On this episode of Recode Decode, hosted by Kara Swisher, three funny guys — Tim Simons, who plays Jonah Ryan; Matt Walsh, who plays Mike McLintock; and David Mandel, the show’s executive producer and showrunner — joined Kara in front of a live audience at South by Southwest for a wide-ranging and hilarious talk. They covered, among other things, the challenges of writing about D.C. in the current political climate and why virtual reality might not work for future comedic shows.
You can read some of the highlights from the interview at that link, or listen to it in the audio player below. We’ve also provided a lightly edited complete transcript of their conversation.
Kara Swisher: Today, we are live at the South by Southwest Festival in Austin, Texas. You all may yell if you like. We’re at the Nat Geo base camp, and I’m delighted to have onstage three funny folks from HBO’s “Veep.” We have had a lot of HBO people on. We love having them on because the shows are so fantastic.
First to my left, Tim Simons, who plays Jonah Ryan; Matt Walsh, who plays Mike McLintock; and David Mandel, who is executive producer and showrunner. Tim, Matt and David, welcome to the show.
Right before we went on ... Two questions. Obviously I write about tech a lot, and we do write about media and tech. I’ve interviewed Richard Plepler, your boss, and all kinds of different people in media. The first thing you asked me, and I want to know why you asked me this is ... Can I mention this?
Tim Simons: Yeah, yeah, yeah.
Tim says, “We’ve been writing a lot about Uber.” And you may have heard they’ve got some issues around sexism and sexual harassment recently. The first question you asked me, “Is [Travis Kalanick] as big a jerk as I think he is?”
TS: I used different words, but thank you for hedging those for me.
Talk about why you think that. It’s gotten into the culture now, what’s going on at a lot of tech companies.
TS: I don’t know. I think there is just sort of ... It seems like you would, it was like a thing. It was like, “Oh, well this is a really good service,” but it seems like this sort of goes against a bunch of American ideals. There was this idea of just mostly independent contractors. It’s this idea that we don’t actually provide a service, I’m just a link to somebody that does it, so that’s not my employee.
There was some sort of off business practices and then just more and more you started hearing about that. I don’t know, I think it was the only reason ... One of the reasons I ask was it would kind of confirm a belief that was there before. That’s the first thing that I wondered.
I see, that’s interesting. But you use the service, right?
TS: I stopped, actually.
You would delete Uber?
TS: I live in LA, so drunk driving is a thing. I would rather drive and not drink than have to use it. I would use it as little as I could, but have now stopped completely.
Matt Walsh: Which is probably just as well, because your rating just went to zero.
MW: They just, yeah. They’re just not there.
TS: I’m sorry. I guess I should clarify I didn’t stop ...
I do want to get to the show itself, but the idea of being scared of tech kind of thing, or being perplexed by tech. Can you each talk about that idea? Because when I interview Hollywood people, except for very few people ... I’m saying Jon Favreau, the director, is very into tech. There’s certain people, Ashton Kutcher is into tech. But a lot of Hollywood people are still perplexed by how to deal with is. How do you each think of it? Why don’t we start with you, David.
David Mandel: I like tech, but there is something ... It’s a visual medium. And there is something to be said for ... I don’t want to make it sound too whatever, pretentious. I’m not looking through a viewfinder. But I’m sitting often at a monitor, sort of moving and changing things based on what I’m seeing. And then sometimes, you’re kind of doing that and this is one version of tech. You’re going, “Well, we’re doing this, but behind them is going to be Air Force One. We’re going to add that later.”
It’s so hard. And sometimes it works, and I will also tell you sometimes it doesn’t. It’s that idea that later on it doesn’t that sort of, I guess, scares me and drives me crazy. Again, I’m talking very specifically about special effects tech right now. Which obviously a guy like Jon Favreau, he made an entire movie with one kid walking around on a green screen.
We’ve done good stuff. Finally last year, we had them getting out of a helicopter that didn’t exist. And it was really impressive looking.
Oh, it didn’t exist, wow. That was good, that did look good.
DM: But we also had them getting into the helicopter, and that shot will haunt me to the end of my days. Because I hate it. It looks weird, and flat, and not what I want it to be. It drives me crazy. But there was nothing I could do about it. By the time we got into the building and the special effects and whatnot, it was sort of, “Well, that’s how it was set up.” That’s the part where it just scares me. I guess one level of it.
On a broader level, when you guys think of actors, when you’re thinking about how tech is impacting your business, you’ve got now Amazon doing things, you’ve got Netflix doing things. Google’s getting into the business, Apple suddenly is funding shows. How do you think of your business now going forward when you have all these big tech companies, which aren’t the traditional ones, moving into this space and actually eventually taking it over?
MW: I guess the positive thing is, it affords a lot of places for talented actors to get work. A lot of my friends are on other channels and other shows. And they’re good. There’s a lot of good shows on some of these newer platforms.
I don’t know. I think also, a certain willingness to experiment. It’s not just the number of shows, but their willingness to not stick to the rules that have basically all but destroyed the networks. I mean, in some cases they’re still hiring some of those old network people where you kind of show up at Amazon and go ... Not specifically Amazon, but you show up at one of these places and it’s like, “Oh, you’re here now.” But in general, I think there’s new blood and also just the willingness that you can go, “Hey, we want to do a weird show about ...,” and someone goes, “Absolutely.” And they need a new show, they need shows. There’s a willingness, which is wonderful.
And have created some. Go ahead.
TS: Is Lyft any better than Uber? That was my first question. Not to bring it back to that. Then we go back to tech.
It is different.
TS: Are they better to their employees than Uber?
TS: Because I use Lyft.
DM: I use it too. One time my wife stopped using them because she had to stop at the grocery store real quick, it was clear that the dude had smoked weed in the car while she was in the store.
That’s more Lyft personality.
DM: Oh, okay. Cool.
MW: There’s a button for that, I think. You just have to press it on the app.
Yeah, yeah. It’s a different company. They’re more hippie-ish, I guess.
TS: I like Lyft, I just didn’t know all the details. As far as tech goes, I like a robot arm drawing chalk on the wall. I like stuff like that.
DM: Amazon actually just picked up this wall for three seasons.
MW: Watching the robot arm? It’s like C-SPAN for robots.
DM: They’ve got lots of money.
MW: Tim and I were actually talking last night because there’s a lot of virtual reality, and this is way ahead of where it’s going. A friend of mine was saying, or this guy I met, not true friend. That they haven’t cracked comedy. They’re trying to perform comedy in these virtual reality ...
And you’re an Upright ... Explain how famous you are in comedy.
MW: How famous? Well, if you have to ask, I might not be that famous. The reason you should think I’m famous is, I don’t know. I’m on a show called “Veep,” and I started a group called Upright Citizens Brigade.
Upright Citizens Brigade. That’s what I was thinking.
MW: But it’s interesting because, flashing forward 50 years, 40 years, I could see virtual reality being something that people see feature-length narratives inside, and you could literally get up close to whoever, Tom Cruise, and walk around Tom Cruise while he’s doing a scene. And that’s weird.
DM: I think there is, when it comes to tech and entertainment, there is that thing of like, I understand somebody would want to do that, but so much of what we do is based on the choices that we make for a viewer to see, or a choice that we make as a character, what to reveal or what not to reveal. The fact that you’re turning some of that over is a little bit disconcerting. And also, how do you properly, like if it was going to be in VR or whatever ... Which I know is like what a lot of people talk about, but I don’t necessarily know. I don’t know how you can really build a story in that.
