After laughing at the benighted morals and intelligence and the mordant wit of the reprehensible politicos of In the Loop, I had to ask myself, why now? Wouldn't this film have made more of an impact, both politically and commercially, if it had been made, say, before the 2004 American presidential election, or even in 2003, before the Iraq invasion that inspired it? First-time director Armando Iannucci is slightly more forthcoming than his beleaguered and waffling minister, Simon Foster, in replying.
VIDEO: Peter Keough interviews Armando Iannucci
"I don't know. I mean, people have mentioned that, and then people have gone to see the show and have said, 'No, actually, it's . . . ' Although it's inspired by incidents that happened around that point, I didn't want it to be about Iraq. I didn't want us to mention who the president was, who the prime minister was, or what the country was, because I also wanted . . . because I'm looking at the underlings, the people who are always there in government. I wanted to show how government generally works as well as taking a specific moment in time."
Perhaps another reason for making a political satire about two leaders, Bush and Blair (though both are unnamed), currently out of office is that so far the current US administration has offered slim pickings for comedy. Does Iannucci think we're looking at eight years of Joe Biden jokes?
"Oh, I think things will come up. You can't expect to be able to tell the same jokes. So the jokes this time might not be about how illogical the president is or how he speaks. Obama is almost over-articulate, he's very good at explaining things. And yet I find it always very difficult to work out what exactly he means. And Joe Biden is something to talk about, isn't he? And what will the relationship between Obama and Clinton be like over time? But I think the Treasury is the comedy department at the moment."
Comedy from the Treasury Department? If anyone can manage that, it's Iannucci, who recently completed a BBC documentary on that laugh riot John Milton.
"I spent three years as a student trying to do a PhD on Milton," he explains. "On Paradise Lost. I never finished it. So I ended up doing it as a comedy instead. It's all about freedom of choice. Lucifer's temptation is about the necessity of having individual freedom but also about the responsibilities that go with freedom. That freedom is not just a privilege. It's something that has consequences — potentially catastrophic, depending on what decisions you make. It's about human nature as opposed to, you know, abstract religious, mythic kinds of stories. And of course, Lucifer is the most charismatic character."
That would make the potty-mouthed and demonic Malcolm Tucker, who's played with diabolical delight by Peter Capaldi, In the Loop's most charismatic character.
"He's one of the few people who has a certain view," Iannucci agrees. "He has a goal at the start of the film that he sticks to and tries to achieve. Whereas the others say one thing but then maybe end up doing another.