Armando Iannucci quips CBE is signal to carry on championing public broadcasters

Satirist Armando Iannucci has said he will take becoming a Commander of the British Empire (CBE) as a signal to keep defending public broadcasters from “attacks on independence and funding”.

The 60-year-old Scottish writer and director, who was behind the foul-mouthed Westminster sitcom The Thick Of It, was named in the King’s Birthday Honours for services to film and television.

Iannucci has been a constant presence in British comedy, on both sides of the camera, for more than three decades.

He has worked on hit shows such as the BBC’s I’m Alan Partridge and HBO’s Veep, which saw him move into US television, along with movies such as The Personal History Of David Copperfield.

Armando Iannucci receives honorary degree
The Thick of It creator Armando Iannucci after receiving an honorary degree from St Andrews University, to become an Honorary Doctor of Letters (DLitt) (Jane Barlow/PA)

He said: “I’m proud to work in the British TV and film industry.

“It’s the best in the world, yet weirdly I’ve been spending more and more of my energy defending our public service television from attacks on its independence and funding. I’ll take this award as a cue to keep going.

He added it had been a “huge surprise” and was “delighted”, saying: “But as with all awards, you know, I’m very happy to receive them, but I feel that they shouldn’t affect what you do next”.

In 2022 he backed the Channel 4 Ain’t Broke campaign in 2022 amid plans at the time to look at privatisation of the broadcaster, and has also previously urged the Government to stop reducing the funding of the BBC.

The corporation has been under pressure due to its licence fee being frozen and the increase by £10.50 to £169.50 a year in April was less than had been hoped by the BBC.

Born in Glasgow to a Scottish mother and Italian father in 1963, versatile writer, producer and performer Iannucci studied at Oxford University, later saying he could “only really have been an academic or a comedian”.

Investitures at Buckingham Palace
Armando Iannucci with his Officer of the British Empire medal (John Stillwell/PA)

He worked on radio shows before television, alongside comedians such as Chris Morris, Stewart Lee and Steve Coogan during BBC mock current affairs programme The Day Today, and had his own sketch comedy The Armando Iannucci Shows on Channel 4.

The success of The Thick Of It, which starred Doctor Who actor Peter Capaldi as swearing spin doctor Malcolm Tucker, raised Iannucci’s profile even higher and when he put out the 2009 Oscar-nominated spin-off film In The Loop, it helped make his name in the US.

He previously became an OBE in the Queen’s 2012 Birthday Honours, which caused him a slight issue with the series when one of the writers suggested a plotline that would see Tucker get a CBE.

Iannucci said: “I had to put that to one side because they didn’t know what I knew.”

That same year, he launched US political satire Veep with Seinfeld actress Julia Louis-Dreyfus playing the fictional selfish and driven vice-president Selina Meyer and Arrested Development star Tony Hale as her personal aide Gary Walsh.

‘In the Loop’ premiere
The cast of the film In The Loop – Chris Addison, Tom Hollander, Gina McKee and Peter Capaldi with director Armando Iannucci (Yui Mok/PA)

Iannucci left the show in 2015 before the fifth season following him winning the outstanding comedy series Emmy along with other members of the team. The series won 17 Emmys in total with multiple best actress gongs going to Louis-Dreyfus.

That same year, he launched a passionate defence of the BBC during his James MacTaggart Memorial Lecture.

He warned that politicians could become “masters” of the industry, adding: “It will be a distracting interference and ultimately harmful to British television.”

Iannucci said that tampering with the BBC would be “madness”, and that politicians – with no expertise in the area – have got the industry “completely wrong”.

He directed and co-wrote the Soviet-set 2017 film The Death Of Stalin, exploring the chaotic aftermath of Russian leader Josef Stalin’s death, and received the award for Outstanding Contribution to Film and Television from Bafta Scotland.

Starring Steve Buscemi, Andrea Riseborough, Jason Isaacs, Rupert Friend and Sir Michael Palin, his satirical comedy film was given main Bafta nods for outstanding British film and adapted screenplay and three prizes at the British Independent Film Awards (Bifa) for best casting, best production design and best make-up and hair design.

Iannucci followed this critically-acclaimed work with bringing Charles Dickens’ work David Copperfield to the big screen – with a more modern twist, but still set in the 19th Century.

2019’s The Personal History Of David Copperfield used colour-blind casting and British actor Dev Patel, who was born to Indian parents, played the title character.

The Death of Stalin Premiere – London
Jason Isaacs, Armando Iannucci, Andrea Riseborough, Sir Michael Palin, Paul Whitehouse and David Schneider, who worked on The Death Of Stalin (Ian West/PA)

The film won a best screenplay Bifa for Iannucci and Simon Blackwell, while House actor Hugh Laurie also got a best supporting actor gong at the award show.

Laurie would return to work with Iannucci in science fiction comedy series Avenue 5 as captain Ryan Clark. The show, which ran from 2020 to 2022 and aired on Sky, had a mixed critical reception.

Iannucci’s next project is set to be HBO show The Franchise, which will reportedly focus on the filming crew of a superhero blockbuster and will be directed by Oscar winner Sir Sam Mendes.

This year, he was selected as fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh (RSE) for his satirical work, writing, directing and producing.

Iannucci is also a patron of the Child Poverty Action Group, and writes regularly for the left-wing magazine New Statesman.

He has released a podcast series, Westminster Reimagined – which examines how British politics could be reformed, with the New Statesman.

He was also awarded an honorary degree by the University of St Andrews in Fife in recognition of the impact his work has had on stage and screen, and in public discourse, across four decades.