Armando Iannucci: Keeper of the satirical flame
With I’m Alan Partridge and The Day Today, Armando Iannucci pioneered a brand of comedy in which TV itself was the butt of the joke. And the medium is in the firing line once more in his new show, Time Trumpet. He talked to James Rampton
Published: 31 July 2006
Armando Iannucci claims to be annoyed – although a tell-tale smile is playing across his lips. The mastermind behind such multi-award-winning comedy shows as The Thick of It, I’m Alan Partridge, Knowing Me, Knowing You, and The Day Today has just returned from a two-week holiday and is now horrified to discover that, as part of the BBC’s latest reorganisation, he appears to have been “restructured”.
“I go away for two weeks and the managers say, ‘change everything’,” splutters the leading comedy producer of his generation in mock outrage. “I now appear to be part of something called BBC Vision. What does that mean? I thought I was supposed to be making comedy shows. Still, at least we’re not part of BBC People. I understand they’re very nasty pieces of work.” Warming to his theme, he storms to his computer and calls up an incomprehensible Venn diagram “explaining” the new BBC set-up. “When you see something like this, you think, ‘I can’t cope anymore!'”
Pointing at the baffling molecular structure on his screen, the producer continues: “I have no idea what those four helicopter-landing pads mean. Why do things like this happen? Does it give some people a way of filling in their days? By the way,” he carries on, “do you think the consultants who drew these charts also draw charts about the structure of their own company, or do they get in consultants, too?
“In the end, of course,” Iannucci deadpans, “this restructuring at the BBC will lead to a far stronger raft of programming across the digital map.” Unable to keep a straight face any longer, he erupts with laughter.
This riff is typical of Iannucci – a naturally funny and irreverent man who is capable of locating comedy in the most seemingly banal areas. And yet, if truth be told, he actually has very little to complain about right now. After all, it is not every producer who is given an entire department to oversee, but here we are chatting in his spacious office, the nerve centre of “Arm’s Arm”, a wing of BBC Television Centre that is given over to the new comedy unit run by Iannucci. (You can tell it’s his domain because all the walls in the surrounding corridors are plastered with stills from The Thick Of It).