Matt Lucas: The Truth About The New Host Of The Great British Baking Show

One of television's most enjoyable culinary imports is PBS's The Great British Baking Show — or, as it's titled in the U.K., The Great British Bake Off. Hosted by comedians Sandi Toksvig and Noel Fielding, amateur British bakers compete in special challenges, with the results judged by artisan baker Paul Hollywood and culinary expert Prue Leith. In January 2020, however, the show announced a change to its four-person recipe: Toksvig was exiting the show in order "to spend more time with my other work," she said in a statement

Two months later, Toksvig's replacement was revealed to be British comedian Matt Lucas, a familiar face to TV viewers and filmgoers on both sides of the pond. "I'm chuffed to bits to be joining the most delicious show on television," declared Lucas in the announcement, jokingly adding: "And bearing in mind my love of cake, I've already ordered some much larger trousers in anticipation."

A fixture on British television since the 1990s, there's much that fans of The Great British Baking Show might not know about this multitalented actor, writer, and comedian. Read on to learn all about the show's new host Matt Lucas.

Matt Lucas came to The Great British Baking Show in an unusual way

Matt Lucas' hiring as a new host of The Great British Baking Show was not only unexpected, its origins were downright bizarre. As Lucas confirmed to Capital Radio, the circumstances that led up to his being hired were indeed "quite strange." While producers sought a co-host to pair with Noel Fielding, said Lucas, Fielding "had a dream that I was the co-host."

Fielding, however, didn't share that information immediately. "And instead of saying to the producers, 'I dreamt Matt Lucas was the co-host', he just said, 'Matt Lucas would be a good co-host I think' and then I got an audition," Lucas explained. As a result, the whole process was a whirlwind. "I got a call on a Friday, I had the audition on the Tuesday, and it was announced on the Thursday," he said. 

"I love Matt. I love his warmth and his comedy and his big joyful smile," said Fielding of his new co-host in the announcement. "I think if we play our cards right we could become the next Chas and Morph," he joked, referencing popular claymation characters first introduced to British television in 1977.

Matt Lucas lost his hair when he was 6-years-old

One of Matt Lucas' most distinguishing physical characteristics is his lack of hair. Unlike many male celebrities who deal with male pattern baldness by shaving their heads, Lucas' bald pate is the result of alopecia. "I lost my hair when I was six," Lucas said in an interview with ITV's Loose Women. "It all just fell out." As Lucas recalled, his hair loss came gradually, over the course of a summer. "I'd wake up every morning and there would be strands of hair on my pillow."

Being a completely bald child, he explained, led him to become "famous" in his town, albeit "in a weird kind of way." In an excerpt from his memoir Little Me: My Life from A-Z, published by The Guardian, Lucas recalled feeling like his lack of hair became "the most — perhaps even the only — notable thing about me."

His hairless head, he wrote, was something nobody ever let him forget, not even "for one moment... My baldness was a source of amusement, sympathy, and revulsion for everyone."

Alopecia helped bring Matt Lucas to comedy

The alopecia that brought Matt Lucas so much childhood pain is also what led him to comedy. As a youngster, Lucas told Loose Women, "I was already known. 'Oh, that's the kid with no hair.' I thought I would like to do something with this attention, and that's what made me become a performer, really." As Lucas explained, the local notoriety "forced me out of myself, to develop a quick wit... it made me kind of come up with gags."

As he grew older, he wrote in an excerpt from his memoir published in The Guardian, that he "had figured out jokey responses to the same old questions if I was in a good mood, and withering retorts if I wasn't." Lucas further explained, "I had mastered the art of staring back fearlessly at people when I caught them sneaking a look at me. I had figured out, in my own way, how to live with being bald."

Ultimately, he came to realize that his lack of hair "has made me distinctive, yet also allowed me to transform myself. Stick a wig on and I'm someone else. Swap the wig and I'm now another person. Perfect."

Matt Lucas revealed the one thing he wished he had told his father

Matt Lucas lost his father unexpectedly at age 52. Lucas was just 22 at the time, and had yet to work up the courage to come out to him as openly gay. "His death came out of the blue and I wished I had told him while he was still alive," Lucas lamented in an interview with The Guardian

The TV host subsequently received some information that allowed for some closure when, four years after his father's death, his aunt told him that his dad "had figured it out for himself — and he was OK with it," Lucas said. "Even all that time later, that was a very heartening thing to learn. It resolved a lot of things."

In the same interview, Lucas also discussed coming out to his mother, who sought a reason for her son's sexuality. "She asked me: 'Did I smother you? Did I make you gay?' This was nearly 20 years ago, when people believed an event could turn you gay," Lucas explained. "I said no, no, no and not to worry about it. She didn't smother me at all — she was lovely."

