What keeps you motivated?
Fear of failure and ridicule. Actually, no, neither of those things is as bad as the fear of boring people—that’s the biggest thing.
What have you learned about fame?
I’m hopeless at being famous. I still don’t know what to do about selfies. I hate photographs because I genuinely believe they steal a soul, and I don’t have much of a soul to start with, so I can’t afford to lose what I’ve got left.
How has working on Veep shaped your view of American politics?
I have a feeling that Veep might be closer to reality than some other political shows, not because they’re all a bunch of vain fools trying to peddle their own career, but because they are clever people reacting to events in a mild state of perpetual panic. We like to think there are grown-ups at the wheel who are looking a few moves ahead, but in fact you realize we’re all falling down stairs one way or another, just trying to make the best of it.
Veep happens to be one of the most cynical shows on TV right now. Is that a reflection of politics today?
Maybe, but I worry about cynicism. I certainly worry about the general perception that all politicians are scoundrels and idiots. I understand it, but at the same time, where does that get us? The ultimate result of that kind of cynicism is apathy. I worry more that people will take a satirical or cynical viewpoint and think, ‘Well, why do anything? We don’t make a difference. They’re all just a bunch of rascals.’ I don’t believe that. I have more admiration for politicians than many people I meet. I think they’re mostly clever people trying to do the right thing. You try it. It’s not as easy as it looks.
What have you learned about drugs and alcohol over the course of your life?
Alcohol wasn’t a thing for the first half of my life, and I never took a lot of drugs, but I think there’s some biological change that takes place in your early fifties that makes a martini a much more interesting prospect. A good martini when the sun goes down has taken on a more prominent role in my life. But I don’t allow myself to get very drunk. I enjoy that sort of gentle breeze, but not a full-on tornado.
What about religion?
I find my atheism is becoming more marked with each passing year. I once prided myself on a relaxed and respectful attitude to other people’s beliefs, but I’m finding it harder to keep that up. I might find myself taking a tougher line with people about certain beliefs that are so painfully nonsensical. Because nonsense is not endearing or eccentric anymore — it’s causing death, destruction, and endless torment for millions of people around the world.
What do you love about riding motorcycles?
I honestly think it’s more like flying than being on an airplane. When you lean a bike over at a corner, you’re taking on gravity. In an airplane, that sensation comes only for a few moments, when you leave the runway. Riding a motorcycle gives you that feeling consistently. There’s just nothing like it.
What advice would you give your younger self?
Life goes faster than you think; you’re not going to live for a thousand years, so make every day count. Actually, that’s really trite. OK, you don’t regret the things you do, only the things you don’t do. No, wait, that can’t be universally true — look at serial murder, for example. I should be able to do better than that. . . . Don’t smoke cigarettes. It’s a terrible mistake.
Hugh Laurie is an actor, author, musician, director, and comedian. He’s currently starring in AMC’s The Night Manager.