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Book review: <i>Inside Little Britain</i> by Boyd Hilton

I really enjoyed all three of the Little Britain television series and found the live stage show hilariously funny, and exceptionally well produced. The comedy of Matt Lucas and David Walliams is daring and challenging, these two men are undeniably funny. Unfortunately though, Inside Little Britain by Boyd Hilton is nothing short of the biggest pile of festering tripe that has ever been set on paper.

The content

In “Inside Little Britain”, it appears that the journalist/biographer Boyd Hilton fails to see the distinction between what should be included in an in-depth, behind the scenes biography and what is so mundane and mind-numbingly uninteresting that it leaves the reader wanting to hang himself with a kettle cord to escape the unutterable horror of having to complete the book.

Hilton includes all kinds of minutiae from the day to day lives of Matt Lucas and David Walliams that really would be better off not mentioned at all. Had Hilton been able to distinguish between what was interesting to a reader and what was only really interesting to him because he happened to be in the company of celebrities, he may have succeeded in writing an interesting and engaging biography and could even have shaved the four hundred and six page tome down to a much more accessible one hundred and fifty pages, called it quits and just sold it as a magazine article, which I’m positive he’s a hundred times more qualified to do.

There really is no understating the sheer gob-smacking ineptitude that Hilton has spewed about while trying to justify a full size biography. For every interesting line of the book there seems to be five pages of utter shit that no-one, no matter how much they like Little Britain, could ever be interested in. In chapter seven, Hilton describes Lucas and Walliams greeting fans outside after the opening night of their stage show. In a startling display of Hilton’s snappy and concise writing style he finishes the paragraph like this:

After ten minutes or so of signing autographs, Matt and Kevin get into their car, driven by Cos, and I accompany David in his, driven by Pete.

That’s it. There’s a new paragraph after that one. But no particular mention of Pete or Cos. There’s no: “Just as they pull out Pete and Cos die instantaneously in the worlds first simultaneous heart attack.” No: “Pete and Cos turn out to be coked-up junkie prostitutes who have managed to secretly engineer their ways into the inner sanctum of Little Britain in order to destroy the lives of Lucas and Walliams.” Nothing. It seems that Hilton has taken to including this dead-weight sentence merely to demonstrate that he knows the names of Lucas and Walliams’s drivers.

Earlier Hilton has kindly advised us:

Those of us who happen to be present in the dressing rooms before the start of the show will get to know what Matt and David’s bodies are like pretty well over the ensuing months. And that David usually wears briefs, and Matt invariably goes for boxers.

For the sake of not retching over my keyboard I will ignore the fact that Hilton starts a sentence with a conjunction. I will ignore his repeated use of said conjunction to a painful effect in the second part of a half-arsed sentence and I will ignore his repugnant use of the adverb “invariably”. What I will say is WHY? WHY? WHY? WHY? WHY include this and many, many other sentences like it throughout the entirety of this biography? The answer seems to be that, while very comfortable being wrapped up in the “ooh -er”, celebrity gossip, excitement of it all, Hilton seems to have no particular skill whatsoever for chronicling any kind of meaningful biography of anyone let alone a couple of men who are of particular interest to the whole of their own country and a considerable portion of the rest of the world. Bless him, he really does try to make something in depth and revealing but only succeeds in telling us mundane and unbelievably dull tales about how Lucas used to cruise London’s gay nightclub scene and how Walliams couldn’t decide if he was gay or straight. The subject of sexuality seems to be something of particular interest to the British tabloid set and here it is dutifully belabored, dragged on and beaten to an ugly death until the very end of the book and leaves the reader asking “What the hell do I care?” and “How long can we reasonably discuss this for?”

One of my favourite examples of Hilton's complete lack of ability when it comes to differentiating between what should be included in a biography and what clearly shouldn’t is this pearl:

We discuss what to have for Breakfast and Matt warns everyone: ‘Careful with the chips!’

‘What’s wrong with the chips?’ asks David.

