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Emmys: ‘Veep’ Explores Politics Outside-In

Satirical laffer swears by its research

Armando Iannucci, the son of an Italian, was born in Scotland and lives in England, but he seems to understand American politics better than most Americans.

Iannucci is the creator of HBO’s “Veep,” which has been nominated in the comedy series for the second year in a row. Last year, its star, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, took home the Emmy for her performance as Vice President Selina Meyer, a woman who is far more ambitious than bright.

“I thought the vice president should be a woman because that means the program is both forward- and backward-looking. I didn’t want people to think the show was about Joe Biden or Dick Cheney,” Iannucci says. “If the character is based on anyone, it’s an amalgam of all sorts of people both male and female in Washington, as well as her own personality, which Julia brings to the part and doesn’t remind you of anyone.”

Iannucci has been satirizing politics in the U.K. for years, with such shows as British miniseries “The Thick of It” and spinoff, “In the Loop.” Encouraged by these two projects HBO, asked Iannucci to create a comedy series for the network.

Asked if he ran into any challenges in producing the show, Iannucci gives a rare kind of answer: “No.”

“HBO was very enthusiastic and encouraging. They did everything possible to make sure it happened,” he says.

Not only was HBO enthusiastic, so was the nation’s capital.

“People in Washington were very cooperative and very happy to show us around,” Iannucci says. “Once we made it clear it wasn’t a satire about Joe Biden or anyone specific, everyone was very open about how Washington works.

“Early on, Julia was shown around Joe Biden’s office and had lunch with Biden. Every member of his team introduced themselves to her by the name of the person who did their job on the show. So clearly they are paying attention.”

One of the crudest — and funniest — things about “Veep” is the creativity of the swearing.

“Washington is a high-pressure place, and people do swear,” says Iannucci. “If you just use the same word over and over, it becomes quite tedious, so we dress it up in these other phrases. The State Department doesn’t swear much but the Pentagon does. I’ve done my swearing research.”

While “Veep” is set in the country’s second-most powerful office, its real laughs come from the absurd situations in which Selina and her staff find themselves.

“In politics, there always is this mixture of high and low,” says Iannucci. “You have to play golf with the Speaker in the morning and invite a congressman over for a pizza later that day to show that you can reach out to people you probably don’t like very much. There’s a lot of poetry and prose in politics, which I always think is funny — especially when people are fully grown into middle-aged adults but still squabbling like kids.”

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