MW: But I think entertainment is becoming more user empowered, like with on demand and everything. And it just seems like eventually, interactive or virtual reality stuff is going to be more popular.
DM: No, I think so, but I think they will have to figure out what that kind of story is. I don’t think interactive “Veep,” for example, is something ...
Yeah, what would interactive “Veep” be like?
DM: I think it’d be awful. I don’t know. I just can’t imagine.
TS: Who would want to be in a room with those people?
DM: Don’t get me wrong, I think there’d be something really neat about going into our stages and do 360-degree photos and allow you to visit our sets, and things like that. And sort of see what we do or how we do it. And so maybe even the making-of aspect is really fascinating.
The notion of just sort of being up close to these scenes or whatever. There’s rhythms, there’s reasons we fall back sometimes, or sometimes we purposely do very long shots. There’s reasons sometimes we often — and very “Veep” — like to shoot through stuff, to be sort of on odder angles, or to be away from the joke, which is a very “Veep” thing.
Which is to say, in a lot of shows, standard sitcoms, we’re going to cut to you saying the funny line. On “Veep,” we’re often ... the camera’s moving, so we’re over here during the funny line, or maybe we’re worried that the line is maybe a little written, maybe in a good way. We’re going to go way back there and put a piece of that speaker in it to just kind of ... It’ll take a little bit of the edge off of the joke. That very notion would be ruined if all of a sudden you were strapping something onto your heads and coming up really close for the joke.
There’s a rhyme and a reason to our world. But I do think there are stories to come — not necessarily “Veep” — or shows to come where you could completely see how that would work. I do think a lot of times the tech arrives before they figure everything out. I think what we’re seeing right now obviously with the virtual reality stuff, really isn’t where it’s going to be. And in some cases maybe they should have held it back a little bit longer.
Some of it’s going to be also not just with VR. I mean, one of the things is they mix VR and AR, augmented reality. And then mixed reality. So augmented would be you’re walking down the street, and your glasses are telling you things about you, who you are, who that person is.
DM: Or your contact lenses.
Your contact lenses.
TS: I hate that.
TS: I don’t know. That’s really weird.
Well, it’s coming. I’m sorry.
DM: A million years ago, sorry, we did a thing, we used to enjoy ... I worked at “Saturday Night Live” back in the early ’90s. We did a lot of technology commercial parodies. We did one, which was a Macintosh Post-It Notes. They were allegedly disposable, but very expensive. Like little mini computers that were very complicated, just did a line. It was sort of like, I mean, you would never use this.
The other one we did was for virtual reality books, where you strapped on “Moby Dick,” and the joke was you put it on. It fired up. And then you were just in a crudely drawn living room. And you turned, and there was a lamp. And there was a big book in front of you. It wasn’t really what you thought it would be. And every page was like, “Call me.” And you would turn the page and it would go, “Working, working, working, working, working, working.” It’s real, whatever.
It was always fun, because the audience didn’t necessarily laugh, but they sort of clapped because it was technology, and that said a lot to me about us as people. They’re excited to see even stupid stuff, they’re excited to see it coming.
Absolutely, yeah. Some of the stuff that’s coming is really interesting. But it will not have these head dresses and this room will turn into virtual reality. And people will be storytellers. I mean, how does that take away from you all? What do you look at as storytelling? The way networks are set up right now, I mean, you’re about to get bought by the phone company, pretty much. They’re going to be your owners?
MW: We are?
MW: AT&T or Verizon?
DM: I don’t know, you really think it’s going to go through?
DM: Even Murdoch, Trump, all?
Yes, yes I do.
DM: Okay, fascinating.
Yeah. AT&T is buying your company, and so they’ll be your boss.
TS: Okay, that’s cool. We can use a bunch of phone jokes that we have.
Right, I know, right? When you think about that, how do you look at your ... And I want to get to the show itself, like what’s going on this season. I thought this last season was fantastic. I was talking to the people that were running “House of Cards,” too. They can’t keep up with reality, actually. I mean, your reality seems more normal than the reality that’s happening right now.
How do you imagine storytelling developing, or being an actor going forward? You all make content at the same time as perform it.
TS: If I’m being honest, I mean, I don’t think about it. I don’t know.
You just want a job.
TS: I want a job, but also for the things that I write or the things that I create, I don’t think about.
Where are you putting it.
TS: I don’t think about. If it’s the phone company. I don’t let it affect it. I think maybe just trying to like censor whatever it is you’re going to do before you even start it, or trying to, at least me personally, trying to write toward a certain thing that maybe somebody will buy, will probably just make it shitty. I don’t know, I don’t think about it at all.
Especially if the phone company buys us, I don’t think that’ll affect the day to day of what Ryan does. He’ll still be terrible. Like there is that thing whenever I hear, that’s just a bunch of rich people in a room, kind of grunting at each other. I really don’t think about it at all.
Well, that’s a good way to do it.
MW: How will storytelling change? That’s a tough one.
Only because some of the ideas behind the AT&T purchase of these companies, or Comcast buying NBC, is that it’s going to go over the phones, that your content is now ... They want to have it so that they can start to deliver it in different ways, either virtual reality, or over phones, or over smaller devices. Or in different ways for younger people that don’t consume in the same linear fashion.
MW: Wow, that’s like, I don’t know. What would be a smart thing to say here? Let me think. Well, it just seems like the divide has started with on demand. I think that to me, as opposed to must-see TV, or ...
Right, which is over.
MW: Which is over. And from those two diverging paths, I assume that the negative future is sort of like everybody is in their own wormhole. Like you just keep going down, and down, and down, and pursuing your singular passion. Whereas, boy I sound old, but in the old days, there were four networks. And you could go to school, and everybody kind of saw the same show. There was that community that television provided. It’s sort of how we bumped into each other in the television marketplace, if you will.
It seems like the downside is like with all the options, and all the wonderful TV, more fractured sort of American experience, perhaps.
Right, well, that’s exactly what’s happening.
TS: I think that was a smart thing to say. I think you did a good job.
I actually do think that there is such a thing as must-see TV, only in that when you look at “Game of Thrones,” or things like that, people are so worried about it being whatever it is being ruined, even by the east coast/west coast time changes.
MW: Fewer and fewer, yes.
DM: But in those little moments, and I do think last year, and I don’t know how you guys watch, and maybe I’m completely wrong. There was something really cool about Sunday evenings — “Game of Thrones,” “Silicon Valley,” “Veep”— if you were home on a Sunday. I’m not going to say it was must-see TV, but it felt as close to like a pretty cool two-hour block of television that you kind of wanted to sit there for.
That’s not how they watch.
DM: But I do know from looking at numbers, as many people did do that, but so many people did it when they did it during the week.
I feel like Wednesday was my day. Wednesday was must-see TV for Kara Swisher’s house.
DM: I do think ... I guess I’m hoping down the line, the one thing that does happen is somewhere along the line, and again, competition, so this service is going to have these shows, this service is going to have these shows. But that you will get to a point where the fact that you don’t have HBO isn’t a problem. Do you know what I mean? If you want to see “Veep,” you can see “Veep.”
Wherever you want.
DM: We’ll get to a point where you can just say out loud, “I want to see ‘Veep,’” and one way or another, it will be in front of you. I mean that, though, for all television, that none of this will matter.
Well, that’s the goal.
DM: Yeah, exactly.
That’s the goal. You speak to an AI person.
DM: I guess that continues to be a good thing in the sense of, if you’re making a show, that people will get to see it if they choose to see it. And again, I guess I keep hoping that the desire for just more is still there.
