My Comedy Hero: Kieran Hodgson on The League of Gentlemen and Armando Iannucci
- Brian Donaldson
- 8 April 2019
Twice nominated for the Edinburgh Comedy Award, Kieran Hodgson takes his Brexit-related '75 across the UK and plumps for TV pioneers as his comic icons
Being mealy-mouthed and indecisive, I find this kind of exercise difficult. My comedy heroes form a sort of Marvel Cinematic Universe, from the perennial favourites (Iron Man / Steve Coogan) to smash-hit newcomers (Black Panther / Amy Poehler) to blink-and-you'll-miss-it cameos (Stan Lee / my mate Chris), with a whole Avengers-style gang in-between. Why do I have to choose one? Can't I just watch and appreciate them all at the same time, even Thor: The Dark World?
Well, such protestations in mind, I've narrowed it down to two. The first is The League of Gentlemen. As a character comedian I find their comic personas mesmerising. At a time when it seemed sketch comedy was becoming wholly a vehicle for catchphrases (and don't get me wrong, The League had a few), their whole approach was beautifully different. Each character had a reality, even in the most grotesque situations: you knew that Steve Pemberton cared about Pauline, that she was real to him, in all her horror. And so when she suffered, we couldn't help but feel for her. That, to me, is an ideal all comedians should strive for: a balance of the ridiculous and the true, which are of course the same thing, usually. Their bleak-yet-beautiful visual sensibility, the cinematic scope of their writing, the gloriously Northern world that they created all mean that the programme is still, to me, close to flawless, all the more so for occasionally being heart-breaking.
And the second is Armando Iannucci. Though often a figure to be found behind the camera, his is a CV of excellence and reinvention that is sort-of unparalleled in comedy: On the Hour, The Day Today, Alan Partridge, Time Trumpet, The Thick of It, In the Loop, The Death of Stalin, Veep. And when he did step into the limelight, he created one of the best sketch shows ever in The Armando Iannucci Shows, which I had to wait years to see the whole of on DVD as it was broadcast just after 9/11 and for some reason I ended up missing the first few episodes. I just love Armando Iannucci's whole approach to comedy; supremely silly and tremendously well-researched, full of exquisite nouns and catastrophic escalations, bringing out the best in others while hitting satirical targets with compelling outrage. And he had a Radio 1 show. Unbelievable.
Kieran Hodgson: '75 is on tour until Tuesday 28 May.