David Walliams on Simon Cowell: 'Who do you think you are?'
David Walliams loves his job as a judge on Britain's Got Talent, but he does find one aspect of it difficult – the need to administer "tough love" to the aspiring stars.
The comedian, also widely loved for such shows as Little Britain, Come Fly With Me, and Walliams And Friend, acknowledges that, "It's hard. Some contestants come just to have a bit of fun. But others come thinking they're going to be the next superstar.
"It's actually crueller to pretend to them that they are going to be a big success when they're obviously not. You can judge it by the audience reaction. That's the good thing about having the audience there. If the audience are having a bad time, it's not going to work out for the act."
Walliams, who is also a successful children's author, having sold more than 12.5 million copies in 46 languages, adds that, "Some people have an odd sense of entitlement.
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"They say, 'But it's my dream', as if that in itself is justification enough for getting what they want.
"It's my dream to win Wimbledon and to go out with Rhianna, but I know those things are unlikely to happen. I accept that some dreams will never come true."
This wicked sense of humour is just one reason why Walliams has proved such a hit as a judge on Britain's Got Talent. He loves to take the mick out of the show's lead judge and executive producer Simon Cowell.
For instance, as David reflects on his chemistry with the other judges – Cowell, Alesha Dixon and Amanda Holden – he jokes that, "It helps that we've been together on the panel for five years now. I always felt like the new boy, but now I realise I'm the longest-serving male judge after Simon – if he counts as male."
It is a delight to watch Walliams puncture Cowell's ego in this way.
"I get as much fun as ever out of it...," he says. "I still love winding Simon up. It's great fun. He's quite easy to wind up. He takes it in good humour, even though sometimes I see a weariness in his eyes.
"He thinks of himself as a serious figure. The other day, I tried to do a balloon dance with him, and he told me, 'I can't do that – I run a global empire'. I thought, 'Do you really think people see you as a serious person? Who do you think you are? A president or prime minister? You're just someone off the telly who says mean things to people on talent shows'."
Walliams, who has a son called Alfred, who is aged three, adds that, "Simon is so competitive about everything. It's annoying that he is so competitive because he already has something like half a billion pounds. I'd like to have just one more pound than him – that would give me great pleasure.
"He said to me, 'Whose son is more good-looking?' I replied, 'My son, but you're rich, so you can pay for your son to have plastic surgery'."
Walliams admits he also likes to wind up Cowell with the bizarreness of some of the acts he takes through to the next round by using his golden buzzer.
"On the panel, we all like different things. I like comedians and more eccentric acts. Alesha likes the dance acts. Amanda likes the musical acts. And Simon loves the acts that he thinks he can make a lot of money out of."
The comedian carries on that, "Simon's really worried whenever I press my golden buzzer because he fears he might end up with a winner who might not make him any money."
Walliams says, "I don't understand why the other judges play it safe with their golden buzzer choices – what's the point?
"If an act gets a standing ovation, they'll be fine anyway. For me, the golden buzzer is like a wild card. I give it to people who might need a helping hand."
So what about Walliams' future as a judge on Britain's Got Talent?
"Simon likes to change things around and keep us all guessing. It is a thrill to be involved in what's the biggest show on British TV and it's amazing to be part of it, but you can't ever take it for granted.
"You never know when the Evil Emperor is going to throw you to the lions.
"One day I'll say one thing too far and that'll be it. I'll be the lions' lunch."
Britain's Got Talent, TVNZ 1, returns Saturday April 29.
- TV Guide