That I think is not in question. The last question on tech is how do you guys feel about the binge-watching trend? Which was started by “House of Cards,” and others.
MW: I love binge watching. That’s the best way ...
You do. For your shows, too?
MW: No, for our show, I do Sunday nights. That was a nice Sunday-night ritual with my wife. We would knock off two hours of television. But I love binge watching, especially when somebody turns you on to something you should have watched four years ago. Love it.
TS: I’m actually, I’m a halfway fan of it. I think there are diminishing returns, like to watch four or five episodes of something in a row, I think, is detrimental to your enjoyment. It’s like that third one that you think is a good idea, is never a good idea. You just feel awful, and you don’t focus on it, and so you miss things.
I remember I did watch the entire first season of “House of Cards” in a matter of like three days. Some of those middle episodes I literally could not tell you what happened, even after watching them.
He killed someone.
TS: I’m much more of a person that thinks things should just be released three at a time, or two at a time. I think there is something nice about the conversation around them.
DM: I love the anticipation.
TS: The anticipation is important.
DM: I binge watch. I especially like binge watching for something that I’ve missed, meaning, if I didn’t watch it, if I come late to whatever, “House of Cards” or whatever, that I can catch up in three days if I want to. But I do miss the notion of: Here’s an episode, and now you have to wait. Which I realize goes against everything in the world. I mean, that sentence alone literally may explain the Trump presidency.
Does that change how you create “Veep,” or think about it as a show?
DM: For our show?
DM: I mean, nothing on our end because we’re not ...
Because they release it slowly.
DM: But I think if someone said to us ...
They’re going to.
DM: “We’re now binging,” I think we’d probably ... Ours has sort of a narrative, obviously, across the 10 episodes, but I do think if I was writing Veep for binge watching, there’d be a lot more ... not cliffhangers, but sort of a little more of a throw from the end of any given episode to the next episode where often in a season of “Veep,” there’s a through line and these things are happening. But it’s almost like I would be moving things from the beginning of the next episode to the end of the first episode to kind of ... I think it’s incumbent upon you to kind of ... “Why should I watch the next one?” beyond just, “It’s good”? At least that would be in my head a little bit.
Right. I feel like the phone company’s going to make you binge. I feel like that’s coming for you.
Yeah, absolutely. Let’s talk a little bit about the show itself. End of the season, Selina loses the presidency in the oddest way possible, although again it doesn’t seem that odd.
DM: Seeming less odd by the minute, but go on.
Talk a little bit about that, and then where it’s going. And you’re about to lose your job. Your whole thing in the man cave was brilliant.
MW: Everybody, by the way, is losing their job. When Selina’s out of work, we’re all out of work. Except for him, he’s ...
But during the whole process you don’t even realize they’re about to fire you, which is fantastic.
MW: Yes. He should have been fired Season One.
“I’ve got to check on that lead. Got to check on that lead.” This is in their baby’s room. You have to watch it. And you become a Congressman who sleeps with underage women, essentially.
TS: No, of age, but still in high school.
Okay, all right. Good.
TS: That was the confusion.
DM: That was very specific.
TS: That was very specific. She was 18. I thought she went to Georgetown. It turns out she goes to Georgetown Day School.
Yeah, my children go to Georgetown Day School.
TS: They do?
They do, so thank you for that.
DM: She’s got a January birthday, so it’s fine.
TS: That was one of the only jokes that when I first read it, at first I was like, “Ooo.” That’s even pretty dark for him.
Talk about the last season, how you guys looked at the last season, each of you. So, you, the arc that you become a Congressman and then you hire handsome men to work in your office and misbehave, essentially. They were very handsome, by the way.
TS: They were very handsome.
TS: I don’t know if it made it into the final cut, but they all play lacrosse. They all had names like Colt.
Yes, they did.
DM: They all had horse names.
TS: They all had horse names.
DM: And most of them were models. I mean, one of the guys in particular was in a video, like a Taylor Swift video or something. And never had my Instagram and Twitter feed lit up so much.
MW: We showed a picture of him.
TS: We do this thing where we’ll always do a quick rehearsal and then we’ll block it for the production crew, so they can see where we’re going and they can see the lighting. That rehearsal was fucking packed. You have never seen so many people at a rehearsal. Like everyone in production had slammed themselves into this tiny room to watch beautiful men walk around.
That storyline I loved, because as ridiculous as it is to think that someone like Jonah could be elected in Congress ...
DM: I would actually argue at this point, Jonah wouldn’t even crack the bottom 50 percent. I think the House of Representatives is just becoming the worst place on Earth.
TS: On Earth.
DM: On Earth. Used car salesman used to be a high point for those people, and now it’s just in the gutter. Between that and the gerrymandering, it’s a disgrace. Don’t tell the phone company I said that.
TS: We have Ted Cruz, who is one of the most universally despised men, who ass-backwards fell into power because a bunch of dummies thought he was smart. So you have this idiot who all of a sudden gets power. And so there was one of the most wonderful quotes about Ted Cruz was that you can murder him ... He is so disliked, you could murder him on the House floor, on the Senate floor, and not be able to find a witness. I love the fact that, as far-fetched as it seems, it is 100 percent conceivable.
DM: He was kind of our model going into this season — even though House not Senate — the idea that Jonah last year became a Congressman and that he would become the most, much like Cruz, the most hated guy in the Senate. That Jonah would be the most hated guy in Congress. That was kind of our guiding light.
Then you’ve got a lot of material to work from.
DM: We’ve got a bunch, we’ve got a bunch.
Do you like being in Congress, do you like this arc? You’re going to stay ... This is for the season that’s premiering, you’re still ...
TS: Yeah, still in Congress. And no, it’s super fun to be a dummy with power. That’s a really fun thing to do. And especially when he starts getting a win here or there. And one of the things I do like about it is that this is always the life that he predicted for himself. This exactly fits in with his worldview and his five- and 10-year plans. So it’s of no surprise to him.
DM: To him, it’s just what he was expecting. But in some ways, if you think about Selina losing, and all the people working for her, not only being out of work, but also being branded with having worked for Selina Meyer. I think that’s one of the things that you’re going to see at the beginning of this season of where everyone has landed with the ...
It’s a real thing in Washington. When you’re the losing side, you’re branded as a loser. What work can you find? Is it time to head into the private sector, and you’re going to see a little bit of that. And also, if you want to stay in politics, who will hire you? I think there’s some of that, too. And of course, oddly, Jonah rises, which is that much funnier.
Although, perfectly he rises.
DM: Yeah, exactly.
Because that’s what happens on the show. What about the press secretary? Now, you play press secretary and doing press. Now we have a press secretary who’s become a comic object.
MW: Worse than Mike McLintock.
Worse, worse, yeah.
MW: My Twitter was flooded day one when he took that job.
MW: People were like, “This guy’s worse than Mike McLintock.” I just laugh at Tim’s character because I think of his journey — living with his mom and having roommates and having a shitty website. How small-minded and petty, and terrible of a human being he is. And now he’s in the nation’s Congress.
But Mike McLintock, when Dave came in last season, he took the show over, and he had some breakfast with us. And I remember Dave kind of setting out. He’s like, "What I like about Mike is he has a very specific job." Him at the podium was sort of a great anchor for the writers, or specifically Dave’s like, “I want to make sure that you have a job, and that your function is clear.” That was something he set up from the beginning. I really liked Mike in the Press Room, because I pictured him knocking around in anonymity forever, and getting beaten upon. And all of a sudden, he’s on television every day, and he gets a little power, and a little exposure, which of course is overwhelming.
