Over the course of the 2016 election, the typical absurdity of the political world has been outdone by that of Donald Trump, a man who didn’t just throw the political handbook into the trash during his presidential run, but also doused it in lighter fluid, lit it aflame and maniacally laughed as the entire surrounding block burned down to the ground.
And, while the recklessness with which Trump has trampled through the political landscape has made the jobs of late-night TV writers much easier over the last year, it has made the lives of people like David Mandel more difficult.
Mandel, who took over the executive producing reins of “Veep” during Season 5, lamented what Trump has done to political comedy in an interview with the Los Angeles Times published on Wednesday.
“[Trump] is ruining comedy,” Mandel said.
The beauty of “Veep,” the Emmy Award –winning, Julia Louis-Dreyfus –led HBO comedy show about political life in Washington D.C., lies in its ability to work within the confines of the realistic. While the storylines are fictional, as is Louis-Dreyfus’s character, the politician Selina Meyer, the framework in which the show works is believable. We can imagine a politician dealing with a “stress-pimple” or bumbling her way through the ramifications of an accidental tweet.
[Trump] is ruining comedy. "Veep" executive producer David Mandel
But the near-constant chaos trumpeted up by Trump has created a reality that makes the parody that is “Veep” look tame by comparison. “It’s madness and it’s unbelievably crude,” Mandel said. “While I know a lot of people say ‘Veep’ is occasionally crude, I certainly like to think that we are artfully crude. Most likely we’d all be fired if we wrote a 10th of what has happened thus far.”
“Some of the fun of [Meyer’s] existence is the incompetency at the job,” the producer added. “Yet none of those things we do [on ‘Veep’] seem quite as incompetent as running for president and knowing that you had a video of you harassing women out there. What we used to do was sort of like funny incompetence, and this is just sort of sad, scary incompetence.”
“Veep” actor Sam Richardson, who plays the always-affable Richard Splett on the show, relayed similar sentiments to The Huffington Post earlier this year.
“If we tried to do this, what’s happening in the world, on our show — it’d be like, ‘Well, it’s fake-o. No way. That’s not real,’” Richardson said.
In his conversation with the Los Angeles Times, Mandel recalled a joke from Season 5 in which a character apparently called a female police officer a “p***y.” Eventually, the joke was cut because it seemed a bit too much, a decision that now looks unnecessarily conservative in hindsight.
Timothy Simons, who plays the gregarious Jonah Ryan on the show, told HuffPost a similar story this year in which his character accidentally raises his hand in a manner reminiscent of the Third Reich. Again, the actor thought it might have been too much. But, soon after, Trump did almost the exact same thing.
“Ostensibly this entire election campaign is like a comedy version of someone hitting you in the face with a fish,” Simons said at the time. “It’s so ridiculous, it would never happen in real life.”