Armando Iannucci: Comedy, Satire and Power

By Robin Bunce 5min read

Comedy, Satire and Power


Comedy is a serious business, and in the business there’s none more serious than Armando Iannucci. Writer, director, satirist, Iannucci is the acclaimed creator of The Thick of It, Director of Alan Partridge: Alpha Papa and the massive comedy brain behind the multi award-winning Veep. Having made a name for himself in comedy, he’s recently turned his gaze to political systems, collaborating with the New Statesman's Anoosh Chakelian on the podcast Westminster Reimagined.

Over the last few years, Homerton has welcomed Diane Abbott, Theresa May, John McDonnell, Rev Al Sharpton and Rev Jesse Jackson – a bevy of big names from the world of politics. In the interests of balance, Homerton’s Politics Society and Homerton College Changemakers hosted Iannucci, a big name from the world of satire.

A group of men sitting in chairs

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Robin Bunce and Armando Iannuccci

Iannucci’s career is an interesting one. Having started a doctorate in English Literature at Oxford in the early nineties, he chose to pursue a career in comedy. His breakthrough came in BBC Radio’s On the Hour, a spoof news show co-written with the likes of Chris Morris, Stewart Lee and Richard Herring. Iannucci began working in television in the mid-nineties, collaborating with Steve Coogan on various iterations of Alan Partridge; the mind-bending mockumentary Time Trumpet; and Veep which brought Iannucci together with the legendary Julia Louis-Dreyfus.

During our discussion, Iannucci referenced The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy as the “show that made me think, oh my God, you can do comedy that isn’t just jokes. Comedy can be about ideas and narrative, it can be complex.” The reference to Hitchhiker’s explains a great deal, including Iannucci's love for radio, and the meta element in his comedy. Douglas Adams’ work was rooted in meta science-fiction: science-fiction which sent up the genre’s conventions. Similarly, as Ken Theft, one of his early stand-up characters, Iannucci made comedy about comedy - jokes about feedlines and punchlines; On the Hour mocked the clichés of broadcast news; and Knowing Me, Knowing You sent up the conventions of the chat show. Iannucci's satire does something similar. It reflects his desire to understand how things work, and to make comedy about the ways in which systems fail.