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HBO’s ‘Veep’ doesn’t want to be yet another anti-Trump show

Actors Matt Walsh and Tim Simons and showrunner David Mandel explain on Recode Decode why they’re trying to make fun of everyone.

68th Annual Primetime Emmy Awards - Press Room Frazer Harrison / Getty

After Donald Trump won the U.S. presidency, seemingly everyone from “Saturday Night Live” to Stephen Colbert set their sights on him. But HBO’s “Veep” — one of the shows you’d think would be most inclined to satirize a vulgar, egotistical U.S. president — isn’t changing course.

Instead, it’s trying to get a little distance from the new resident of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, said “Veep” cast members Matt Walsh and Tim Simons and showrunner David Mandel on the latest Recode Decode, hosted by Kara Swisher.

“In a way, I think we made fun of normal politics in the first five seasons, and it doesn’t feel normal right now,” said Walsh, who plays former White House press secretary Mike McClintock. “With a little distance, we’ll understand what normal is. It is a blessing that we’re not in the White House.”

“I feel sorry for the ‘House of Cards’ guys; I feel sorry for ‘Scandal,” Mandel said. “Last year, we did the big tweeting story. That seemed shocking: A president tweeting? That story would be beyond worthless right now.”

You can listen to Recode Decode on iTunes, Google Play Music, TuneIn, Stitcher and SoundCloud.

“Veep” is no longer in the White House because (spoiler!), at the end of Season 5, titular veep-turned-president Selina Meyer — played by Julia Louis-Dreyfus — lost both the presidency and the vice-presidency that she thought would be her consolation prize in the 2016 election. Season 6 will see Meyer and most of her clueless staff trying to be private citizens again.

Mandel said Meyer is the closest thing “Veep” has to a Donald Trump analogue, and the show as a whole will continue to paint with a larger brush.

“We often get a lot of questions about Trump, and we’ve talked about how Jonah Ryan [played by Simons] is our Trump-esque character,” Mandel said. “But I think people often forget that Selina Meyer has been Trump for five years, which is to say, somebody speaking about the working man who doesn’t actually want to touch the working man.”

Mandel acknowledged that he personally supported Hillary Clinton in 2016, hates Donald Trump and considers Democratic Senator Al Franken a mentor, having worked with him on “Saturday Night Live.” However, he stressed that the HBO show is more interested in the bipartisan tradition of hypocrisy and cynical self-interest in Washington that was “true under Washington and Jefferson.”

“You can hate my personal opinions, and I get that from time to time on Twitter, but don’t confuse that with the show, which is its own thing,” Mandel said. “We try to take a nonjudgmental view in politics, except maybe going, 'Both sides are terrible.’ Maybe that’s our view.”

“This happens across the board,” Simons said. “Every politician that I have met and that all of us have met thinks the show is making fun of every single person but them ... Making fun of politicians is as American as apple pie.”

If you like this show, you should also sample our other podcasts:

  • Recode Media with Peter Kafka features no-nonsense conversations with the smartest and most interesting people in the media world, with new episodes every Thursday. Use these links to subscribe on iTunes, Google Play Music, TuneIn, Stitcher and SoundCloud.
  • Too Embarrassed to Ask, hosted by Kara Swisher and The Verge's Lauren Goode, answers the tech questions sent in by our readers and listeners. You can hear new episodes every Friday on iTunes, Google Play Music, TuneIn, Stitcher and SoundCloud.
  • And Recode Replay has all the audio from our live events, including the Code Conference, Code Media and the Code Commerce Series. Subscribe today on iTunes, Google Play Music, TuneIn and Stitcher.

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