Sunday, 17 June 2012

Armando Iannucci OBE


I wish I had some well thought out position regarding Armando Iannucci accepting an OBE but I really don’t. In the 24 four hours since I gave an involuntary ‘yipee’ and kissed the dog when I heard the news, I’ve tried to rationalise it a number of ways. In the end, the best I’ve achieved is to nip over into the neighbour’s front garden, rip down their JB Sport’s branded Union Jack, and give it a wave as I sit watching my well-worn DVD of ‘The Armando Iannucci Show’, followed by some ‘Thick of It’ and ‘Veep’.

On the face of it, I should be delighted. There are only a handful of satirists currently working whose work I admire and probably highest on that list is Iannucci. And, as the person behind so much great comedy but himself rarely seen on the screen, he doesn't get the recognition that he deserves. Should he have rejected it to show how impartial he is to the politicians? Perhaps. But, then again, I wish he'd replied when I'd asked him to consider providing blurb to my one and only published book. In the words of Woody Allen, ‘give me a break from all your “could haves” and “should haves”. Like my mother used to say: “if my grandmother had wheels, she’d have been a trolley car”’.

The only people who seem to have a problem with his award are certain journalists who are using it to remind the rest of us that they too could have had gongs but rejected them. It’s a fair if rather self-satisfied point that they make. But it’s also good to see the establishment finally recognise its most talented satirists. A country is only as great as its ability not to take itself seriously. Yet I then begin to wonder that if the establishment is so comfortable in its sense of entitlement that it can laud the very people that seek to undermine that entitlement, perhaps those people are not doing a good enough job trying to undermine it. Would my admiration for Iannucci be higher or lower had he told the establishment to stick it in their slightly inbred ear?

Is recognition by the establishment even a good thing? How often does the establishment choose the worst poets of the day and make them poet laureate? Is it actually good that you’re recognised by the very same people who have ennobled Gary Barlow and knighted Kenneth Branagh for his horrific Shakespearean warbling. (Apparently, it was Julie Birchill who coined the fabulous putdown that ‘Stephen Fry is the stupid person's idea of what an intelligent person looks like’. Well, less snappily, I think that Branagh is the stupid person’s idea of a Shakespearean actor.)

And so, I continue to doubt my judgement that Iannucci’s award is a good thing. Yet if Alistair Campbell has a good point about Iannucci taking a reward from the very establishment he’s made a good career mocking, does anybody really want to take Alistair Campbell’s side on anything? And if Wodehouse could take a knighthood and so could Chaplin, then I don’t see any problem with modern comedians accepting these shiny pretty things. And so my rationalisations continue… Perhaps the OBE will help Iannucci in his dealings with the BBC. If it leads to him being made head of the BBC comedy unit, I’d be delighted… Does it give him more power being inside the establishment or does it further go to show that the media really is dominated by a powerful few?

In other words: I really don’t know how the hell I should feel except that I’m genuinely pleased that he’s pleased. It leaves me in no way disappointed, just a wee bit chuffed, but still monstrously conflicted and baffled. I’ll leave any grumbling for another twelve months and the day when the same bauble will go the way of James bloody Corden. That’s when I’ll suggest that Iannucci should get a knighthood. Not only that. I will bloody well demand that he takes it too.


No sooner had I posted the above, it was pointed out that when Ben Elton, Stephen Fry, and a few other comedians I could mention, all took gongs or joined the establishment, I was the first to point out that they’d ‘sold out’. Well, that’s certainly what I’d said but there is a big difference this time. I like Iannucci and his work. So, at least the hypocrisy in this instance has a totally rational foundation and I don't feel like I need to make an apology about being an apologist.]

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