Julia Louis-Dreyfus in Veep: Chicken Soup for the Soul

JAs the vice president, Selina Meyer (Julia Louis-Dreyfus) was just a heartbeat away from the presidency. Call it fate: the president has stepped down to care for his ailing wife, and Selina, whose bungling White House antics we've gleefully enjoyed on VEEP for three HBO seasons, now gets her shot at the most powerful post in the land. In her first episode as president, screened for the show's premiere this week at the SVA Theater, Selina addresses Congress as her teleprompter goes blank mid-sentence. In the second, she unwittingly has a work of art painted by a Native American, a yellowish abstract called "Massacre," removed from the oval office, causing a PR nightmare. Heads roll. Needless to say, she and her hilarious team-- including aides, advisers, press secretary, strategist played by a great cast, Anna Chlumsky, Matt Walsh, Mike McClintock, Gary Cole, --surface intact, the great fun of observing this behind the scenes glimpse of government a la showrunner Armando Iannucci.

Iannucci tested these waters with his feature film In the Loop, but as an extended series, the characters are like family. At the Gotham Hall after party, waiters channeled CIA agents in shades; security was tight. Julia Louis-Dreyfus spoke about the show's distinct brand of humor, which is scripted even if it looks improvised. "Just as you are getting the punchline, you get a reaction shot. That's Iannucci's genius," she said, emphasizing the enormous rehearsal time per episode, each one like a mini movie shaped in a week. The writers attend. The actors get a full script. They rehearse with writers redoing lines and scenes. Then the actors get a new script. They shoot many takes and the episode is created in editing. She quoted Iannucci who says it is like making chicken soup: "A lot of ingredients go into the pot. Then you boil it down, and put more stuff in it and boil it down again." That's why each episode bears watching again, to get the jokes you were laughing too hard to get the first time.

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