Many thought Trump’s Axios interview felt like ‘Veep.’ The showrunner says, ‘We’re being outdone regularly.’


“Yes, this is like a scene from Veep. Except on Veep this scene would have been re-written after the table read, because a president being this stupid is too gaggy and unrealistic,” tweeted Sam Richardson, who portrayed the honest-to-a-fault Richard Splett on that very show.

Some added the “Veep” theme music over part of the interview in which Trump downplays the virus’s impact on the United States. David Mandel, who became the showrunner of “Veep” when creator Armando Iannucci left after Season 4, retweeted one clip with the note, “Now we DEFINITELY should be eligible for” the Emmys.

The Post gave Mandel a ring to see how he felt about the comparisons. The veteran of “Seinfeld” and “Curb Your Enthusiasm” — who is decidedly anti-Trump — did not hold back.

This interview has been edited for clarity and length.

Q: When you wake up, and you see something like this, you see everyone making the comparison to “Veep” and playing the music over it … what is your reaction to that?

A: The honest answer is at this point, it’s almost a weekly occurrence. I’m almost bored by it at this point. Honest to gosh, this was new two years ago, the idea that occasionally they drifted near us.

At the end of the day, this is why we ended the show. The stupidest, dumbest, craziest things we could think of to make a president and his staff say and do … I bow to my betters. We’re being outdone regularly. He’s stupider than a room full of the best comedy writers in Los Angeles can come up with, and it’s that simple.

Q: In that little clip where they added the “Veep” theme, Trump pulls out the piece of paper with a bar graph on it, and it feels like the segment at the end of an episode.

A: Honestly, it’s a perfectly written comedy. It’s like they set it up. We’ve been hearing for years that this guy can’t read and can only look at big charts, and clearly he can’t even read the charts. It’s like he’s been given a chart, he’s been taught blue is the color of the United States, and off he goes.

It’s hilarious. It would be a lot funnier if it was another country.

Q: I know you said at this point they’re growing old, but do you like the comparisons?

A: I love the fact that we have now been off the air for a year and change, and the fact that we seem as relevant as the day we left the air, if not more so.

Q: I suppose you’re probably asked this all the time, but what “Veep” character would you say Trump is closest to?

A: It’s funny, people constantly want to put him in the Selina [Meyer, the titular character portrayed by Julia Louis-Dreyfus] category. And she certainly has Trumpian characteristics. I wrote a thing for New York Magazine a couple of months ago, and basically the joke of it was even Selina, the worst TV president, would have dealt with the pandemic normally and listened to advisers, if for no other reason than she’s grossed out by sick people. … A lot of people want to hang it on Selina, but she … is a smart politician.

I guess the closest is [the obnoxious staffer-turned-congressman] Jonah Ryan. … But the good people of “Veep” world sort of managed never to elect Jonah Ryan [at least as president]. He never tricked average Joes and farmers into thinking he was one of them. He never tricked people into thinking he would build a wall and Mexico would pay for it. It’s kind of like Jonah Ryan, if Jonah Ryan got hit in the head repeatedly with a mallet. …

We had characters like Dan, who you would argue would push his grandparents in front of a train if he thought it would get him somewhere. We had Mike, who didn’t know which end was up. And Jonah. And Amy sort of chewing at her own nails for her desire to be close to the power center. Then somebody over in the White House is writing up these characters like [press secretary] Kayleigh [McEnany], and you just kinda go, “I tip my cap.”

Q: Do you ever look at all this and wish the show was still on, that you were still able to —

A: No, no, no, no, no. I cannot imagine a world … Sometimes I have the horrible thought of if we had filmed a show last fall that was supposed to be on right now, and between when we were done filming and began editing, the pandemic and all of this stuff happened. I think you’d have to throw the show in the garbage. I don’t know what you would do with it.

As far as I’m concerned, the show we need right now is a sort of a second coming of “The West Wing.” I’m as cynical as they come, but at this point, I would like to see a show that reminds people government can occasionally do well and be good, because I think certainly the Trump administration’s forgotten that.

Q: Is anyone out there, in your view, doing a good job satirizing this administration?

A: Again, I’m just not sure it’s doable. Don’t get me wrong, I make sure I’m watching John Oliver every Sunday. I love watching Seth Meyers’s “A Closer Look” [segments], and Trevor Noah on “The Daily Show.” I think there are great jokes, but I just don’t know how you parody this stuff.

In our final season of “Veep,” we had Jonah Ryan … talking about crazy immigration policies with no one out and no one in. And we’re sort of there, do you know what I mean?

Q: It must be a weird feeling, seeing things from “Veep” actually happen in real life.

A: I really do take pride in the fact that when we were doing “Veep,” we always had wonderful consultants from both sides of the aisle, Democrats and Republicans, plus we’d bring in loads of specialists. So when we were dealing with an issue, we did attempt, even when something was fringe, [to make sure] the facts were right. So when we had Jonah embrace the anti-daylight savings movement, it did exist. And it was considered really dumb.

Q: The last thing I wanted to ask you is about your reaction to the Axios interview, in general.

A: I guess this is Trump’s one true talent: I honestly was numb to it. I laughed; I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. And yet part of me is like, “Well, I wonder what will happen by this afternoon.” … And that’s the problem. It doesn’t stop. …

You’re writing this article right now, and right now he could be saying, “Nobody has died in America.”


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