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|The League of Gentlemen character|
Reece Shearsmith as Papa Lazarou
|First appearance||"Destination: Royston Vasey"|
|Last appearance||"Royston Vasey Mon Amour"|
|Portrayed by||Reece Shearsmith|
Papa Lazarou is a fictional character in the BBC TV comedy programme The League of Gentlemen. He appears in four episodes – the first episode in the second series, the Christmas special, the final episode of the third series, and the final episode of the fourth series – and in the film The League of Gentlemen's Apocalypse. The character is part-written by and played by Reece Shearsmith. Papa Lazarou has been listed as both the 8th and 14th most popular sketch of all time with British audiences, according to the Radio Times and Channel 4, respectively.
Despite being one of the more bizarre characters in the series, Papa Lazarou was in fact loosely based on a real person, Peter Papalazarou, who was the landlord of a flat in which Reece Shearsmith and Steve Pemberton lived. On occasion, when he called, he would only ever ask for "Steve" (Pemberton), and would refuse to talk to Shearsmith. Many of the sayings in the show are fictional and for comedy purposes. Papalazarou is a common Greek surname.
Appearances in The League of Gentlemen
Papa Lazarou's first appearance in The League of Gentlemen is in the first episode of the second series Destination: Royston Vasey. In his first appearance he runs the Pandemonium Carnival, and has three diminutive helpers called Simba, Pebbil and Tiktik. He is seen to collect wives by forcing his way into women's homes posing as a humble peg-seller, then talking gibberish at them, invariably referring to them as 'Dave', until they hand over their wedding ring. Once they do this he exclaims, "You're my wife now!". His first visit to the town ends when the noses of the circus audience start bleeding simultaneously. Out-weirded by Royston Vasey, he and the other circus performers flee.
Lazarou's next appearance is during the Christmas Special, Yule Never Leave. It is revealed that the town vicar Bernice's mother was kidnapped by Lazarou when she was a child. Lazarou then kidnaps Bernice and takes her away with members of his circus troupe at the end of the special.
In the Third series, Lazarou disguises himself as an Amateur Theatre director called Keith Drop. This alter ego is used as a front to capture more wives. Lazarou used the makeup tips he has gleaned from his wives to effect a very convincing transformation. As Keith he helps out in the charity shop with Reenie Calver (whose friend, Vinnie Wythenshaw has been killed in an accident). This was merely a front for Lazarou to gain more wives. Despite being rumbled by Brian and Reenie, he manages to evade capture. It is also revealed that he imprisons his wives and anyone who tries to follow him inside circus animals. In the third series audio commentary the League revealed this is just one of a number of things (many of which haven't been shown) that he does with his captives.
Lazarou's most recent appearance was in the 2017 anniversary special, where he used a photo booth to capture a number of Royston Vasey women, including Iris and Tubbs, to create a “wife mine”. It is revealed that the rights to Royston Vasey land were sold to him by current town mayor, Reverend Bernice.
Appearances in other media
During the Comic Aid Telethon to raise fund for relief in the aftermath of the South Asian Tsunami in 2004, Lazarou appeared in a specially written sketch performed live during the telethon, alongside his wife played by Mark Gatiss. During this appearance, Lazarou attempts to kidnap Miranda Richardson, before Tubbs kidnaps her instead.
|“||Please do what he says, he's a very dangerous man. He'll shit on you and set you on fire.||”|
|— Mark Gatiss, Comic Aid|
Characterisation and physical appearance
Papa Lazarou is a demonic circus master and collector of wives. He has a rasping voice, an indefinable accent, and blackface. It is revealed that his skin is actually black and white, and uses pink foundation to appear Caucasian. The character is one of the most bizarre and mysterious of the League's. Some of the women in his 'book of wives', seen in series three, appear to have lived over a century ago. This hints at the character's unnatural lifespan. When he was tied to a bed in the charity shop he reveals he has the supernatural gift of being able to speak with the voices of deceased people he has never met, although it seems he cannot directly commune with the dead, as evidenced by the unconvincing medium act he performed when his circus came to town the previous year.
- "Entertainment | Python Dead Parrot is top sketch". BBC News. 29 November 2004. Retrieved 6 July 2009.
- "50 Greatest Comedy Sketches". Channel4. Retrieved 6 July 2009.
- "The League of Gentlemen- Origin of Papa Lazarou". You Tube. 21 May 2008.
- Doe, John (14 January 2000). "Destination: Royston Vasey". IMDb.