And the other part of Mike I really enjoyed is that he has a personal life. He has a wife and a kid.
DM: Which is not something most of the characters on the show have, which is a really cool thing.
You carrying the 3-year-old in the Baby Bjorn was ... You must watch this, because he carries a Chinese girl.
TS: We were talking about this backstage because we had a finale party last year. Hugh Laurie was there with us. And I’ve never seen a human being laugh harder at anything.
At that baby?
TS: Than Hugh Laurie laughing at Matt with that giant baby. That 6-year-old ...
MW: Seven-year-old girl.
TS: Seven-year-old, 3-year-old in a Baby Bjorn.
MW: “I’m 6,” or whatever she said. Ken says she’s 6, or whatever.
DM: Based on her cranium size.
MW: Based on her cranium size, yes. I really enjoyed being able to have like a personal life and exploring that underneath the political life. Last season was a blast for me.
Can you say what happens to you, or are you ...
MW: Well, this year we’re all out of work. What can we say, Dr. Dave?
DM: The season starts with Mike at home, unemployed, with kids. He’s got twins from the surrogate. And the 7-year-old, Ellen, and we’ll get to see what that’s a little bit like. And I’ll simply say that Selina, much like I’m sure you all saw that the Obamas just signed like $68 million deal to write both their memoirs, much like other former presidents. Selina has a deal to write her book. I will simply say it’s a lot less than $68 million. She’s not happy about that. And she doesn’t really like writing books. It’s possible that someone might need to help write that book. And I’ll leave it at that.
TS: How much do you think Trump’s going to get to write his memoir from jail?
MW: A billion dollars.
DM: That he’ll donate to charity for wounded war veterans, who will never see a penny.
MW: He’ll get paid in rubles.
All right, so let’s move into Trump. Here you are writing a show that’s not totally mocking, but you were saying people thought you were joking about a lot of things that these people couldn’t be this stupid, and here we are. You have one Congressman talking about that more white people need to breed, etc. Like every day there’s a new ... Essentially I open my phone and like, “What fresh hell is going to unleash itself upon me from the government?”
From everywhere, across the government. It is almost like a show. It’s like now they’re firing the guy from New York, who seemed passively competent.
DM: Now they’re saying it’s possibly because he was investigating Murdoch in Fox News. And then there was also the possibility that he was investigating the Russia stuff.
When you’re writing ... I work a little bit with the “Silicon Valley” people. And I tell them things, and then it appears. And everyone goes, “How funny.” I’m like no, that actually happened. Or I was talking about the Nazi, the billionaire comparing his plight to the Jews being persecuted by the Nazis. And they laughed. And I’m like, no, no. It happened. In this new era when you’re writing a ...
Satire, right. How do you do that when life is more ridiculous than that? How do you guys think of that? Because Jonah, there’s a lot of Congressmen like Jonah at this point, or many, many, many, many like him.
TS: Historically, the one thing I’ll say — because I think Dave would be able to speak to this a lot better than I would about how you map something out — but historically throughout the show, one thing that I have noticed is that during every writing period, the writers will all get in a room and think of what the stupidest thing a politician could do, but hasn’t done is. And then in between when we shoot that, and when it airs, somebody actually does that.
MW: In reality.
DM: Or we air, and then they do it.
TS: And then they’re like, “Oh you guys just stole that from ...” No, we actually thought what the stupidest thing would be. I know that that has been a challenge, like then trying to think about what the next stupid thing that they would do after the stupid thing you’re making up is. I think that has been a challenge, but other than that, I’ll let you speak to the sort of umbrella.
DM: I was just going to say, look, clearly the Trump thing changes everything, whether you love him or hate him I’ll simply say. I think one of the things, which obviously happened unrelated to Trump, unrelated to Hillary losing, was from the moment ... I think you all know this, is the show was created by Armando Iannucci, and he did the first four seasons. Then he left with the tie as the cliffhanger, as you will. Then that’s where I took over.
When I first sat down with Julia and the HBO people, and Frank Rich who’s one of the other exec producers, they sort of showed me this tie and said this is where you’d be starting. As I started to think about it, and what got me excited, was the first decision I made was that she was going to lose. That the presidency was something she wanted more than life itself. And that if she won the presidency, would be lovely, but the show would be over as far as I was concerned, which was fine, but I just had ...
Because you couldn’t do more ridiculous behavior.
DM: To me, once she’s president, and this is not a criticism, but even during that little period where she was president, it’s not that it’s harder, I think it starts to strain a little, or it used to strain a little bit of credibility. Where you kind of start to go, “Would these people who are nincompoops working for her survive in the White House?”
Now, maybe now all bets are off, but back when we were making these decisions, the notion of moving away and getting into the world of being a former president, which I thought would be fun and drive her crazy, would sort of be the big decision. That she would lose, which obviously shocked a lot of people who thought she would either win or be vice president again. And again, that just felt like been there, done that.
The idea was she would lose the presidency, which she did. And as it turned out, obviously as the Obamas are moving into their private life, we’ll see Selina moving into her private life. And I am hoping and excited to see some of the similarities of things he’s doing and the stories we’re doing.
Now obviously somewhere along the way, this Trump thing happens. The good news I think for us is because we’re not “Saturday Night Live,” Trump’s not going to say something one week, and we’re going to write it in. I think we do our best when we sort of think about stuff, and then are able to comment on it a little bit later. Like for example, in the tie season last year, we did a recount in Nevada, which was sort of our mini version of Florida. But obviously doing it many years later, where we’re able to really sort of talk about what it was, and hopefully comment on it in a really funny and smart way.
And I think with some of Trump, we need a little bit of distance. And we don’t have that distance yet. One of the things that’s good is, we are still a show about politics. We have a Congressman. But we are not, thank God, in the White House. Hopefully, while you will see Selina acting as horrible as she always does as a former president of the United States, doing things that you see other former presidents doing. Bush painting, Jimmy Carter building houses, Clinton with his Clinton Foundation, whatever the hell he’s up to. All of this is now in the mix. And in general, we are still commenting on politics. But we are, thank God, not in the White House.
Do you wish you were in the White House?
DM: No. I am so glad I am not in the White House. I am so glad, because there’s no doing it. I feel sorry for the “House of Cards” guys. I feel sorry for “Scandal.” Because on any given day, if you look back on our stories, talk about last year when we did the big tweeting story, where that seemed shocking. President tweeting whatever. That story would be worthless. I mean, it would be beyond worthless right now. If that was airing now, I think you’d look at the show as, “What is this thing?”
And so I like the fact that we are out of the White House and will hopefully get a little distance. Believe me, we’re still commenting on politics and what people want out of it and whatnot. But I think the distance will help in a really good way.
What about you guys? Would you want to be in the White House?
MW: I think that the show in my mind does well, because in a way, I’d like to believe that a lot of what it lives and dies on is true about politicians for the last couple centuries. And when this recent maniac won, like he said, it was just like, “What is happening?” In a way, I think we made fun of normal politics in the first five seasons. And it doesn’t feel normal right now. I think with a little distance, we’ll understand what normal is.
It is a blessing, I agree, that we’re not in the White House. Because we’re submerged in the Trump administration and the madness and the horribleness, inevitably people will have that lens, and they will see connections that maybe we unconsciously or the writers unconsciously are just ... Because we are living in the same world.