Matt Lucas' breakthrough role was as a giant score-keeping baby

Matt Lucas first came to the attention of British TV viewers from his downright bizarre appearances on UK celebrity quiz show Shooting Stars, hosted by comedians Vic Reeves and Bob Mortimer. Described by the BBC as boasting "surreal humor," that was certainly apparent in the character that put Lucas on the map: George Dawes, a ginormous baby who would reveal the score of the game while sitting behind a set of drums. George would typically interrupt the proceedings to deliver bizarre comedy bits, such as a musical ode to baked potatoes and another in which he just screamed the word "peanuts" at the audience while jaunty music played in the background.

The show was canceled and resurrected a few times over the years, with Lucas happily reprising the wacky role. He revived George Dawes in 2017 to help with the Theirworld charity's childhood development campaign. "For me, it was a good opportunity to be George Dawes again because I haven't been George for eight years!" Lucas told the Mirror. "I couldn't really resist, it's always fun to muck about as George. Sometimes you just have to put on a romper suit and be silly."

Matt Lucas and Little Britain partner David Walliams were voted British TV's most powerful comedians

While Matt Lucas' George Dawes has been beloved by British television viewers for more than two decades, even greater success came when he teamed up with David Walliams for their sketch comedy series Little Britain. As BBC pointed out, the duo's TV series was preceded by a radio show that launched in 2000 before transitioning to television in 2003. A US version was launched in 2008, airing on HBO for a single season.

At its peak, Little Britain's popularity was so enormous that a 2005 Radio Times "50 Most Popular People in TV Comedy" list placed Lucas and Walliams at the very top. Meanwhile, the show's exposure on HBO opened up a whole new audience in the United States. "I don't know what they were but I know that they grew every week," Lucas told The Guardian of Little Britain's HBO ratings. 

Lucas also told The Guardian while he and Walliams decided to end the show at the height of its popularity. "I wasn't bored of it," he explained. "I just felt it's important to stop before we get bored of it. It's very important to challenge yourself."

One movie in particular was pivotal for his career

Since first sitting down behind George Dawes' drum kit, Matt Lucas has built up an extensive body of screen work, including a recurring role on iconic sci-fi series Doctor Who in addition to appearances on many other TV series. As his IMDb page demonstrates, Lucas also boasts a prodigious film career, with numerous roles to his credit, including Alice in Wonderland, Paddington and the animated Sherlock Gnomes.

One early, small film role proved to be a pivotal one, when Lucas appeared alongside Rebel Wilson to portray the sibling roommates of Kristen Wiig's character in the comedy blockbuster Bridesmaids. To this day, he said during a 2019 appearance on The Graham Norton Show (via Express and Star), he's still most recognized from that role. However, he joked that while he's often spotted by fans, it's not always as himself. "People recognize me [in Los Angeles] because of Doctor Who but also for Bridesmaids, but they think I am Rebel Wilson," he said. "It's a bit weird, but they do, or they think we are brother and sister, husband and wife, the same person, or all three."

Rebel Wilson and Matt Lucas were once roommates

Matt Lucas and Rebel Wilson will always be remembered for playing Kristen Wiig's sibling roommates in Bridesmaids, and the pair are actually close friends. In fact, Lucas told BBC Newsbeat that they were also roommates in real life. "We lived together for three years, had the best time and a great friendship has come out of it," he said.

According to Lucas, he and the Pitch Perfect star have remained "bosom buddies" over the years, explaining that they've "never really fallen out over anything, not even the basics." Revealing that he and Wilson still speak "all the time," Lucas joked that they would have remained roommates if not for her "decision to become a huge movie star and buy a house."

He describes their relationship as "complete synchronicity," noting that both are "very laid back and we're also quite driven professionally and I see that in her and she sees that in me but we're not competitive because we just enjoy each other's work." 

Matt Lucas came to believe the comedy series Little Britain was "cruel"

Little Britain, Matt Lucas' comedy collaboration with David Walliams, remains beloved by fans, yet Lucas has been able to look back and realize there are some problematic aspects of the show that, in hindsight, he would have done differently. Of these, perhaps the thing he regrets most is putting on blackface for the show. "I wouldn't play black characters," he told the Big Issue in 2017, more than a decade after Little Britain aired its final BBC episode. 

In fact, Lucas admitted he's been able to look at the show with fresh eyes, and admitted he didn't always like what he saw. "Basically, I wouldn't make that show now. It would upset people," he explained. "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."

According to Lucas, he and Walliams were only trying to "show off" by demonstrating "what a diverse bunch of people we could play," he said. "Now I think it's lazy for white people to get a laugh just by playing black characters."

