The Sydney Writers’ Festival started off with a bang, bringing Armando Iannucci, creator of hit political comedies Veep and The Thick of It, for its premiere.
Iannucci has a knack for creating shows to reflect, and sometimes even accidentally predict, the stupidity of politicians in modern society.
Veep coined the term “Continuity with Change” as its main character Selina Meyer’s presidential campaign in 2015. He described it as “the daftest, simplest, most inane slogan” his writing team could come up with to tell the voters absolutely nothing.
About a year later, Malcolm Turnbull used “Continuity and Change” the slogan for his 2016 election campaign.
Critics have accused Ianucci of creating disillusioned voters with his cynical humour. He replies that “we come up with the most stupid, dumb and inane things possible and then our politicians will get in touch with us and say, ‘how did you find that out?”‘.
Perhaps the highlight of the night was when Iannucci gave intimate insight into how The Thick of It was made. He recalls how in order for Doctor Who’s current doctor, Peter Capaldi would get into character as Malcolm Tucker. He would rehearse by mouthing insults alone in a room so that he could get the rhythm of Tuckers swearing right when they began shooting.
Iannucci also talks about how his writing team would send scripts to through the mail to resident ‘Swearing Consultant’ Ian Martin, who then sends scripts back with insults written in red ink. In an early version, of The Thick of Its’ first episode, Tucker described someone as “absolutely useless”, before a revised version by the Swearing Consultant changed the line to “as useless as a marzipan dildo”. Upon finishing the story, the room erupted in laughter.
So how does Iannucci see the politicians that he’s researched extensively to create his characters? Well, he describes them as adults who act as children under pressure.
“Everyone is striving to be the ballsiest in the office.”
“There is a lot of people thinking that what they are doing is the single most important thing taking place on planet earth at that moment.”
When, in reality, they are actually just “trying to come up with a press release about some veteran games that might be happening in four years time.”
However, Iannucci is not completely nihilistic about politics. He’s campaigning to encourage youth voter turnout for the upcoming UK election because the lack of poll representation results in a lack of respect from politicians.
The Sydney Writers’ Festival runs from May 22-28. Check out all of the events!