DM: I think certain things have always been true about “Veep,” which are the double standards of politics, which are very true. Not just in the Trump administration, because while I lean towards sort of liberal Democrat, I can point it out about the liberals as well. You know, a lot of the Supreme Court stuff was tit for tat from the Biden rule, and whatnot. And I’ll simply say ... But in terms of the notion of the double-sided nature of speaking out for the working man while hating the working man, that’s Selina Meyer.
We often get a lot of questions about Trump, and we’ve talked a lot about how Jonah Ryan in some ways was our Trump-esque character. But I think people also forget that Selina Meyer had 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. Somebody speaking about how she wants to drain the swamp while at the same time appointing whatever fat cat she needs to get to whatever she needs, and line her own pockets.
These things are true. I think they were as true under Washington and Jefferson. And obviously, right now under Trump, they’re magnified. But I think that us sticking it to the hypocrisy of politics is still very true about “Veep,” even though right now we are focusing on what it means to be an ex-president.
But can you do that? Because you are like a lot of people now. Like today, I was reading about this Stephen King tweet. I just was shocked that he could continue, and they could keep working with him. You just sort of sit there and wonder when’s the line, when’s the bottom?
TS: It doesn’t seem like there is a bottom. I mean, Paul Ryan is currently racing the clock against Trump being impeached to try to take away health care from children. Like there really is no bottom.
How do you play Jonah Ryan, then? How much more awful could you be?
TS: Well, I don’t know, I don’t know. I think he can keep doing awful things, but I think he always thinks he’s doing them for the right reasons, which is that his right reason is to make Jonah Ryan more famous, and more to continue his own career.
I don’t know. I am sort of glad that we don’t have to deal with Trump directly because I don’t know, like, in the way of technology and the way people watch things. Whatever happens, a Trump joke is played out by noon. If Trump does something at 8:30 am, that joke’s played out by noon. Then an extra is played out over the weekend when “Saturday Night Live” hits it. I’m glad that we don’t have to respond to that, but I don’t know.
I think that at least Jonah has his own world of awfulness that can be entertaining. Another thing is, not much about the current administration is funny. I love jokes, and I think that there are ways to skewer him, but a lot of us I don’t want to get caught in a trap of just making fun of him, when so much of what he’s doing is just truly awful.
I liked the fact that there is this other thing that you can laugh at it because it isn’t real. Does that make sense?
DM: Our alternate reality is just distant enough from Trump that I think you can relate with what’s going on, because we don’t necessarily raise the specter of cancer patients being unable to afford their chemo. We do some other stuff. You know what I mean, it’s funny there’s issues that are coming up that get very political, and we do have a mini storyline with the debt ceiling and things. And a lot of the double standards of what it means to be backed by one of the crazy billionaires — again, these are little tidbits of ... We have a kind of a combo of some of these guys. Your Sheldon Adelsons and whatnot, and how that affects Jonah.
Again, I think we’re right in there in a very cutting-edge way, but we’re not making jokes about what Trump tweeted last night. And I think that’s a really important fine line.
Because you’re not in the ... I want to finish up, we’re going to have some questions from the audience in a second. Comedy, you founded Upright Citizens Brigade. You’re all comedy people. Does everything now have to be political? Because it feels like in tech, I write about politics all the time. That’s all I write about, that’s all I’m interested in writing about at this point. And it’s all people are interested in reading about. And maybe there’s a fatigue factor at some point, but you almost can’t discuss anything else, except the latest thing that happened. I wonder if each of you could answer this idea of: Can you get away? Like, your show is absolutely political. But it would be very different if Hillary Clinton won, right now for you, as creators, I would think.
DM: I think the mood of the country would be different, but I don’t think ... I will simply say this, and you can believe it or not believe it. What you’re going to see in Season Six was written with no sense of Trump or Hillary winning. I guess on some level, we assumed Hillary was winning, as did I guess many people. And I will also say, just to be very clear about this as possible, I don’t know how else to say this. My mentor, my comedy mentor, the person who hired me at “Saturday Night Live,” was Al Franken. I donate to his campaign. I donated to money to the Hillary Clinton campaign. I wanted Hillary Clinton to win. I did not want Trump to win. I hate Trump. I don’t know how else to say that.
That being said, none of that is in the show. The show is decidedly nonpartisan. We have advisers from both sides of the aisle helping us with the show. We continue to have no political party affiliation ever mentioned for Selina, for Jonah, for anyone. If you watch the show, we’re constantly mixing up what’s red and what’s blue, just to confuse you. There is no ... We are not democrats, we are not Republicans. This is about the hypocrisy of D.C., and politicians, and dare I say power, just because we’re in Lyndon Johnson’s backyard.
It’s about power, the quest for power, and all those things. That has nothing to do with Trump. The story we did this season, this was all laid out last June, when he hadn’t even, I guess, locked in the actual ... I guess he just about locked in the nomination. And that is very true about the show. You can hate my personal opinions, and I get that from time to time on Twitter, but don’t confuse those with the show, which is very much of its own thing.
And I think you are right. Everything is politics, but we definitely try and take a very nonjudgmental view of politics. Except maybe going, “You know what? Both sides are terrible.” Maybe that’s our view. Hopefully, even if you feel very strongly one way or another way, the two sides, you can watch the show because the show is not about Hillary is good and Trump is bad, or Trump is good and Hillary is bad. You can just kind of hopefully laugh in general. That’s my take.
Comedy has been political, but now it seems ...
MW: It has, and it is everywhere on the internet, it’s all about what’s happening right now. But I do think people want escape a little bit. And I personally have shut down my Twitter. Tim was saying he kills the app, and then brings it back up.
TS: I’ve deleted it and reinstalled it twice a day for the last three months.
MW: And so I do think there is plenty of people who just want something that’s funny to, I guess, escape in a simple way. That’s just pure funny and a respite from the craziness. I do think there’s plenty of room for comedy that doesn’t have to explain what’s happening in the political world.
TS: I read something recently, and this is a smarter person than me was talking about one of the ...
MW: I may have written this.
TS: Oh yeah, it may have been Matt Walsh that wrote this. The idea that one of the exceptional things about America is that we are able to detach from political thinking, that at least historically that’s been the case. And that, I don’t know, I definitely think that at least most of the things that I’m working on are mostly — the ways that I’m thinking about things now — are through that lens, because we are in a period of time in which it is somewhat impossible to not. Because we are close to America not being that way. Not being able to detach from that.
And so, currently, I am sort of, at least me personally, I am sort of looking at everything through that because it is somewhat hard to escape. And I really do, I do love escapist things, but it’s been harder to enjoy them. And also I’ve been finding myself snap, sometimes I’ll find an escapist thing ...
You deleted and put back on Twitter, why?
TS: Twice a day.
MW: Because you check it all the time.
TS: Because I honestly want to know the moment it all goes south for him. I want to find out within five seconds. I want to know when it’s all over. So there’s that. But then there’s also that thing of what new fresh hell is this, and I’ve been trying to not live in the fresh hell. Like trying to give myself six hours off from the fresh hell.
But the problem is, something happens, you’re like what? Like I think I took a shower recently, and he fired 93 people. I was like, “What?”
TS: One of the first things.
DM: By the way — and again, this is the kind of thing where you know I would kill right now to go a hundred years in the future, and just get to read the 6th grade textbook about these four years. This is all part of the show. I mean, the firing is to distract us from Sessions, or who knows. And again, this is sort of my own political views.
Unless they’re just crazy, everyone talks about that, they’re just geniuses. I’m like, what if they’re not?
