Craig David: what did 7 Days singer say about Keith Lemon show Bo’ Selecta! Has Leigh Francis responded?

Craig David has criticised comedian Leigh Francis for his use of blackface and racist caricatures in his early 2000s show Bo’ Selecta!

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Many comedy shows have come under fire in recent years for the way they dealt with race - some have been taken down from streaming platforms, or had scenes removed because they contained racist elements. Back in 2020 Channel 4 removed Bo’ Selecta from its streaming service All 4 after the show drew criticism for its use of blackface and racist characterisation of Black celebrities.

Craig David has been vocal about his disapproval of the way he was portrayed in the sketch series for years, saying that it had humiliated him, though he reportedly made peace with Leigh Francis (who is also known by his TV persona Keith Lemon) back in 2015. However, David has recently spoken out about the show again and has been much more critical of Francis.

Craig David called Leigh Francis a bully over his Bo’ Selecta! impersonations Craig David called Leigh Francis a bully over his Bo’ Selecta! impersonations
Craig David called Leigh Francis a bully over his Bo’ Selecta! impersonations

What was Bo’ Selecta!?

Bo’ Selecta! was a sketch comedy series which ran from 2002-2004 and starred comedian Leigh Francis as caricatures of various celebrities. Francis regularly appeared as Craig David, wearing an oversized blackface mask of the singer. David also appeared as himself in two episodes in 2003.

Francis also impersonated Michael Jackson, Trisha Goddard, and Mel B, again wearing blackface masks and wigs. The show was popular in its day but makes for uncomfortable viewing today because it has aged poorly and relies on racial stereotypes for much of its humour. The use of blackface is also something rarely if ever seen in modern comedy shows, for obvious reasons.

When was Craig David portrayed on Bo’ Selecta!?

Craig David was one of the main personalities lampooned on the show, and Francis gave the character several inarticulate catchphrases. David actually appeared on the second season of the show, playing himself as he meets his Bo’ Selecta! doppelganger. David said that he regretted being on the show even as he filmed his scenes, and claimed that he only made the appearance to prove that Francis had not got under his skin.

Leigh Francis as Craig David on Bo’ Selecta!Leigh Francis as Craig David on Bo’ Selecta!
Leigh Francis as Craig David on Bo’ Selecta!

What has Craig David said about Keith Lemon?

Craig David has spoken about Bo’ Selecta! many times over the years - first saying that the show humiliated him. In 2015, he said that he gave Leigh Francis a big hug and the two made up. However, yesterday (9 October) David spoke out against the comedian and the show again.

Speaking to The Times, David said: “Every sketch felt personal. It felt like a vendetta and when it got a following, it became something that affected me. People would shout at me on the street and I felt the same feeling I had when I was bullied at school. Leigh Francis had normalised bullying by making it comedy. When he put blackface on, that was being racist.

“We can all apologise when on the back foot. Has he reached out to any of the people he did on his show? He hasn’t reached out to me. Has he gone to communities to talk about bullying? Racism? And to be educated? You can only ask him.”

Has Leigh Francis apologised to Craig David?

Leigh Francis apologised for his impersonations on Bo’ Selecta’ back in 2020 - this was after Trisha Goddard called him out for taking part in Blackout Tuesday and told him that her children had been bullied because of the show. Francis issued a tearful apology video posted to his Instagram page.

He said: “Been talking to some people, I didn’t realise how offensive it was back then. I just want to apologise, I just want to say sorry for any upset I caused whether I was Michael Jackson, Craig David, Trisha Goddard, all people I’m a big fan of. I guess we’re all on a learning journey.”

Francis has not yet publicly apologised to David since the latest criticism levelled at him in David’s interview with The Times.

David Walliams in blackface on Little BritainDavid Walliams in blackface on Little Britain
David Walliams in blackface on Little Britain

Have other shows been removed from streaming platforms over blackface?

Yes, Little Britain, which aired from 2003-2006, and Come Fly With Me, which ran for one season in 2011, featured Matt Lucas and David Walliams regularly appearing in Black Face - both shows have been removed from streaming platforms. Episodes of It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, Community, and one scene from Peep Show are among parts of other shows that have been removed from Netflix for the same reason.