). Though the group have imported several of the characters from the original sketch show, including Matt’s Marjorie Dawes, a counselor for the fictional “Fat Fighters” weight support system, and David’s Emily Howard, a questionable transgendered “laydeee,” the gents have placed themselves in American situations, creating some culture clashes.
One reason the men kept some of their original creations around was thanks to advice of people like Rosie O’Donnell, who makes a cameo in Series 1 as herself, in a sketch with Marjorie.
“We met Rosie O’Donnell about a year before we made the show and she gave us some confidence actually,” David explained. “She said ‘Don’t change a thing. Don’t change the British characters.’ She liked them as they are and it’s good to hear that because you’ve got a lot of people who say ‘Ooh, you’ve got to American-ize the humor.’ And you can’t really do that. You’ve got to just trust your instincts and do what you do.”
But America also provided some inspiration for Matt and David, who also write the series, via characters like Bing Gordyn, a fictional former astronaut, bitter over having been the eighth man on the moon.
“It just appealed to us as a funny idea and something obviously we wouldn’t do in England because we don’t get astronauts in England,” David explained. “Ultimately that sketch is about someone clinging on to their achievements in the past and not feeling like they’ve got enough respect for them… Also [there is] something just ironic to us that it’s a really big deal going to the moon and I think about 15 people have been to the moon, but you only hear about the first two don’t you?”
In fact, creating Bing and what will no doubt become legendary comedic characters – extreme bodybuilders, with equally extreme anatomy of the miniature size, Mark and Tom — provided a source of pleasure for David and Matt.
In a way I preferred writing the American characters because they were just totally new,” David explained. “We weren’t concerned at any point like, ‘Oh, what will we need to tell the audience about the character?’ or ‘Will they understand it?’ We just thought, well, they’re just funny characters who happen to be American.”
So far, studio tapings of the show, which were directed in Los Angeles by “Friends” star David Schwimmer, a longtime fan of the duo, have ended in the audience breaking out in bowls full of laughter. And they’ve already made converts of musician Sting, actor Paul Rudd and Rosie, all of whom appear in the first series.
“It’s really nice that like American comedians have given us a little bit of a seal of approval,” David said. “It’s really nice [they] wanted to be part of it.”
And though, like Russell Brand (also a former AccessHollywood.com Rising Star) before his MTV VMA hosting gig, they are not yet household names, Matt and David are ready to take on the challenge of America.
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