Screengrab via HBO

‘Veep’ is the perfect satire for the Donald Trump era

The darkly hilarious HBO series proves politics can still be funny.

 

Dan Marcus

Streaming

Published Apr 16, 2017   Updated Feb 28, 2020, 3:40 pm CST

Opinion

This post contains spoilers for Veep.

If you’re a fan of the HBO political comedy Veep, you’re all too familiar with life imitating art.

In the season 4 finale, President Selina Meyer (Julia Louis-Dreyfus) finishes a flawed campaign with a tie in the Electoral College. The fifth season is all about the House voting to break the tie, which results in yet another tie. The White House then comes down to the vice-presidential candidates as the comedy of errors escalates. In what results in yet another tie, it is expected that Meyer’s vice-presidential running mate, Sen. Tom James (Hugh Laurie), will clinch the vote. In a surprising twist, the sitting and disgruntled vice president breaks the tie by voting not for James, but for the Republican vice-presidential nominee—making her president.

Meyer had a contingency plan. When it looked like James was going to be the president, Meyer threw away her dignity and asked to be vice president. The show was hinting at returning to the status quo, as it started with Meyer as veep. The season 5 finale shattered those expectations, forcing a sorely disappointed and depressed Meyer to leave the White House for good. On Inauguration Day, Meyer is forced to watch another woman sworn in. Even the helicopter transporting her out of Washington breaks down, as she waits for a motorcade in the rain.

The comparisons to Hillary Clinton’s sore defeat in November are all over the season 5 finale, down to losing unexpectedly despite winning the popular vote, and sitting in the rain on Inauguration Day. It’s never moralized or spelled out, but the show details the absurd double standards that powerful women face via daily microaggressions. The last thing James says to Meyer before the end of their embattled campaign to rule the free world? “Nice shoes.”

WATCH: The Daily Dot caught up with Veep‘s Sam Richardson during SXSW.

Sam Richardson has a new show, and it looks hilarious

Sam Richardson (best known as Richard from VEEP) has a new show coming out. And it looks hilarious.

Posted by The Daily Dot on Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Of course the fifth season of Veep aired far before Election Day. The cast and crew of the show learned about President Trump’s surprising win while they were filming scenes for the show’s upcoming sixth season, which premieres Sunday. Executive producer and showrunner David Mandel wasn’t sure what to do with his supposedly absurdist satire.

“‘Do people want to laugh at this stuff anymore? Is politics funny?’” It was a baby freak-out, and some of it was just depression. It was less about how we were going to do it and more, ‘Will anyone care? Will people want to laugh?’” he told the Hollywood Reporter.

The Trump administration has been criticized for going to some truly ridiculous places and it hasn’t even been 100 days since it took power. This week YouTube user Dan Ketchum edited footage of White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer to the Veep’s credits. Spicer’s comments comparing Adolf Hitler to Bashar al-Assad immediately went under intense scrutiny when Spicer downplayed the use of gas chambers in the Holocaust, calling them “Holocaust centers.”

But if you think the current administration has affected the show’s writing, think again. The only time Mandel and his writing staff had to change anything was to avoid being showered in comparisons to a certain golden rumor.

“The only thing we did have to change—it sounds like a bad joke, but it’s true—was a ‘golden shower’ joke in one of the episodes where someone is yelling at Jonah [Timothy Simons] about a golden shower. We hadn’t filmed it yet, and we realized, ‘Oh, we need to change that’ [because of the Trump-Russia dossier]. Who knew we would literally have to change a Veep golden showers joke because of the real president of the United States of America? It doesn’t get any weirder than that,” he told the Hollywood Reporter.

Mandel cautions that Veep won’t feel like a “paler” version of the Trump presidency, given that Meyer is out of office by the time the new season begins. Yet Veep can’t help but feel unnervingly indistinguishable from the Trump administration. In season 5, Meyer and her team blame a tweet mishap on a foreign country. Given Trump’s propensity to tweet outrageous assertions, like accusing President Obama of wire-tapping, blaming a foreign country for an errant tweet is something Americans are conditioned to believe.

These moments make Veep the perfect satire for Washington, D.C. in 2017. The show has always been cynical about elected officials, roasting their self-preservation and culture of spin. But now the show’s rapid-fire jokes about incompetence and tomfoolery feel ripped from the headlines.

It isn’t much of a stretch to imagine Trump fumbling with foreign leaders, like offering the president of China a Big Mac instead of a fancy dinner, or ordering a missile strike while enjoying chocolate cake. In season 5, President Meyer merely re-gifts an expensive pen to Chinese officials.

Veep doesn’t need to satirize the Trump administration for laughs. It just needs to act as a hilarious distraction from the occasional horrors and mishaps of the news.  

Thing is Mandel often felt hindered, creatively, by Meyer’s fictional presidency, telling Uproxx that “When she’s the vice president, I think you accepted certain stupidity, a little bit of silliness or improper whatever, lot of stuff’s a lot harder when she’s the president.”

With Trump’s unprecedented power, however, that bar has been lowered. Anything is possible now, which is a scary prospect and a reason why a relevant and hilarious political comedy is so valuable. Again, Mandel has said season 6 won’t rip on Trump: “Everyone keeps asking, ‘Well, how has Trump changed things?’ Trump, in a weird way, is sort of doing us. We’re not doing him.”

But if Veep continues to unintentionally predict the future, well, at least we’ll all get a good laugh in before it happens.

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*First Published: Apr 16, 2017, 8:29 am CDT