Matt Lucas to take 'Mr Potato' feeding scheme national

When Matt Lucas duetted with a baked potato on madcap TV show Shooting Stars, he had no idea the act would be dusted off 20 years later to raise funds for the NHS.

Thank You Baked Potato, which topped the iTunes chart shortly after its release, has raised close to £1million in just two weeks for FeedNHS, a charity providing hot meals to NHS workers nationwide that Matt set up alongside actors Damien Lewis and Helen McCrory and the food chain Leon.

READ MORE: Damian Lewis and Helen McCrory on feeding health workers

Speaking on web series Up Close And Socially Distant, the Little Britain star said he never thought his song about a potato would be such a big hit.

“It’s a happy accident,” he told series host Kate Thornton. “Our target was a million pounds, which I thought was too high, but as I speak to you right now, we’re at £919,000.”

The funny man was inspired to re-write the Baked Potato song after seeing people out socialising when they should’ve been staying at home. Rewriting the lyrics to promote key messages about social distancing and hand-washing, Matt hoped that by doing something a little funnier the message might sink in.

“The song does teach young people some of the very basic dos and don'ts,” he said. “It was just in my mind that if you can get through to kids, they can maybe convey the message to their parents – but to be honest I didn’t really have world domination in my mind.”

READ MORE: David Attenborough to teach geography to school children during coronavirus lockdown

As an asthma sufferer, the actor has 12 weeks of isolation ahead of him, but that’s not stopping him from attempting to spread his message even further.

He admits he’s pulled lots of strings to get the record out, not least of all recruiting some very famous faces, such as Gary Barlow, Michael Ball and Rick Astley to duet online with him.

“I’ve got about another half dozen duets on the way,” he revealed. “They’re just fun and they keep the message going.”

Matt was inspired to set up FeedNHS, the charity benefitting from the song’s proceeds, as a way to get free hot meals delivered to frontline staff at hospitals.

He told Kate: “You’ve got to remember that all those restaurants and cafes around the hospitals are all closed at the moment – and when we were talking about it initially, all the supermarkets were empty.”

He admits that husband and wife Damien and Helen have been “doing the donkey work” while he just sings about a potato.

“They're the people who’ve been ringing up the NHS trusts, who've been carving out the deals with hospitals,” he said.

READ MORE: Matt Lucas confirmed as Sandi Toksvig's 'Great British Bake Off' replacement

He continued: “They've also been talking to other restaurant chains. This did start off as a London venture with Imperial and UCLH, but we are now going to be taking this nationally.”

As well as raising funds for such a great cause, Matt hopes that his song has also brought some fun into lockdown life, especially for children who have found the changes really confusing.

“It’s been really sweet because loads of kids have uploaded their own versions on YouTube, and lots of adults have as well on Twitter as well. There’s been jazz and rock versions – it’s been a kind of fun thing as well!”

Watch Kate Thornton on the second episode of Up Close And Socially Distant as she chats to Matt Lucas, Domestic Violence UK ambassador and YANA project founder Jenni Steele, and psychotherapist and