David Walliams and Matt Lucas apologise for Little Britain blackface

David Walliams and Matt Lucas have apologised for their use of blackface in their sketch show Little Britain.

Both comedians expressed their regret about their portrayals of “characters of other races” in almost identical statements posted on Twitter.

The programme has been dropped from streaming services including BBC iPlayer and Netflix, after global anti-racism protests in the wake of the death of George Floyd caused renewed attention on issues of race and representation.

“David and I have both spoken publicly in recent years of our regret that we played characters of other races. Once again we want to make it clear that it was wrong and we are very sorry,” Lucas tweeted.

The show has long been criticised for its use of blackface, as well as its portrayal of gay and disabled characters, with characters played by Matt Lucas and David Walliams including an obese Caribbean woman called Desiree DeVere, portrayed in blackface, and a “portly Thai bride” called Ting Tong.

Explaining its decision to remove the show from its catch-up service, the BBC said “times have changed” since Little Britain was first aired in 2003. The pairs other comedy series, Come Fly With Me, which aired in 2010 and also featured blackface, was removed from BritBox, the joint streaming service between ITV and the BBC, six months ago.

Lucas, who is set to become the new host of Channel 4s The Great British Bake Off, has expressed regret in the past about the portrayal of some of the shows characters, describing it as “lazy” to “get a laugh just by playing black characters”.

“If I could go back and do Little Britain again, I wouldnt make those jokes about transvestites. I wouldnt play black characters,” he said in an interview with the Big Issue in 2017. “Basically, I wouldnt make that show now. It would upset people. We made a more cruel kind of comedy than Id do now.”

Little Britain is not the only show to be reassessed in light of the renewed anti-racism movement.

On Friday, the BBC announced that an episode of the 1970s sitcom Fawlty Towers was to be reinstated on its streaming service after it was removed for including “racial slurs”. However, the “Dont mention the war” episode will be featured with guidance and a warning highlighting the “potentially offensive content and language”.

Last week, Leigh Francis, the comedian better known as Keith Lemon, issued a public apology for his portrayal of black celebrities on his sketch show Bo Selecta!.

Francis said at the time he “didnt think anything about it”, but had since “done a lot of talking and learning”. “I didnt realise how offensive it was back then,” he said.