"Little Britain" takes satire to U.S.

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) -. Hit BBC television show “Little Britain” is taking its outrageous satirical humour to U.S. premium cable channel HBO in September, drawing on stars such as David Schwimmer and Rosie O’Donnell to lure U.S. audiences.

Matt Lucas (R) and David Walliams, writers, executive producers and stars of the new HBO comedy series "Little Britain USA", discuss the show during HBO's panel presentation at the Television Critics Association summer press tour in Beverly Hills, California July 10, 2008. REUTERS/Fred Prouser (UNITED STATES)

The show, a cultural phenomenon in Britain, is the latest comedy import to the U.S. after programs like “The Office,” which airs on the NBC network, have made their mark in the U.S.

Creators Matt Lucas, 34, and David Walliams, 36, told reporters and TV critics gathered in Los Angeles for an early look at the show that they know how far to push their riskier jokes and trade-mark mockery of the disabled, poor, gay and fat people.

In one scene in “Little Britain USA,” which premieres in the U.S. on September 28, Lucas appears in drag as the leader of a weight-loss group. O’Donnell -- the gay U.S. actress and talk show host -- drops in for a visit, playing herself.

At one point, Lucas’ character asks O’Donnell if she is a lesbian because her weight made it hard to find a man.

Walliams said that O’Donnell was a “good sport” and did not ask for a word to be changed from the sketch.

“I think the boundary is, if it’s funny,” said Walliams, “and I think it’s helpful that we’re doing it in front of an audience because if, for example, we’d done that Rosie O’Donnell sketch and people weren’t laughing -- it was uncomfortable -- I don’t think we’d want to show it.”

“I hope that even though that’s pretty outrageous, it’s done with warmth,” he added. “We’re obviously sort of exaggerating people and it’s got to have some feeling of silliness about it, which stops it from being unpleasant.”

Walliams and Lucas also got some help from “Friends” star David Schwimmer, who directed some episodes of “Little Britain USA”.

With its sketches featuring cross-dressing, an incoherent teenager, and flamboyant gays, “Little Britain” is a biting satire that has spawned video games, talking dolls and numerous catch phrases during its three UK series.

Walliams and Lucas said that there are some differences between English and American comedy.

“We talked about American comedy being a little cooler and Britain being a bit sadder,” Lucas said.

“I think we make ourselves look maybe stupid in Britain a little bit more than being cool,” Walliams said. “But also we’re not afraid to dress as women which is a little bit rarer in American comedy.”

“Little Britain USA” will air on the BBC as well as on HBO.