My Favorite Scene: 'Veep' Creator Armando Iannucci Recalls Spontaneous Hugh Laurie Gag


No one loves a great scene more than the person who first
dreamed it up -- the writer. We're asking iconic shows' creators and writers to
tell ET all about the moment on their series that they most cherished
getting to see make it from script to screen.

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For Armando Iannucci, the creator of Veep, HBO’s political comedy series
starring Julia Louis-Dreyfus as Vice President turned Commander in Chief Selina
Meyer, it’s a spontaneous bit involving
season four guest star Hugh Laurie, who plays Senator Tom Jones. In the episode,
“Convention,” Selina selects Tom as her running mate, and his response (“I'm
afraid with deep regret I'm going to have to accept,” he tells a horrified Selina)
becomes a running gag, much to his chagrin.

I wasn’t scheduled there to direct, but force of
circumstances led me to take over for a day. It also happened to be Hugh
Laurie’s first day. That whole moment where he comes out the lift, walks down
the corridor and into the room, tells the joke about “I'm afraid with deep
regret,” and then Selina makes him tell that story to her staffers again and
again was thought of that day.

I was very pleased with that because that wasn’t in the
script. On set, we kind of worked out that it would be funny if she kept making
him tell that story over and over again and again and then Karen [Selina’s annoyingly agreeable lawyer played
by guest star Lennon Parham
] goes and kills it at the end.

It was hugely satisfying because it was a moment that none
of us woke up anticipating that we would be shooting.

when we talked to Tony Hale about
playing Gary Walsh, Selina’s ever-loyal body man, he shared his take on filming
that scene.

The thing I remember about shooting that scene [when Hugh is asked to tell the joke again]
is Lennon’s character, Karen, making this obnoxious laugh to fit in after Hugh finishes
the joke. Neither Julia nor I were able to keep it together and were laughing
every single time Hugh said it and she made the noise, to the point where most
of the mastery came in the editing room. I don't know how they cut that
together or how they found angles where one of us was not losing our minds with
laughter because of Lennon's response. I was not able to hold it together. 

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Season five of Veep premieres on Sunday, April 24 at 10:30 p.m.
ET on HBO. The entire series is now streaming on HBO Go and HBO Now.