Armando Iannucci could teach us all a thing or two about revolutionising comedy. But in this instance, ShortList’s Michael Hogan finds that he’s happy to chat
Today, Armando Iannucci’s to-do list reads like this: Put finishing touches to next instalment of long-awaited comedy comeback. Have high-powered meeting about iPhone app. Hold talks about film script. Wait for call from HBO about US sitcom. Promote new book and definitive DVD box set of own back catalogue. Talk to ShortList.
Media-savvy cynics might suggest those last two are related. They’d be right. Yet that fairly typical daily schedule demonstrates exactly how many talented fingers Iannucci’s got in how many funny pies. As writer, director, producer or performer, the 46-year-old Scots-Italian has been responsible for most of the great British comedy over the last 20 years. The Day Today, Alan Partridge and The Thick Of It are all his brainchildren, while he’s nurtured the careers of Stewart Lee and Chris Morris. However, laurel-resting isn’t an option and he’s currently plate-spinning more projects than ever. There’s a lot to talk about and we’ve got 40 minutes, so let’s get down to business…
How’s Mid-Morning Matters With Alan Partridge going?
Great! We shoot the next six in late November. It’s good to be back doing Alan, actually. I’m really pleased with them.
Any news on the much-vaunted Partridge film?
We’ve got the storyline more or less sorted now and we’re fleshing it out as a script. We don’t want to rush it — it’s got to be right and justify itself as a film. On the other hand, we don’t want to be unfaithful to the character. So we’re not going mad and doing an Alan-goes-to-Hollywood thing. It’s very much Alan in Norwich. Putting Norwich on the map. Well, somebody’s map.
There’s also a new The Thick Of It book. What’s the deal there?
You know how on the show, Malcolm Tucker [Peter Capaldi] always runs around with a thick wad of papers? Well, that’s partly because the script is so hot off the press, the actors need to keep it close to hand. [Laughs] But also, me and Peter had this back story that Malcolm’s always actually on his way to another, more important department but thinks he’ll call in to the Department Of Social Affairs & Citizenship to sort out a minor problem.
Just popping in for a quick shout?
Exactly. Normally he’d have a briefcase but because it’s a five-minute flying visit, he just grabs the stuff off his desk and walks to the Home Office, calling into DoSAC on the way. Except, of course, he ends up spending hours there and it’s a nightmare. So we wondered what would happen if, on a late train journey up to Glasgow, Malcolm accidentally put this file down and left it on the seat. F*ck! What happens next and what’s in it?
So what is in it?
All his briefing notes, diary extracts, scrawled comments over ministers’ speeches, bits of filth that he’s got on people, policy papers that he’s trying to rip up. There are Malcolm’s dos and don’ts for appearing on TV…
Can you give us a flavour of those?
There are tips on how to deal with journalists such as Jeremy Paxman and Adam Boulton – who Malcolm says looks like “Sandi Toksvig with a glandular complaint”. But the bottom line in any TV interview is: “Do not look like Michael f*cking Howard.”
And what about The Thick Of It app?
I’m about to go and see the first demo of it now, so I’m quite excited. The idea is that it turns your phone into Malcolm’s phone, so you get all his texts and emails. But you also get Malcolm ringing up, angrily demanding his phone back.
Terrifying. Are you an iPhone fiend?
I don’t have one actually but I have got an iPad. A lot of comedy apps are just soundboards, really primitive and basic. There’s some terrible fake Partridge ones out there too.
Really, what are they like?
Before you can turn on the fun, they’re preceded by huge legal disclaimers: “This application is totally unauthorised by the creators, performed by professional voiceover artists and not the original cast blah blah.” And then you get these terrible impressions of Alan. It’s made me think we must do a proper Partridge app too.