“It does seem like they are doing a rival comedy,” he said at a panel on the show at Politicon in Pasadena on Sunday.
As they are writing the series for the upcoming sixth season, “We think to ourselves, ‘What is the most stupid thing a President can do?'” He added that then, “On a daily basis, and sometimes on an hourly basis, they just outdo us, and it sucks.”
He said that it may be a “good thing” that the real-life antics at the White House “forces us to do a different thing.”
Given all that is going on, Mandel noted that he has heard from people who like the show, but now say, “I just don’t want to laugh about politics.”
The show has been particularly sensitive to the idea that it is trying to satirize the Trump administration. “We are not ‘Saturday Night Live,'” Mandel claimed.
He added that there have been instances where they have come up with ideas and then decided, “Let’s move on, because it is too close to what happened.”
The show is careful not to identify characters with political parties and, as executive producer Frank Rich pointed out, refrains from mentioning politics after Ronald Reagan’s era.
Mandel even said that he was relieved that the series staged Selina Meyer’s presidential campaign in advance of the 2016 presidential race — and that she lost.
On the series, Meyer (Julia Louis-Dreyfus) lost her bid after an electoral college tie, and Mandel said that he thinks the trajectory of the show would have been very different had they had her win.
“If we were in the White House, and Trump were in the White House, I would guess we would have packed it up and just ended it,” Mandel said.
The next season of the show will likely be picking up in Iowa, as Mandel put it, “many, many months before the caucuses,” as Meyer starts her new campaign for the White House. He likes having the show centered on “that wonderful period when many, many people think they can be President of the United States.” Also running is Jonah Ryan (Tim Simons), who will be a “favorite son” of New Hampshire.
Amie Parnes and Jonathan Allen, the authors of the book “Shattered” about Hillary Clinton’s 2016 campaign, visited the “Veep” writers on Friday, Mandel confirmed. The team is looking for ways for how Meyer will deal with the prospect of doing an “autopsy” of what went wrong with her previous campaign.
The series does get some inspiration from real-life events, but it is not in a direct way. As they were starting writing the fifth season, Trump was still campaigning, and had announced his proposed Muslim ban. Then, as the summer wore on, Trump attacked the Gold Star parents Khizr and Ghazala Khan.
The result was a storyline in which Selina Meyer dates Qatari ambassador Jaffar.
“This is an example of Trump influencing the show, but not in the way that you would think it would be,” Mandel said.
He also added that in the upcoming season, “don’t be surprised” if Jonah is involved in the “ongoing war on science.”
“It is not going to be specifically about firing climate scientists or anything Trump has done in office,” he said. “We are going to figure out our take on it, and that is when the show, I think, works best.”
The show has gotten visits from plenty of real-life figures, including former congressman Aaron Schock and former Presidential candidate and Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney.
Romney, Mandel said, was “great. It was such a great vibe you don’t get on the campaign trail, and we really liked him.” He shed light on how a candidate takes solace after losing, and “that is wonderful, because Selina takes no solace in it.”
Rich said that a recent “Veep”-like moment could have been incoming White House communications director Anthony Scaramucci’s expletive-filled interview with the New Yorker’s Ryan Lizza.
“It is very hard to top,” Rich said,
Yet Mandel said that it poses a problem for the writers of the series, as they are now challenged to come up with an original storyline about press secretaries.
“It shuts off a lot of avenues,” he said.
Simons said that as much as the absurdities of “Veep” get compared to what is going on in the Trump administration, or are a source of humor nightly on late-night, there is an end point to the humor.
“I am able to laugh at political shows, but I am not able to separate myself from the real-life consequences of what he is doing,” Mandel concluded.