DAVID Walliams is one of the UK’s most revered sketch show comics - and a household name.
The 42-year-old shot to fame with the hilarious hit BBC shows Little Britain and Come Fly With Me - which exaggerated, in the first instance, the barmy stereotypes of us Brits and later, in Come Fly With Me, the workforce diversity at airports - all through brilliantly constructed characters written with co-star Matt Lucas.
But Walliams’ appeal goes further than comedy aimed at adult audiences.
Since 2008, the TV funnyman has been writing children’s books and as he prepared to meet a group of lucky youngsters at Lakeside shopping centre on Wednesday for National Storytelling Week, Walliams told the Gazette that the success of his books had been a “wonderful suprise”.
Which is all the more satisfying for the Surrey-born comic, given he only started writing because he wanted to be a comedian.
“If you want to be a comedian these days you have to write your own scripts,” he told the Gazette. “I never planned to write books, so their success is a wonderful surprise.”
From the Demon Dentist to the award-winning Mr Stink - which was adapted for a BBC show starring Hugh Bonneville and Sheridan Smith in 2012 - Walliams’ books have been making children giggle and sparking their imaginations for more than five years.
Much like his comedy sketch shows, the humorous stories are built around excellent young characters. The books have been likened to those written by Roald Dahl, in that they explore the innocence and imagination of childhood - capturing both the fun and darkness of growing up.
“Who isn't influenced by Roald Dahl?” Walliams, said. “He is one of a the all-time great storytellers. He wrote more great books than any other children's writer.
“In my stories I try and capture the same mix of humour and darkness that he did. And of course we share an illustrator in Quentin Blake.”
Walliams was due to visit Lakeside this week and tell stories to 50 parents and children picked at random from the shopping centre’s kids’ club database.
He said: “Books are incredibly important for children. They fire their imaginations like nothing else can. That's why I was keen to support this campaign.”
And when asked what’s harder, writing characters like Billionaire Boy’s Joe Spud, the richest 12-year-old in the world, or the notorious “yeah but no but” Vicky Pollard from Little Britain, Walliams said: “I think writing humour for children is harder because you have to censor yourself much more. You can't be too rude even though children generally love rude jokes!”