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Little Britain removed from streaming services after blackface criticism

Matt Lucas and David Walliams (Ian West/PA)
Matt Lucas and David Walliams (Ian West/PA)

Little Britain has been removed from iPlayer because “times have changed” since the comedy first aired, the BBC has said.

The series, starring David Walliams and Matt Lucas, has come under fire recently because of the use of blackface in some sketches.

It comes after Black Lives Matter protests have taken place around the world following the death of unarmed black man George Floyd in the US after a police officer knelt on his neck.

Last week, comedian Leigh Francis issued a tearful apology for portraying black celebrities on sketch show Bo’ Selecta.

The comic played stars including king of pop Michael Jackson, singer Craig David and talkshow host Trisha Goddard on the show, which first aired in 2002.

Little Britain has also been criticised for its portrayal of black women by white men.

Walliams sported black make-up and a large afro wig to play the overweight black woman Desiree DeVere.

Lucas also used blackface to play Pastor Jesse King, who said he was “from the ghetto” and spoke in tongues to cure the sick.

A BBC spokesman said: “There’s a lot of historical programming available on BBC iPlayer which we regularly review. Times have changed since Little Britain first aired, so it is not currently available on BBC iPlayer.”

A BritBox spokeswoman also confirmed the show has been removed from that platform too.

Last week, Netflix also removed the show, as well as Walliams and Lucas’s other series Come Fly With Me.

In that show Lucas wore dark make-up to play Jamaican woman Precious and ground crew employee Taaj, who was of Pakistani descent.

Lucas has since said he has regrets about Little Britain, describing the comedy as “cruel”.

He told The Big Issue: “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.

“Society has moved on a lot since then and my own views have evolved. 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.”

Earlier this year, the pair revisited Little Britain for BBC One’s Big Night In charity programme, reprising their roles as a number of the show’s famous characters including Lou and Andy, Daffyd, Marjorie Dawes and Sebastian while wearing makeshift costumes.

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