DM: No, unfortunately he does have a talent for that, I do believe, unfortunately.
Maybe, I don’t know. Some days I think that, some days I think they’re crazy.
DM: I know, I know.
TS: One of the days that I was like, “I am fucking done with Twitter until I get home,” that’s the promise that I made myself. I was going to go through this time, and I get home and it was the day that the dossier about the pee tape was released. I got home to eight hours of pee jokes. I was like, what the fuck is happening? And the best one was the water solute.
DM: I’ll tell you something crazy, election night, we were shooting. We were shooting ...
MW: An election.
DM: But you were there. One of the storylines that, again, sort of a little bit of a spoiler for you guys, Selina Meyer, as the former president of the United States, gets invited over and obviously, funny enough, there is a Russian connection. She gets invited over to the Republic of Georgia, to oversee an election, as former presidents often do. It’s a very Russian situation where there’s sort of an oligarch in power, and then another guy who is the voice of the people, and what’s in it for Selina.
But we were shooting her at the voting booths, where everyone was dipping their fingers in the color to say they voted, and trying to do this while the returns were coming in. We didn’t have television, so we only had the internet. If you were watching the returns on TV, and again, if you’re on the Hillary side, I think the chatter on television helped quiet the blows. But on the internet, it’s just her chance of winning 90 percent, her chance of winning 71 percent, 55 percent, 29 percent. You’re just like, what the fuck?
That fucking New York Times meter, they kept doing this. Right, which he regrets.
DM: It was awful. And we were there trying to not only be funny for us, but also we were doing something about voting and elections, and whatever. I mean, it was surreal, and that is “Veep” sometimes, is that surrealness.
TS: I remember the next day everybody was telling me that the big cast was there. Video Village pulled 150 extras. And in between takes, it was dead silence.
DM: Yeah, just quiet. We’re all staring at our phones.
Right, right, which is fascinating. Speaking of which, stop staring at your phones. We’re going to have questions from the audience.
DM: Shh, quiet.
Quiet. Questions from the audience, please. Ask questions, I have lots more. Right here.
Speaker 1: I’m originally from the D.C. area, and in a very similar way that “Silicon Valley” just absolutely nails the kind of detailed tech industry in sort of a spooky way. I found that more so probably than any other show, the cynicism and the banter of the individual characters was spot on. Can you talk a little bit more about the ... I guess you mentioned consultants earlier from either side. How do you guys channel those characters so creepily well?
We talked about this earlier. I happen to be a “Silicon Valley” consultant. Some of those things, how people talk, we do tell them exactly how it works. Then people think it’s joke, which is the best part. But you guys did that, you were one of the earlier people who did that, right? And you have Frank Rich and others.
DM: We have all these great consultants. And obviously, again, I think some of it is a credit to Armando, who before he created the show, really spent time in D.C. and found guys so that there were ... You can look this up on the internet. It was all pre-me. There are guys that sort of Jonah Ryan is based on. There are guys that Dan Egan is based on, and whatnot. There were some original models. Some of them are different, because your guy ...
TS: I met the guy who played Dan at the correspondents dinner, and he was a fucking nightmare. He was exactly that guy, and he was an awful person.
There’s a lot of Dans in D.C. There’s a lot Dans.
DM: Yes. But since I came into the picture, we’ve done a field trip to D.C., we’ve sat with not just the actual Congressmen and Senators, which is wonderful, but people from all levels. So you get staffers and stuff, who of course, you know, whisper really fun little things to you that you just write down in your notebook and add.
And this last summer we didn’t make it to D.C., but we had loads of people in. We had in Aaron Schock, the Congressman with the Downton Abbey office, or alleged Downton Abbey office, who is now fighting a corruption thing.
No, it was there.
DM: I’m giving him the benefit of the doubt.
All right, okay. Don’t.
DM: It’s on the internet, you can see me rolling my eyes. And sometimes it’s funny, you’re asking them for a story. And this has been true for my life in comedy, even back in my old “Saturday Night Live” days, you’d call a doctor to ask him something. And they’re trying to tell you what they think is funny, which is awful. Because they’re telling you what they think is funny, but then inadvertently when they’re telling you some other stuff, you’re like, “Oh my God, that’s gold.” The way that guy just said that, I got to write that down, and make sure we sort of use that.
And that happens all the time. And we absorb it, and it is important. We’ll send the scripts out. One of our guys, Eric Lesser, who is a state Senator now in Massachusetts but was on the Obama team, he’ll sometimes, his only note on a script will be like a one word change. He’ll say, that would be called a “back-bench Congressman” because they’d be lower level, or something like that. You kind of go, “Okay,” but that little change just makes the show so much better.
Do you guys meet Congressmen? Do you meet the press secretary? Have you met Sean Spicer?
MW: I’ve not met Spicer, but I talked to Carney, and T.D. Meyers, and Mike McCurry, and a lot of press secretaries. It’s fascinating and kind of what Dave says, you don’t necessarily get what they want you to get. They’ll say something off-handed. And you’re like, that’s really gold. It is wonderful to meet them. Especially the staffers, because they really give you the real gossip, like how it gets made behind the scenes, or when something screws up. Who’s going to get fired, or who’s going to get blamed.
That’s the one thing I’ve learned on the show, is when see something awful happen on camera, you can just imagine what’s going to happen the minute that guy gets offstage. Like who’s going to get yelled at, and who’s going to get fired?
Right. Has anyone gotten mad at you?
TS: Because this happens across the board. 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. That is across the board.
DM: The Democrats think it’s the Republicans, the Republicans think it’s the Democrats. And everyone in the world goes, “There’s a guy like Jonah in our office.” But they can’t all not be Jonah.
TS: I have never met a Jonah because they all say, “I’m a Dan.” I’m like, “You must be a fucking Jonah.”
DM: If you think you’re a Dan, you’re definitely a Jonah.
That happens on “Silicon Valley.” They all think “Silicon Valley” people love them. And I’m like, “They hate you. And they’re making fun of you.” And they’re like, “We look so cute.” I’m like, “They hate you.” It’s really funny. And if that’s me, and I’m like, “Oh that’s you because I told them that was you.” It’s a really interesting phenomena. Same thing on “Billions.” I’ve been talking to hedge fund guys, and they all think they’re Axe.
DM: That goes back to “Wall Street.” I mean, “Wall Street” was a movie about how this is the worst man in the world, Gordon Gecko. And they all started dressing like him, and wearing those decorated suspenders and what not. And acting like Gordon Gecko. It’s mafia guys acting like the “Godfather.”
DM: They loved it.
TS: This past year — not this past year, the year before — I went to the correspondents dinner. We’ve been able to go a couple times.
The White House correspondents, which apparently the president’s not going to this year.
TS: Yeah, he’s not going to it this year.
DM: I thought they should invite Obama, but ... Is it happening?
TS: I think it’s happening. I mean, they do give out scholarships.
DM: And they’ve really focused it back on that this year, because of everything, which is kind of cool.
No, it’s awful.
TS: We were there and I got to go ... This has happened every single time that I’ve gone to the Eisenhower Office. Is that somebody, while you’re going through the Eisenhower Office, gets in on the same campus as the White House, and the West Wing, and everything. Somebody will be like, “You know we’re really not supposed to do this, but I’m going to walk you across the street.” It’s happened every time. “I want to walk you across the street,” because then you get to go into the West Wing.
