£22M LITTLE BRITISH EMPIRE
Mirror.co.uk – UK
… But it’s a magic that is usually short-lived. PR expert Mark Borkowski believes the pair are striking while the iron’s hot. “They …
IT started out five years ago as a bunch of wacky characters on Radio 4, with only a few thousand fans tuning in. But a switch to TV on BBC3 and then mainstream BBC2 has garnered surreal comedy Little Britain a huge army of devotees. Now, creators Matt Lucas and David Walliams are laughing all the way to the bank as Little Britain becomes Big Money.
With homes, offices and playgrounds still echoing to the sound of “Yeah-but-no-but-yeah-but-no” and “I’m the only gay in the village!”, Lucas, 31, and Walliams, 34, are set to join the ranks of our wealthiest entertainers, netting £11million each from their creation
Their nationwide tour, which kicked off on Monday, will earn them £5million each. On the same day, they scooped Most Popular Comedy Programme at the National Television Awards. Their third, and possibly final, series of Little Britain will arrive on BBC screens this winter, so with the end in sight, it’s hardly surprising that the double act seem determined to milk the cash cow dry.
On top of a vast array of DVDs, scripts and books, the pair have sanctioned a range of talking dolls, talking mugs and talking key-rings as well as calendars, jigsaws, clocks and games. Cannily, they’ve retained the merchandising rights, ensuring they reap even greater rewards.
But the Little British Empire doesn’t stop there. Sales of the tour DVD will earn Lucas and Walliams £2million each and a tell-all biography will add another £700,000 to their bank balances. THE talking dolls – including “chavette” Vicky Pollard, gay Daffyd and wheelchair-bound Andy and his carer Lou – will fill thousands of stockings this Christmas, at a cost of £20 each.
And last festive season they sold more than two million DVDs of the first series, alongside 130,000 copies of scripts from the same series. While Lucas doesn’t flaunt his newfound wealth – he lives quietly in North London with his long-term boyfriend – Walliams is a regular on the party scene, guzzling champagne and revelling in his extravagant lifestyle. He snapped up Oasis star Noel Gallagher’s old pad, Supernova Heights – a £3million mansion in fashionable Primrose Hill, North-West London – and is often spotted cruising around in his vintage Mercedes.
AND who can blame him for making the most of it? The pair must realise that few comedy shows endure, because the public soon tire of catchphrases and characters. But there’s no doubt Lucas and Walliams have worked hard for their success. The pair first met as teenagers at the National Youth Theatre and struck up a friendship by performing bizarre celebrity impressions for each other.
They met again at Bristol University in 1990 and began working on the sketches that would form the basis of a show they perform-ed to mixed success at the Edinburgh Festival. Fuelled by ambition, the pair laboured over their sketches. “We’d sit in a room for months, trying to think of funny things,” revealed Walliams. Eventually, their 10 years of toil paid off, thanks to their well-observed creations. Walliams has said that lots of the characters “are based on people we know or have been told about” but admits that even he was shocked by their popularity.
“It has far exceeded our expectations but what I’ve realised is that it’s not us who’ve made it a hit – it’s the public. “Once they like and start talking about something, a certain magic happens.” But it’s a magic that is usually short-lived. PR expert Mark Borkowski believes the pair are striking while the iron’s hot. “They’ve a sound marketing strategy to exploit their 15 minutes of fame. The fact that they have retained the merchandising rights shows they know what they’re doing. “They could even make Lou and Andy wheelchairs or Marjorie Dawes diet books – the possibilities are endless. “But they’ve earned the right to do that because they’ve played the role through the years.”