Richard Bacon on being in The Thick of It
In the same week that I interviewed Armando Iannucci on my real 5 live programme, my closest friend Marc spoke to him on XFM. As huge TV comedy fans in general (and Armando in particular), we met at the weekend to compare notes. I remember him saying, "When Armando's sitting opposite you, don't you wish he'd write you in to something?".
"Ha ha. Ha ha ha..." is how I started my call to Marc a month later. Not only had Armando stuck me in this show but elements of it are inspired by that late night trip to 5 live.
Marc, try harder next time. Perhaps you could try interrupting the interview at regular intervals to say, "coming next, are clowns funny?". He seemed to like that. Then, towards the end, have a clown in full regalia sit next to him. That's what I did.
The first script meeting was exciting. It had a fallen-down-the-rabbit-hole feel to it. Not only was I watching Peter Capaldi bring Malcolm Tucker to life in front of me but these fictional characters (that I love) were using my name. Oh my God I'm talking to Peter Mannion (pictured). And Terri. They're real. I can touch them (I didn't).
The toys in the toy cupboard had come to life.
I remember ringing a friend afterwards and saying I'd have been no less excited if somebody had given me a part in Fawlty Towers (actually that friend was Marc, felt like rubbing chilli salt into his jealousy wound).
Having never done any acting, I have nothing to compare this experience to - but the process was fascinating.
The first draft the cast saw was the fifth one. Everyone initially read word for word what was on the page. The next day we returned, only this time the script was more of a guide. Armando and the other writers took notes as everyone improvised (this meant I could hold sustained conversations with them when they were in character. Boss. I once did some thing similar with Jon Culshaw's Dale Winton impression in a pub. He didn't like it. I did).
The final script incorporated some of those adlibs and the process, as scripted, then looser, was repeated in front of the cameras.
Armando is very calm and laid back as he directs. All the cast are delightful. I spent so long interviewing Rebecca Front and Roger Alam (Murray and Mannion) that it became indistinguishable from a real radio programme.
Peter Capaldi is warm, mild mannered, courteous and charming. You really couldn't accuse him of playing himself. Unlikely anyone would send him a c*** cake.
In the scene where he bollocks my producer he came up with different terms of abuse for every take. Funny every time. Astonishing to watch.
And as with every episode of The Thick of It there's an awful lot of decent material that didn't make it: one of my favourite lines in the script involved Mannion and Phil talking about a "shit sandwich" and the reaction one might have upon tasting it. If anyone involved in the compilation of the DVD extras is reading this, please include it. Thanks.
For the record (grandly implying that anyone cares) my favourite characters are Terri and Glenn. Give them a spin off. But for God's sake make it better than Joey.
Richard Bacon will be interviewing The Thick of It's Chris Addison on his show tonight from 10.30pm on BBC Radio 5 live.
Out of The Thick of It
Another chance to see this week's Red Button bonus material:
Watch Peter Mannion and Nicola Murray's 5 live debate on The Thick of It this Saturday at 10.20pm on BBC Two. Read more about The Thick of It on the Comedy Blog.