Matt explains that he and Kevin ordered a portion of chips last night from room service because they were still hungry, and it arrived doused in salt. ‘Enough salt to fill a large vial,’ says Matt. He was so stunned by the salt that he told the waiter to bring the duty manager up so that he could show him, and because Matt didn’t want the waiter to take the blame for the salty chips. Sure enough, the duty manager arrived promptly, and Matt removed the chips from the bowl to show him the mountain of salt left at the bottom.

‘What did he say?’ asks David.

‘Not much!’ laughs Matt. ‘He couldn’t really say anything. He apologised and offered to bring us a new portion of chips with less salt for free. But - and I know I’m sounding like a moaning old twat - but it was an amazing amount of salt, Dave. Honestly! It was a portion of salt with some chips on top.’

Who is this book for?

If you’re a die-hard fan of Matt Lucas and David Walliams you can expect to try and digest Boyd Hilton’s Hello! Mag style bantering and unfiltered mundane details to get to the interesting facts about Little Britain at the height of it’s popularity which are actually there if you dig deep enough. The subject matter is fascinating but Hilton’s corpse-like handling of the material really destroyed any proper enjoyment that I may have had by reading it. Maybe you could just check out their website instead?

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Shoving needles under you finger nails and chewing on sandpaper. Hilton’s infuriating style of lowest common denominator, tabloid style, hack writing really overshadows what could have been a great insight into the private life of Little Britain.

In short

Title: Inside Little Britain
Author: Boyd Hilton
Publisher: Ebury Press
ISBN: 0091912318
Year published: 2006
Pages: 352
Review Type: 


far out, did anyone ever tell this idiot luke that if he didnt have anything nice to say, dont say it.
i found "inside Little Britain" a great read, and personally believe that you, sir, have never written anything quite like it in your life.
please go now, and fall in the "biggest festering pile of tripe" you posibly can.

Has anyone ever told you that reviewing books (or anything else for that matter) requires honesty? What good would a reviewer be if all they did was say "nice things" or "nothing at all".

He did clarify at the beginning that he is a Little Britain fan. I imagine he was disappointed with the lack of quality of the bio. With the title of "Inside Little Britain", one would expect a little more inside info than what type of underwear they wear and how much salt ended up on their chips.

I doubt Luke as written anything quite like this crap (Inside Little Britain) either. His writing (which I have checked out on his website) is in another league from this pathetic rubbish (Inside Little Britain).

P.S. Has anyone ever told you that the correct use of punctuation, spelling and upper-case letters (where appropriate) makes you seem intelligent? Whereas, the lack thereof has the opposite effect.

Luke and Dave both seem to miss the point of what being a reviewer is: to be able to comment critically on a book.

Luke makes his comments invalid by only finding negatives with the book. If the reviewer only only has negative things to say about a book, they shouldn't review it. I believe most critics follow that rule.

To be a critic requires skill and judgment - Luke's diatribe (should that be diatripe) is highly critical of Hilton, who lets not forget writes for one of the biggest popular magazines in the country, while Luke reviews books on an internet website. I'm not sure he's in a position to belittle anyone's skill or writing ability.

Regardless of what you think of the book, you should still be able to find strong points to comment on. I personally found the more mundane parts of being on tour interesting: they showed the normal sides of their lives, the little things that we all have to deal with. It's not all about fast cars and television. It was interesting to see how difficult and demanding it is to be on tour.

It is always worth remembering, Luke, that grammar rules exist because of how we speak. The rules are just observations, not anything more. If it works, why not use it. I presume you have the same draconian feelings about splitting infinitives. 'To Go Boldly', or To Boldly Go'. Only one works.

Perhaps instead of holding the sword of Damacles over successful journalists heads, you should work on making your own writing more interesting. I found it a struggle to get through your review, but I sailed through the book with ease.

Good luck!

I loved the book, i thought Boyd was really engaging and made those bits that this guy says shouldn't have been menrtioned just jelped me to understand both of them better. And didnt find any boring bits in the book :)