When can we expect the fourth series of The Thick Of It — which presumably will portray the coalition?
Yeah, we haven’t started the physical act of writing it yet — we’re about to get going — but we’ve got a storyline worked out. The third series ended with the election called and the opposition ready to take over. Obviously now we need to introduce a third party. If Peter Mannion [Roger Allam] is in power at long last, finally has his hands on the levers, he’ll be mightily p*ssed off that there’s suddenly someone else in his office, from another party, interfering. And no sooner do they arrive than they’re told to cut their budget by 30 per cent. Plus we’ll see Nicola Murray [Rebecca Front] in opposition.
Presumably Malcolm Tucker will be trying to bring down the coalition?
Yes, but he’ll also be looking for The One. He’s convinced there’s a great new leader of his party out there. Whether he’ll find The One or get shackled with The Other One, who can say?
Talking of which, we hear Ed Miliband looks like a young you?
Yes, someone pointed that out on Twitter. [Laughs] If you look at photos of a younger me and Ed Miliband now, there is a certain similarity.
And what of the similarities between Tucker and Alastair Campbell…
Well, the character was never supposed to be an impression of Campbell. Malcolm is him, Damian McBride (former advisor to Gordon Brown) and the 10 others we’ve never heard of. There’s a whole school of people who are unelected but very powerful because they’re the prime minister’s right-hand men. They live off testosterone and adrenaline. Malcolm represents all of them. Although having said that, [in the] last series we shot one scene at the BBC building in White City. It involved Malcolm shouting and swearing at the top of his voice. Someone came marching over and I thought, “Oh no, here comes trouble.” But he said, “Hi, I used to work on The World Tonight and just wanted to say that I’ve dealt with Alastair Campbell a lot and that brought back an awful lot of memories.” Then he walked off again. [Laughs]
Tell us about the ‘swearing consultant’ on the show...
Ian Martin. He’s a fully-fledged writer on the show but because he lives in Lancaster rather than London, we’d write scripts here, then email them up to Ian. He was particularly good at adding not just swearing, but the elaborate threats of bodily violence that surround the swearing. So it’s become a standing joke that he’s our swearing consultant. He sees it as a badge of honour.
Do you have a favourite bit of swearing that didn’t make the show?
There’s something called Malcolm’s Law, which goes: “If some c*nt can f*ck something up, then sure as f*ck, that c*nt will pick the worst possible time to f*cking f*ck it up ’cause that c*nt’s a C*NT.” After we shot it, Peter Capaldi added, “I’ve got that on a f*cking tea towel somewhere.” We put it out as a deleted scene and sure enough, someone made a tea towel with it on and sent it to us.
Tell us about Veep, the US version of The Thick Of It, said to be starring Julia Louis-Dreyfus of Seinfeld fame…
We’ve written a script for HBO and are waiting for the go-ahead to shoot a pilot. But signs are very good. It’s set in the vice president’s office, with all the staff there. The tone is like we did the US State Department in In The Loop — so it’s not a spin-off but a cousin of The Thick Of It.
And there’s also a film in the pipeline called Out The Window…
Yes, I’ve written a script with two of The Thick Of It writers but it’s a different world altogether — a slapstick movie, lots of sight gags and entirely stupid. The premise is that some guy in an office gets filmed scratching under his arm. Then someone posts it on YouTube, soundtracked with monkey noises. It becomes known as ‘Scratchy Monkey’ and a worldwide phenomenon. There are about 1,000 office windows opposite this guy, so he gets all paranoid trying to find whoever filmed it and take the b*stard down.
You tweeted that the news coverage of the Chilean miners’ rescue was better than Mad Men…
Ha, yes. I found myself hooked on the miners’ rescue in a way that I haven’t quite got on Mad Men. I know that puts me in a strange minority because you’re meant to adore it. I just want to give them all a slap, tell them to stop drinking and get on with some work.
The Thick Of It: The DoSAC Files (£12.99) and The Armando Iannucci Collection DVD box set (HMV Exclusive, £45.99) are out now