Then I ended up going on a tour of the West Wing with really small-group tours, they were walking through the whole thing. It was great. We walked past the Situation Room. And I said, “What’s that?” And the guy says, “That’s the Situation Room.” He’s like, “Nobody’s allowed in there.” You have to plan way ahead, and you have to be super famous to get it. Like really, it’s not a thing.
As he’s saying that, a guy opens the door, looks at us, and goes, “Hey, do you guys want to come into the Situation Room?” And then we got in there, and they were kind of like showing us around. And they didn’t notice that one of the people that was there was a French citizen, so he had like a different badge. And it was halfway through the thing, and they were like, “Oh, you can’t be in here.”
Right, because you’re a French citizen?
DM: Just the famous people.
TS: It’s so poorly organized, they just let you in and halfway through they figure that you’re not supposed to be in there. It is an absolute shit show. And that was a good administration. I feel like they would let you control the thing to a drone if you asked nicely right now.
One of the things I found out on that tour was that — you know the famous photo during the Bin Laden raid of everybody in that little room? I asked, like we were in the big situation room with the big chairs and the big TV. And I asked, why wasn’t that in here? And the guy hesitated in answering for a second, and didn’t really answer. I kind of pressed him again. Like no, why wasn’t it in that room we were just in? He said, “We couldn’t get the uplink to work in this room.”
DM: The great secret of the White House and one of my, not regrets, but it was something I always wanted to do, but Armando had already sort of established it the other way, is the White House is falling apart. And our offices on the show are way nicer. Like most people are just like jammed into what looked like they were linen closets. And it’s just old and falling apart. There’s furniture everywhere. It felt weird to sort of try and add that after the fact. I was always very obsessed with it.
It’s still pretty cool, though.
DM: No, no. I mean ...
TS: Even for all its piles of trash, it is cool.
I can’t believe they let the French into the Situation Room. All right, question right here? We’ll have two more questions.
Speaker 2: People have been writing about powerful figures from Shakespeare to Robert Redford and “The Candidate.” What is it, from our end of it, what do you guys see it as, why are people so intrigued and want to know what the sausage-making is, and what’s happening behind all this stuff? What is that?
Why do we love making fun of our politicians?
DM: This is where we sing “The Room Where It Happens,” from “Hamilton.”
TS: I don’t know, I think that it seems like hating ...
TS: I haven’t seen it or heard it yet. Is it good? I think that hating politicians and making fun of them is as American as apple pie. And I feel like no matter what, you can fall over and it’s funny.
DM: You can literally argue it’s the founding tenet of it, which is sort of like we’re going to make fun of the king. Oh my God, the king got really upset. Well, in our new country, we’re going to be able to make fun of things. It’s going to be okay.
And they did that.
DM: Yeah, and they did. Not to get all “Hamilton,” but if you get into a lot of the Federalist Papers, which obviously were sort of calm, but a lot of the back and forth in the early Hamilton versus Jefferson, vicious. Angry, vicious, sometimes funny, but vicious. It’s just downright American, I think, in a really good way. I do think that it’s still very much the escape, which is also that if things aren’t great, that you can sort of find a way to laugh at it. I do think that’s part of it.
TS: And also if you want to be a politician, no matter what, you’re a bad person. So it always is a good target.
Except now we’re going to get all businessmen politicians. Everybody with a billion dollars is now going to go now.
TS: And no offense to the tech world, I really don’t want to see a lot of tech people pivot into politics. I know that maybe that’s not the right audience for this, but please, God, if you’re a tech billionaire, don’t pivot to politics, please.
Right. I’m so sorry. Be ready for President Mark Zuckerberg in about 20 years.
TS: Oh my God. God bless you. I don’t know, I don’t know him personally. He’s probably a great dude. Is he here?
He’s right now at ... He’s now doing a tour ... No. He’s decided to go to every state in the country and meet people. And he’s always with a farm animal at one point.
TS: Oh for God sakes.
But now, today, he’s at historic black colleges giving a speech.
TS: Get the fuck out.
I’m not kidding.
TS: Mark, I know you’re listening. Stop it. You know what he’s going to do?
DM: Wait, he’s going to historic black colleges? That’s what we were going to do.
Yeah, exactly. Anyway, he was ...
TS: He’s going to revamp the White House and make it super nice, but he’s going to do what he did in San Francisco where he just pays those dudes to sit in parking spots overnight so he can get his trucks in there.
Yeah, I’m a neighbor.
TS: You are?
TS: Of for God sakes. Mark, please God, don’t.
Don’t run? Well, what about Mark Cuban?
TS: Can they both just not?
Yeah. Howard Schultz? There’s a lot of them.
DM: If there’s just a moment in there where we start to look like Italy and that’s not a great thing when it comes to ... Food, yes. A little bit of religion and art, but just not politics.
TS: Wine sums up.
They are all considering it. I hate to say it.
DM: I’m sure they are.
And they have a lot of money, so they can do that. All right, one more question. Any more questions from the audience? Anybody?
TS: Come on.
DM: Come on.
MW: It’s your last chance, so thank you.
Speaker 3: Thank you for being here. I’m a huge, huge fan. One of the things that came out right after the election was it seems like there’s this chasm in our country, and particularly I think that there’s one article around. The shows that have been mentioned in the New York Times, if you look at the frequency of which shows are mentioned, there’s sort of this chasm of the “Game of Thrones” and the “Veeps” and the “House of Cards.” Those are mentioned very frequently. But if you look at actually viewership, there’s a totally different set of ... It’s the “Big Bang Theory” and “CSI” and that sort of thing.
I’m curious, stepping out from your roles on “Veep” for a second, how do you think about the audiences that you want to be making content for, given that there is that chasm?
Are you the coastal elites? I believe you are, but that’s ...
MW: We are. We put the coastal in coastal elites.
DM: I mean, I do think the audience is changing. I do think obviously, not to get all demographically, those numbers are driven also by a lot of older folks. My mother loves certain shows like “Orange Is the New Black.” But the only way she watches it is when I give her screeners. I could spend the rest of my life trying to explain to her how to sign into Netflix, and it’s literally never going to happen.
She loves “Orange Is the New Black,” but she is still driving some of those shows. Your “CSIs,” your whatnot. And obviously as are a lot of people. I do think that’s changing as younger people are simply cutting the cord. I do think the audience is changing. And I think advertisers are clearly figuring this out, which is that maybe sometimes it’s okay to have this other audience. And also, this other audience, it’s constantly being added to, because there’s the night “Veep” airs, there’s the first week, there’s when it’s on HBO on demand. Then it eventually makes its way onto iTunes.
Where do most people watch “Veep”?
DM: Right now on demand, I think, but someone else could maybe correct that. That sounds right.
Or the young people just steal it.
DM: However they get it, that’s up to AT&T.
TS: I have seen a lot of stupid things on the internet. The two biggest responses of negativity that I’ve ever gotten was when I said, “Don’t steal things,” like ours. Like, “Hey, fuck you man,” was the biggest response that I got. And when I made fun of Jill Stein. Those two things.
TS: Oh, and I also made fun of flyover states. That was a bad one, too. I do think that that’s a strange reaction to the young people stealing things. It’s like, “Hey, don’t do that.” “Hey, fuck you, man.” I don’t know.
Welcome to Twitter. And you’re still on it, right?
TS: Fuck me, I’m going to delete it right after this.
Do you use Snapchat?
TS: I don’t know. I do kind of. No.
Yeah, do you kind of?
TS: I kind of. I like that toast filter. That’s the only thing I’m there for.
