‘Veep’s’ Greatest Weapon Was Making No Topic Off-Limits For Jokes

‘Veep’s’ Greatest Weapon Was Making No Topic Off-Limits For Jokes

While much of this week’s water cooler chat will revolve around the penultimate episode of “Game of Thrones,” Sunday night marked the end of another classic HBO series. “Veep” closed out its seventh and final season with a worthy half-hour of its signature political satire. The show wrapped with a fitting epilogue, never straying from its blatant refusal to take anything seriously.

“Veep,” a show about a woman desperate to become president at any cost, was in a category of one for silver-tongued comedy writing. Each episode was a treasure of break-neck dialogue full of so much scathing wit that it would be impossible to pick up every joke in just one viewing.

Selina Meyer was not a woman concerned with values or integrity at any moment in the show’s seven-year run. Her willingness to stoop to levels lower than most people could imagine gave the show a wide berth for joke-telling.

The show’s greatest weapon was its absolute adherence to the rule that no subject was off limits for joking. In an era where comedy, including stand-up, sitcom, and film, has been neutered in the name of political correctness, “Veep” remained wholly unconcerned with who it might offend.

Showrunner David Mandel explained in a March 31 interview, “I’m a fat Jew from New York City, and I am the first to laugh if they are good jokes, a fat joke, a Holocaust joke, or anti-Semitism. If they’re great jokes [I’ll laugh],” he continued, “A great joke can help people laugh at something they maybe didn’t even want to.”

Truly, “Veep” was satire at its very best. Even in moments where viewers felt as though their political values may have been the target of the show’s joke, they would quickly realize that the other side was not being propped up either. In real life, neither Democrats nor Republicans would dare claim Meyer as an example of their party.

“Veep” star Julia Louis-Dreyfus gave the show the perfect female lead: a woman with impractical confidence, absurd vanity, and zero affection or loyalty for anyone in her life. Her near-sociopathic persona made her the queen of her terribly dysfunctional world. She didn’t care what happened to any of the people in her orbit, and therefore neither did the viewer. Comedy was free to reign in the halls of “Veep” because none of the characters were safe from ridicule.

Along with Louis-Dreyfus, the show was masterfully cast with some of the brightest, most naturally funny, deadpan actors working today. They provided a perfect blend of stoicism, vanity, and aggression that made each installment of “Veep” must-watch comedy. Conveying a true blend of rage and devotion while delivering a 100-mph comedy monologue is a skill that the entire cast mastered from the beginning.

Truly great satire doesn’t overreach to hit its sweet spot for punchlines. The best jokes are the ones that sit just on the outside of reality, making the viewer contemplate just how close Meyer’s world was to the real behind-the-scenes Washington. “Veep” was for everyone who watched an awkward presidential candidate in a brand-new apron, complete with packaging creases, attempt to cook a simple meal for his family and thought, “I wonder what they’re like when the cameras are off.”

As comedy in all forms remains in the crosshairs of the ultra-sensitive outrage culture, it seems hard to imagine another show that defied social trends the way that “Veep” did. More and more networks are hesitant to take a chance on a project that may cause offense, yielding plenty of shows that struggle to deliver even an occasional laugh. Hopefully, the dedicated fans of “Veep” will keep the door open for more fearless comedy in the future.

Ellie Bufkin is the co-host of the movie podcast "Flix It" and a senior contributor to The Federalist. Ellie worked in the wine industry as a journalist and sommelier. You can follow her on Twitter @ellie_bufkin and on Instagram @exsommellie.
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