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On Late Night, Timothy Simons reveals the "charmless, graceless" politician Jonah Ryan is based on

Timothy Simons, Seth Meyers
Screenshot: Late Night With Seth Meyers

Veep’s Timothy Simons has played arguably the least-endearing character on television for seven seasons running, his gangly charisma-vacuum Jonah Ryan the sort of self-obsessed creep that could only exist on TV. Or, as Simons told Seth Meyers on Wednesday’s Late Show, at least that’s how he started out. Not that the peerlessly douchey Jonah has gotten any more likeable—in fact the final season arc in which Ryan actually looks poised to become president is legit terrifying—but that, as Simons told Meyers, real life has rendered Veep’s coterie of Washington power-grubbers almost quaint. “Politics has become stranger than the awful, awful people on Veep,” explained Simons. “Somewhere along the line, we became aspirational.”

Still, as Simons asserted, Jonah Ryan’s particular brand of asshole—which he describes as “charmless, graceless, and narcissistic”—was born of Simons’ impressions of a certain, widely despised real-life political figure. Noting the famous quote from a fellow lawmaker that someone could shoot Ted Cruz (R-TX) on the floor of the Senate an not find one witness, Simons said that the reality of politics at this point has so outpaced Veep’s feverishly creative D.C. hellscape that the Venn diagram of someone like Jonah Ryan and, say, an actual sitting president has essentially become a circle. Calling it unthinkable that the “universally disliked” Jonah could ever get anywhere in politics (not to mention one incest scandal or so away from the presidency), Simons said that the fact that “what counted as a gaffe” at the start of Veepdoesn’t exist any more.”

Thankfully for Meyers (and everyone in Timothy Simons’ life), the actual Simons is a lot funnier and more charming than his epically and voluminously insulted character on Veep. Telling Meyers that he’d like people to stop quoting some of the Veep cast’s choicest insults to him at the grocery store when he’s with his 7-year-old twins, Simons did say that it’s nicer when someone comes up to “commiserate about some guy they work with who sucks.” “It’s really lovely,” Simons laughed, in decidedly un-Jonah-like graciousness, “You have, like, a really wonderful human connection with a fan of the show.”

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Dennis Perkins

Contributor, The A.V. Club. Danny Peary's Cult Movies books are mostly to blame.