Who is your audience when you’re trying to go for it? Are you trying to reach the flyover states, or anywhere else?
MW: Well, the material is generated by these guys. We pitch him ideas. It is a collaborative process.
DM: It starts with the writing, but I mean, having certainly been elsewhere without these actors ...
Do you think you should reach out to more people? Does this election make you think that maybe you should reach out to more people, or just, “Fuck it”?
MW: Me personally, as a comedian, I just try to create things that I think are funny. And I’m hopefully not too detached. I came from humble roots. I do live in L.A. I am on premium cable, so I have a nice career going.
DM: He has a really cool house.
MW: Yeah. Sweet. It’s mid-century modern. It’s beaut- No, it’s not. And I have kids.
DM: Why did you lie? It’s Spanish.
TS: There’s a trampoline. I don’t know if you’ve been to Matt’s house. He has a trampoline.
DM: We have a trampoline.
TS: I don’t want to get too coastal elitist about this, but I have a trampoline as well.
MW: I’ve got a solar panel. We do have solar panels.
That actually brings you more to not coastal elite, trampoline. Trampoline brings you to the middle, I think.
MW: I’m always encouraged by politicians we meet, like you guys nail it. It seems like the kind of show that people watch with their significant other. It doesn’t skew necessarily male or female. It seems like we’re hitting both genders really well. But not intentionally. We’re just writing a show that we think’s funny, or contributing. And sometimes truthfully in the process, like Tim said, we just come up with the stupidest thing and see if we can get away with it. Like the dumbest ... ultimately, falling off a chair is funnier than a witty political sentence.
DM: Or both, if we can ...
MW: Yeah. If you can get both together.
DM: Say a witty political sentence, and then fall backwards. Then you’re winning everything. I mean, I think — and again, this is more of my own theories of comedy, but it’s sort of what you said. It’s like everything I’ve ever worked on, all I ever tried to do was to some extent make myself laugh. And on some level make my college roommates laugh. That’s all I really care about. If you don’t laugh, fuck you. You’re wrong. I don’t know what else to tell you. And if you’re offended, fuck you also. I don’t fucking care. The joke wins.
And I’ve been lucky enough — I can only speak for myself. I’ve been lucky enough to work on shows where that’s all that anyone cared about. And that’s not true of most comedy. And that’s a sad thing to say. There’s a tremendous amount of comedy where that’s not what’s important. I’ve been lucky enough to work in places where that is important. That’s all I’ve ever cared about for me.
TS: There are a lot of shows where you can walk out. Like comedies that you can leave the room for five minutes when they’re on, and come back and not miss anything.
DM: I do a thing to my children, I’m sorry. My kids watch, my daughter in particular, watches a show on the Disney channel called “Jessie.” I don’t know if any of you have children. About an actress girl who is the nanny to ... A rich actor and actress family of ten multi-cultural children. It’s a fine show, whatever, in terms of that. But I can’t take the writing on it. My daughter watches it, and I will wander into the room sometimes, stand there for a minute, and do a couple of the punch lines before they do it. Trying to teach the lesson of how did daddy do that, because this is predictable, and predictable is not good. I think I’ve only made them think I have some sort of weird power, because they’re still watching the damn show.
I guess, that would be another thing for me with comedy. The comedies I love are the ones that are surprising. When I can sit there and go, “This is going to happen,” I get bored. And it goes back to, I think, to whatever. And it’s not a reason unto itself, but when people were so shocked that she wasn’t president of the United States, or even vice president at the end of last season, I have never been happier that most people didn’t figure it out. And that they understood it for the, I guess I was hoping, the daring move that it was. But also that you didn’t figure it out. And I’m hoping this season has a lot of that as well to it.
Very last one for me, who’s your favorite politician right now? Favorite one that you like? And it could be someone that you don’t like.
MW: Well, Joe Biden was here. I do love that man. He’s not in the game right now. That’s off the top of my head.
Not in the game. All right, you don’t have to like them, either. Who’s the one you don’t like the most?
MW: Manafort, or Sessions.
DM: Living? We want living?
Whatever. You can have dead ones. Jefferson, that asshole.
DM: I will go right now — I mentioned him earlier — with Al Franken. I think now more than ever, especially ...
He’s not as funny as he used to be.
DM: He’s not, but I think you’re going to see more of it. I think in the role of the opposition. I think he will re-embrace. One of the things about Al that I think is a wonderful thing is, for the last eight years under Obama, I think he was really trying to get along with the other side, despite the fact that they refused to vote for anything. And one of the things about the Trump world, and again, throw stuff at me if you are a fan of his, whatever. The way that he has sort of opened up this Pandora’s box of racism, anti-Semitism and homophobia, and all these things that just you thought and hoped were kind of gone. I do think humor will be one of the great ways of battling that. And I do think that will be an Al thing, and that people will see Al rise to that.
Absolutely. So, Al. Who do you dislike?
DM: Who do I hate? Right now, I’ve got to say McConnell. I just think what he did over the last eight years, the Supreme Court thing and the game he’s playing right now. And just another guy from, I’m not going to say flyover state, but a small state sort of living off the fat of New York, and California, and whatnot. And yet, just acting quite despicable about his own people. Anyway, my opinion.
TS: I don’t think I can think of one that I like right now. That’s going to be harder. I think I’ve held a lot ... You can say a lot of things about Donald Trump. All of them are true. But Paul Ryan is just despicable. There is something so despicable about Paul Ryan, especially in the thing about him this whole time is that he’s been a policy guy. And he puts out this piece of policy that is just abject shit. And he’s just like no, no, no I’m a policy guy. And that’s his defense for when Trump says or does something terrible. He’s like, “I’m not going to respond to the day-to-day things. I’m just a policy guy.” But it turns out he’s terrible at that, too. He is a super despicable guy. And I think he’s the one that I’m sort of against.
MW: Who do you like?
TS: I don’t know. Should I go out on a positive note?
MW: You’ve got to find someone you like.
TS: I’ve got to find somebody that I like.
You don’t like President Mark Zuckerberg.
TS: The man in the yellow hat from “Curious George.” Technically he works at the zoo. I’m assuming that’s a public post. I’m going to go with that, as far as public servants go.
DM: I think he’s just been hanging out there. He’s been asked to leave a couple times.
TS: When you really think about it, he’s ...
DM: “You want to come see my monkey?” It’s really not ...
TS: He owns a perfectly reasonable place in the city, but he also has a country house if he needs to get away. He has got a, really, a best friend. He’s got great relationships. Nothing, he’s unflappable. The dude can drive a train around, and he’ll be like, “Well, that’s just George.” Nothing fazes him.
TS: Yeah, so anyway, I think the man in the yellow hat.
You’ve made him into a pedophile, but you like him.
TS: Oh, I love him.
That’s a perfect thing for Jonah to say.
TS: Like if George can go out and by 1,200 donuts, and he’s like, “Oh man, what are we going to eat for dinner?” He doesn’t worry about the money.
DM: All I’m going to say is, reread those books. There is no George, he is George. There’s no Tyler Durden. He’s George.
All right, so your show premieres when?
DM: April 16, Easter. It’s the perfect way to celebrate Easter.
MW: The risen Lord.
DM: Jesus, and all those great things.
TS: It’s on our hotel keys. April 16 at 10:30 pm.
DM: Not all our hotel keys. I’ve got “Game of Thrones,” which is weird.
“Game of Thrones” is on mine. All right. Tim, Matt and David, it was great talking with you.
DM: Thank you, everybody.
This article originally appeared on Recode.net.