Anything goes? That's lazy
Armando Iannucci on his new satire
Now he's back with one of his rare forays in front of the camera with Gash, a political comedy show to be aired by Channel 4 at 11pm each night from Monday April 28 to Thursday May 1, to coincide with the local elections.
"It's all about discussing the content rather than the personalities of politics," Iannucci says. "It's a satire on the politics, not on the peripheral stuff. And it's all written and filmed through the day, so that it can be as reactive as possible to what's happened over that day.
"It's a way of condensing the last 24 hours into 24 minutes, getting really stuck into the meat and bones of what happened that day. We'll also be having guests on the show, be it a comedian or someone who's been prominent in the news.
"We've not booked anyone, but, for example, we'd love to get someone like Robin Cook to come in and explain his stance on what he's been doing, and why. Or we'd be looking for a disgruntled former party worker - someone from inside the Establishment - who would be able to tell us what relations are really like between No.10 and No. 11 Downing Street, or what really transpires inside Conservative Central Office."
Iannucci says he'd like to ruffle a few feathers. "What I really love doing is exposing flaws in arguments, being able to really point out elements of idiocy or hypocrisy.
"For example, you've got the whole take on the war in Iraq. Initially, it's all about Weapons of Mass Destruction, then, when they don't find any of that, it's about securing the safety of the Middle East, then all of a sudden it's about liberating the Iraqi people.
"One minute, we absolutely have to have a second UN resolution, the next, we don't need one at all. And then there's Clare Short. She managed to convince herself that she didn't need to resign, despite having put forward a seemingly irrefutable argument explaining why she would.
"Things have come to a pretty pass when politicians think they can do that. That's the kind of thing I want to home in on. I like confronting that sort of stuff."
In a break with the conventional approach to political satire on TV, he's prepared to reveal his own political opinions, rather than keep them hidden. "I don't see why I should keep my opinions to myself, really. I don't want the show to have the sort of stultifying objectivity of a news programme. I want it to be more challenging than that."
But is there a boundary of taste that satirists shouldn't cross?
"Of course you have to consider what material you should and shouldn't include. I think the attitude that 'anything goes in comedy' is very lazy.
"But there are no hard-and-fast rules, you have to apply a bit of common sense to each situation. You can always have a rule at the back of your mind, provided you're prepared to break it.
"On the whole, I quite like the idea that if people are making jokes about it in the workplace, why shouldn't we do it on the television? People do make jokes about 9/11 at work, or about American friendly fire. If that's the prevailing mood, then why can't we do it at 11pm on Channel 4?"
Iannucci is excited about returning to performing on live television. "I normally come back to performing when I've been away from it for quite some time. It gives me a real buzz.
"A while ago I did a live show, which I took on tour, and it turned into a sort of two hour improvised Q&A session. I liked that, the lack of structure of it.
" I want Gash to have something similar about it - the sense that the show can be a different shape every night. So, for example, much of it will be improvised rather than scripted. And we'll have an idea about what's going into the show, but not about what order things will happen in. That will all depend on how the conversation goes."
First published:April 24, 2003
Posted: 22 Mar 2009