PASADENA, Cal. – Hugh Laurie is back to the world he once mastered – comedy that’s dark and droll and odd and … well, very British. Also, very funny.
“That’s where my heart will always be,” Laurie said.
He’s been other things lately – from a crabby doctor to a nasty arms dealer – but comedy was first. Now “Avenue 5” – an HBO show from the “Veep” creator – returns him there. “It brought back for me … the thrill, but also the fear of trying to do something funny,” Laurie said.
In the year 2030, Herman Judd (Josh Gad) is an entrepreneur who runs space tourism.
“We thought, ‘Wouldn’t it be great if Judd had his hair done like Richard Branson?” Gad said. “He admires people like Elon Musk, like Branson.”
People admire him … until the ship wanders off-course and they learn he has no idea what he’s doing.
Neither does the “captain” (Laurie) … who, passengers learn, is just an actor in a captain’s suit. “It’s a very hyper-manic atmosphere,” said Armando Iannuci, the show’s creator.
No one is in control of the ship. Laurie sees this as typical of life’s facades: “We’re sort of forced to pretend a competence or a confidence that none of us can really have.”
Authority figures must fake it – which Laurie is used to.
“I spent longer pretending to be a doctor (on ‘House’) than it would’ve taken me to become a doctor,” he said. That’s especially odd, he said, because “my father was a doctor, in as much as every man feels like a fake version of his own father.”
At first, he did do some copying: Like his dad, he went to Cambridge; like his dad (an Olympic gold-medalist), he was a rowing champion.
But an illness knocked him out of sports for a while … which is when he linked with two classmates, Stephen Fry and Emma Thompson. They became a sketch-comedy trio; for two decades, Laurie did non-stop comedy – “Blackadder” and (with Fry) sketch shows and “Jeeves and Wooster” movies.
Then other shows – “House,” “The Night Manager,” “Chance” – took him away from that. Now he’s back and in charge – or pretending to be a guy who pretends to be in charge.
– “Avenue 5,” 10 p.m. Sundays, HBO; debuts Jan. 19, before the “Curb Your Enthusiasm” season-opener at 10:30.