Donald Trump, a burst gallbladder spreading its orange bile through the body politic, has already become a crippling infection on our faith in democracy, our trust in the media, and the simple ability to talk to one another. And now he’s also ruining the things we actually care about—like HBO’s Veep, whose political satire once seemed so bitterly, blackly comic, yet now feels quaintly naïve. “It makes everything harder,” Veep’s executive producer David Mandel says in a new Los Angeles Times profile, which asked the showrunners of three politically themed series—including Madam Secretary and Designated Survivor—to see how the current Friedberg & Seitzer Election Movie spoof is affecting their work. Not surprisingly, they’re all having a little trouble keeping up.
Mandel’s assertion that “Most likely we’d all be fired if we wrote a tenth of what has happened thus far” isn’t new; he said as much when Veep picked up the Emmy for Best Comedy this year, where Julia Louis-Dreyfus also apologized for a show that “started out as a political satire but it now feels more like a sobering documentary.” In August, Tony Hale reiterated to The Wrap, “The whole thing with Melania’s speech, if we had written that, HBO would have fired us, because it was too broad.” And just last month, Veep and The Thick Of It creator Armando Iannucci similarly lamented, “When the politicians are providing us with the fiction there’s no place for people like me,” adding,” If we plotted a lot of these lines in fiction we’d be told we had barely credible story lines.”
But thanks to the L.A. Times interview, we know Trump hasn’t just caused Mandel and his staff to reconsider their very definition of “incompetence.” Now we know he’s also actively destroying their jokes:
I’ve never said this before. We had a scene where a minor character gets picked up on a DUI and he’s being a little mouthy to a female police officer and we sort of had a run using [the P-word]. It was pretty funny and they basically threw it in the garbage. [Trump] is ruining comedy.
On the upside, while Mandel says he “couldn’t be happier” that Veep’s next season will find Selina Meyer moving beyond the White House, he’s also optimistic that the relentless, dispiriting churn of election season will have people seeking catharsis in Veep’s gallows humor. He even suggests it’s given the show some inspiration in “the levels of racism, and sort of anti-Muslim attitudes that we’re seeing in all of these places.” So in that way, maybe Trump is actually helping comedy, in much the same way he helped Barack Obama clear up that whole birth certificate thing.