Armando Iannucci, comedy genius

Alex Green hails a hero

There is nothing better in comedy than savage satire, and we usually turn to the likes of Chris Morris or Frankie Boyle for that. But another true master of hit-and-run satire lies behind the camera. With his exotic name and wonderful Scottish accent, it's hard to ignore the comedy genius of Armando Iannucci.

It seems you have to establish yourself on screen to truly be recognised, which is why Iannucci is far from a household name. Many of my friends haven't a clue who he is, and make a shameful , lame ‘oh right’ reaction when I tell them that he has been behind such comedy gems as The Day Today, I'm Alan Partridge, Time Trumpet, The Thick Of It and In The Loop. I can only assume that their lacklustrereaction is because their minds can't take in such a bombardment of amazing shows.

Time Trumpet - Iannucci's criminally underrated contemporary satire – was finally released on DVD last week, bringing his comedic prowess to my attention again.

There is nothing like Chris Morris forcing the news upon us, Alan Partridge acting like a world-class prick, Charlotte Church in 2031 describing how she vomited herself inside-out and Jamie McDonald threatening to ram an iPod up Ollie Reeder's cock on The Thick Of It. But, who was the driving force behind all this? We know who!

These sketches don't go down in history like Monty Python’s Ministry Of Funny Walks or Del Boy falling through the bar – as Stewart Lee has already vented. But these sketches should be bowed before like idols. Armando is behind the lot of them, he is a true comedy genius. And I have a lot of trouble with the word 'genius' being used to describe people who clearly don't fall under the ranking.

But Iannucci definitely does deserve it for creating an almost sociopathic and neurotic satire in the most absurd places, away from the normal topical gags of ‘Look at Boris Johnson fall over, isn't he silly!’ Instead Iannucci imagines a mass culling by Princess Anne, or Sebastian Coe killing Justin Lee Collins when he discovers the 2012 Olympics was a big hoax by The Friday Night Project.

He is constantly overlooked due to the fact that he hasn't stepped much away from his comfort zone behind the camera – but he has proved to be equally funny in front of it.

If you did press the interactive red button after episodes of Stewart Lee's Comedy Vehicle, you would have seen very funny back-and-forth interviews between Iannucci and Lee. They are a bit of a double act when they come together, but a frightfully awkward one. They tend to behave like they cannot stand each other and are doing it purely on professional grounds. Which is another part of his genius, his seemingly unrecognised acting ability.

Iannucci doesn't get enough credit, and he should. So, when you can, go round your local shopping centre with a sign strapped to your abdomen with ‘Armando Iannucci is a true, unrecognised comedy genius’ while yelling, ‘Armando!’ at the top of your lungs. Don't argue.

Published: 6 May 2009

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