Since his stage debut as Sir Bernard Chumley on the London comedy circuit at 18 years old, Matt Lucas has had a penchant for dressing up and making people laugh.

But it is in ABC TV’s Little Britain that he really strikes gold. The award-winning comedy co-written with David Walliams has unleashed a range of weird, wonderful and decidedly queer characters -“ like rubber hotpants-wearing Dafydd, the only gay in the village.

Louise Durham

So, are you fed up talking about yourself yet?

Matt Lucas

You’ll never meet an actor who’ll answer that question truthfully.

LD

You played Leigh Bowery in a production of Taboo a few years ago. Were you a big fan of his beforehand?

ML

To my shame, my awareness of him was very low until I was asked to audition in a workshop of Taboo. But during the time I was in the show I immersed myself in him.

LD

Nice person?

ML

[Laughs] He was twisted, sister. Apparently he was a nice person, but twisted.

LD

Have you ever been to a club like Taboo?

ML

I don’t think there are any clubs like that. The most extreme club I’ve been to is Arsenal Football Club. It’s fierce, girl, up at Highbury. Fierce, ruling.

LD

You’re quite new to nightclubs, aren’t you? What do you go for? Dancing boys, booze, sex, glamour -¦?

ML

What do I go to a club for? Good question. Out of sheer desperation.

LD

What, for cock?

ML

I’m not saying that. I go to clubs to be with my friends.

LD

Why didn’t you go earlier?

ML

I was immersed in my work really.

LD

You sound like Britney Spears.

ML

I was a teenage Britney. I didn’t really do anything else than work.

LD

When you were 16, didn’t you think, I need to go and check out gay clubs?

ML

When I was 16 I sat at home listening to Queen. I think it’s easy for people now. When I was 16, it was 1990 and the Tories were still in power so for a 16-year-old it was pretty scary. When you’re growing up in the suburbs, you feel pretty isolated.

LD

But there were people like Boy George.

ML

They were when I was seven or eight. In 1990 there wasn’t much going on. It was all grunge. And I was into Queen, which was glam in relation to that.

LD

Did you have quite a tortured gay youth?

ML

I was pretty alarmed by things for a while, like many people. It was a different time. For people who are 16 now, they can see people like [gay British comedian] Graham Norton, who are celebrated in the tabloids, and there are characters in soaps.

When I was that age it was more political, it was in the shadow of AIDS when it was pretty bleak and when Freddie Mercury died in 1991 there was a real homophobic backlash, the age of consent was still 21.

It didn’t seem as easy then as now, post-Queer As Folk. I think it’s understandable that people in their mid- to late-20s came out later. There’s someone I know who’s my age that’s still not out to his parents.

LD

What was your approach? Did you know you were gay?

ML

I don’t know really.

LD

You knew who you fancied though.

ML

Sometimes, sometimes not. I was pretty confused, to be honest with you. I don’t think my experiences were different to other people’s. I know when I was 18, [British comedian] Bob Mortimer came up to me and said, I would like to help you get work, and I was blown away ’cause I was a big fan.

One of the things he said is, You’re a really angry person, aren’t you? and he was the one who made me aware of it. I think I did have a lot of frustration and worked that out on stage. The character Sir Bernard Chumley in a way was my coming out. That was an expression of my feelings but I don’t think I expressed them off-stage.

LD

What’s it like hanging out with Boy George?

ML

It’s interesting. I think it’s a transitional period for George. He’s such an enigmatic personality, so witty and insightful and he’s celebrated as a DJ, he’s an icon and a national treasure and so visually arresting and has a unique singing voice, but the one thing that has been overlooked is his songwriting.

Particularly in the last 10 years when he hasn’t had a profile as a pop performer. In Taboo he was re-evaluated as a composer ’cause the score is the best in a British musical in 20 or 30 years.

LD

Did you have to sing?

ML

Yes, and dance. It was my first time doing it on stage, but I was in the National Youth Music Theatre as a kid with Jude Law -“ you probably want to know that.

LD

Did you know him?

ML

He used to sleep in the room next door.

LD

How erotic is that!

ML

I’m not getting involved.

LD

Are you cagey about the gay stuff?

ML

I don’t think I am.

LD

Straight people talk about who they fancy -¦

ML

If you think that I’m cagey about that one thing in particular it’s a shame, because the way I express myself best is through my work and I think I celebrate -¦ I dress up as Marjory Dawes and Dafydd and I think that’s quite expressive.

LD

But when people refuse to talk about boyfriends, people wonder why.

ML

I’m not in the closet. I’m not denying who I am. I just think the more people know about you, the less they’ll want to know about you. For me, someone like Freddie Mercury had a great mystique and if we know everything about his life, he doesn’t have that.

LD

But now he looks like a total hypocrite.

ML

I’m not going to say that. He’s from a different era. It’s harsh to evaluate people now. We know that we have better lives being as we are and not hiding it but having a better life doesn’t necessarily mean telling people who you’re going out with.

I’m happy to be who I am, my friends and family know what I am. I’m out but you’ve got to have some personal life.

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