Not So Little Britain

9.4.2008

By Aaron Hicklin

Daffyd might not be the only gay on Malibu's Zuma Beach (in fact, he most certainly is not), but Emily Howard is definitely the only transvestite, though a dreadful one at that. They make a striking pair as they stroll across the sand, watching for a whale that has been spotted just off the shore. 'See the dark spot in the water'there he is!' shouts one of the camera crew. Others are standing, necks craning to get a glimpse of it. 'There he is,' echoes Walliams. A shape shifts and moves under the surface; a spout of water gushes into the air. 'I think it might be a pilot whale,' he says. 'I didn't see a cap on it,' Lucas replies, not missing a beat. A school of porpoises weaves into view, and another round of exclamations explodes in the air. Walliams, who has swum the English Channel, looks longingly at the water. 'I might swim out,' he says. 'There's loads of them,' says Lucas as the porpoises rise and fall in the water.

Walliams is very modest about his swimming achievements ('Anyone can do it, really,' he says), but you get the feeling that the same instincts that inspired him to pull faces at himself in the bedroom mirror drives his passion for the sea. 'It's quite solitary,' he confesses. 'I love being under the water and swimming around with my own thoughts.' Swimming across the English Channel, he says, was challenging (he did it in 101⁄2 hours, an impressive time that ranks in the world's top 50) but also exhilarating -- perhaps not unlike stand-up comedy. It's all about getting to the other side. Reaching the shore. Delivering the punch line. Sink or swim.

To look at their r'sum's is to appreciate that Walliams and Lucas are studies in determination. Although they've earned a huge following back home, they realize that success can be transient -- 'You're only as funny as your last joke,' says Lucas -- and don't take much for granted. And although they resist the notion of psychoanalyzing their childhoods as a way to understand their comedy, they also concede there's truth in the old maxim 'Show me a child until he is 7 and I will show you the man.'

'If you were just really content and grew up playing football all day, you probably wouldn't bother pretending to be other people,' Walliams says. 'The way people think of creativity'they don't understand what it is. They go, 'Well, how do you think up your character?' as if it's something they can't have access to, but I think they just had a different upbringing.'

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Little Britain USA premieres on HBO on September 28.

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