A Brexit-themed reunion with David Walliams quashed rumors of a feud

Matt Lucas and Little Britain comedy partner David Walliams ended the show with a bang, embarking on a live Little Britain comedy tour in 2006 that ran for a year. It was reported by The Independent, that it was the longest-running live comedy show in British history. When Little Britain Live wrapped up with a six-week stint in London, they had performed for more than a million fans and raked in an estimated $30 million.

Walliams and Lucas reunited for another TV series, Come Fly With Me, before embarking on solo endeavors. In the British press, however, rumors swirled of bad blood between the two. Walliams didn't deny friction, with BBC America quoting him in an interview with BBC Radio 4's Front Row, declaring he and Lucas are "very different people and probably want different things and had different working methods." Asked whether the partnership was over, he said that "it's over for the time being. Whether it's over forever I don't know."

Whatever had occurred between the two, they patched things up in late 2019 to reunite for a Brexit-themed Little Britain radio special.  

Matt Lucas used to think he was "too famous"

The massive success Matt Lucas experienced from Little Britain had a downside when he suddenly became more famous than he wanted to be. "It was heart-stopping being in the papers every day," Lucas told the Sunday Times in 2018, admitting he felt "too famous" a decade earlier. "David Walliams was much more comfortable with fame than I was. I thought I was famous when I was 21 years old and a big baby in Shooting Stars, but really everyone thought my name was George Dawes and all they wanted to know was what Ulrika Jonsson was like in real life."

During an appearance on The Graham Norton Show, Lucas revealed he had finally managed to find the perfect level of fame now that he had shifted to the B-list. In fact, he told Norton, he had written an entire chapter in his memoir about "what it's like to be a B-lister." One of the downsides, he explained, was that people tend to stop him on the street and quote catchphrases to him, "but sometimes the wrong ones."

The reason Matt Lucas isn't concerned with vanity

In 2012, Matt Lucas starred in the dark comedy Small Apartments, playing a weirdo shut-in named Franklin Franklin. The character spends most of his time inside his tiny apartment, wearing nothing but a pair of clogs and tighty-whities. When the film made its premiere at SXSW, Lucas admitted he wasn't exactly thrilled to see himself showing so much skin in the movie. "I saw a rough cut of the film about six months ago and thought... what have I done?'" he joked, during the premier for Small Apartments.

In a subsequent interview with EW, he referenced his remarks. "I don't think vanity is going to help me," he explained. "I don't have Ashton Kutcher's looks to lose... I used to do standup comedy when I started out and I used to heckle myself before the audience could heckle me. It's that kind of thing."

The way Lucas saw it, he's a character actor and comedian, not a "movie star by any stretch of the imagination." Lucas further explained, "I don't have to worry about those things. I already look like Uncle Fester on a good day, so it doesn't really matter to me."

Matt Lucas announced plans to reunite with David Walliams to take Little Britain to Netflix

Following Matt Lucas' Little Britain radio reunion with David Walliams in late 2019, it was reported that the pair had been in talks with Netflix to reboot the comedy for the streaming service. "It might happen," Lucas told BBC Radio 2's The Zoe Ball Breakfast Show. "We had a conversation with them a while ago so the seed was planted in our heads. We'd love to bring it back in some way at some point."

However, Lucas admitted things were very much up in the air. "We're both quite busy boys but we're speaking often and one idea was to maybe do a stage show of it again," Lucas told host Zoe Ball. "I think it will come back in some form. We're just still figuring out what that will be." 

In an April 2020 interview with The One Show, Lucas elaborated. "Could it be a podcast? Could it be a series on TV? Could it be a stage show?" he said. "We have just got to find the time but definitely we will do. We are not 100 percent sure but we will."

Matt Lucas revived a classic comedy bit to help with COVID-19 relief efforts

In March 2020, Matt Lucas dusted off a classic television bit from his Shooting Stars days: George Dawes' baked potato song, in which the big baby declares, "Baked potato changed my life, baked potato showed me the way, if you want to know what is wrong from right, you must listen to what potato say." As Lucas told Official Charts, he was "tinkling around on my piano" when the old song "popped into my head," with Lucas adding lyrics encouraging hand-washing and social distancing. He posted a brief video of himself singing the song on Twitter and "didn't think anything of it."

Lucas' song went viral on social media, racking up well over three million views. A friend suggested that Lucas release the song for charity. The result was "Thank You Baked Potato," a new single accompanied by an animated video, produced to raise money for FeedNHS, a charity providing hot meals to the frontline staff of Britain's National Health Service during the COVID-19 pandemic.