As HBO’s new political comedy premieres, British comedian and creator Armando Iannucci tells The Daily Beast website about the vice presidency’s comic potential—and how Veep compares to The West Wing.
Iannucci turns his writing skill and wit to American politics, with rapid-fire dialogue, and acerbic comedy, to the corridors of power in Washington.
Veep stars Julia Louis-Dreyfus from Seinfeld, as Vice President Selina Meyer, a politician who spends her days scheming about random and amusing issues such as getting the name of a potential future hurricane—Hurricane Selina—changed so as not to reflect poorly on her.
Iannucci was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay for his 2009 political feature film, In the Loop, which explored the political relationship between the United States and United Kingdom.
Before that came his breakthrough BBC comedy The Thick of It, which spawned three additional seasons, and introduced the world to the sadistic communications director Malcolm Tucker (Peter Capaldi).
With Veep, Iannucci takes a deep look into the American political system.
“In the U.K., all the parties are converging,” Iannucci said. “They’re all going for the same middle ground. It’s very difficult to distinguish one party from another. Here in America, it’s the opposite. They’re so diametrically opposed that it’s impossible to see how they could come to any compromise.”
“British politicians know that they don’t have much influence, or indeed any money, but can’t admit that, so all of their speeches are about trying to sound big and important…they’re full of figures to make it feel like they can do stuff, whereas American politicians, I find, do have power and influence, but they don’t want to admit that, so they keep all their speeches very neutral and abstract. It’s all about freedom and opportunity and bringing jobs back to the workplace…If you actually took the texts of a Gingrich speech, a Romney speech, an Obama speech, and a Clinton speech, you’d probably not find that much difference in them.”
“The vice president is traditionally a slightly clichéd comic role,” said Iannucci of his Veep protagonist. “It’s usually in the Dan Quayle mold. Mondale was sort of a nothing. It’s become much more interesting: Gore had a quite firm relationship with Clinton over what the role should be, and Cheney had remarkable powers. For me, the comic potential for the vice president is that, at the whim of the president, they could be very powerful, or equally at the whim of the president, they can have all that power diminished.”
Copyright Speakers Corner 2016