Since its premiere five years ago on HBO, it’s become a D.C. adage that the show that most deftly captures Washington’s political machinations is Veep. Forget the Machiavellian maneuvers of House of Cards, the neck-breaking plot twists of Scandal or the rapid dialog of The West Wing. In its sixth season, Veep remains as hilariously cruel as ever, its portrayal of government’s highest echelons defined less by clever repartee than stunning incompetence. It’s an even more impressive feat given the current state of D.C. politics, which might drive viewers looking for a laugh away from a show whose satire no longer seems implausible.

Season six finds Selina Meyer (Julia Louis-Dreyfus) out of office and navigating the post-presidency, her murderer’s row of feckless advisers still by her side. That includes Mike McLintock (Matt Walsh), the hapless now-ex-press secretary. Walsh cut his teeth doing sketch comedy and improv as a founding member of the now-iconic Upright Citizens Brigade with Ian Roberts, Amy Poehler and Matt Besser. His TV career has included recurring roles on NBC’s Outsourced and HBO’s Hung. Then, in 2012, Walsh landed the part of McLintock, the half-competent do-gooder embroiled in the political shitshow of his boss’ making. Now, several seasons in, Veep’s bumbling PR man finally has a real-life alter ego in Sean Spicer.

But Walsh would like to remind you that not even Mike McLintock was that bad.


What’s your favorite of the many horribly cruel one-liners you’ve all had to deliver?
That’s a good question. You know, I don’t know if I’ve said them, but the Jonah insults are particularly good. Last week, I think Kevin Dunn [who plays Selina’s advisor Ben Cafferty] said that Jonah doesn’t want to go to prison because there would be a bunch of men standing on top of one another to sodomize him. That was a very funny insult. And the homunculus one. And the giant barbecue fork.

The episode on Sunday night was great. You and Julia Louis-Dreyfuss got to absolutely demolish Mee-Maw’s barn.
Oh, it was so fun. It’s a joy to go to work and get to break things for a living. It really was so fun. I think we probably broke some things that were rentals because we got a little out of control, but we got to do multiple takes of smashing, which is good for my psyche.

I would just say that Mike, actually, when he was at the podium, was better than Sean Spicer.

When you guys shot that scene were there any precautions taken? Or were your instructions basically to destroy everything in sight?
No, there’s a lot of safety rehearsal. The guy shooting it, and anyone on set, had to wear goggles. And we had to make sure nobody got glass in his or her eyes. We had to know what we could break and what we couldn’t, and obviously we’re swinging wildly, Julia and I both were, so we had to make sure we rehearsed some of it so we knew where these close calls were going to be. So it was very choreographed for safety reasons.

Veep has been lauded as the political TV show that most accurately captures the goings-on in Washington. Prior to playing Mike, how much did you know about how things really go down in D.C.?
I think I was moderately abreast of how politics work. But once we started researching for the show I think it was an insight into, generally, people trying to do a good job. But human beings are flawed. So they’re trying to push these ideals through Congress but you have to compromise those ideals and deal with imperfect human beings with emotions. So that was sort of the insight, because we are making a workplace comedy. That was something I found very interesting and fascinating, how these people, at least before this administration, are trying to do a good job. But they’re flawed human beings in a difficult system.

Mike, at least when he was Press Secretary, was a great example of that. He’s a good guy whose job was a sort of dead end in that he was tasked with going out to the podium and lying or fabricating on behalf of the Meyer Administration. Kind of like Sean Spicer.
I would just say that Mike, actually, when he was at the podium, was better than Sean Spicer.

I think he should quit his job. That’s my advice.

How come?
He just was. He stuck to the talking points. He didn’t lose his temper. He would get back to people. Mike was a fuck-up, but we had many conversations in the writer’s room and on set about how he has to be believably good at his job. Otherwise, it’s a joke. I guess now, if he comes back as the Press Secretary in some form, maybe he doesn’t have to be good at his job.

You’re right. Mike did have moments where he was riffing in the briefing room and got on well with the reporters. You could tell he was enjoying himself and doing a passable job. But then, sometimes, the rapid currents of the Administration and its scandals sort of threw him for a loop, like when Selina sends out an inappropriate tweet and he has to blame it on a Chinese hack. Having embodied a Press Secretary, what advice do you have for Sean Spicer?
I think he should quit his job. That’s my advice.

What did you learn about the role of press secretary before playing one?
This was a couple years ago. I was interviewing some press secretaries. And I learned that they often maintain their relationship with the media over their relationship with the sitting congressman or candidate or whoever they’re working for, because they know that person can be out of a job but in their next job as a press secretary, they’re going to need those relationships and those contacts [with members of the media]. I thought that was an interesting insight that I didn’t know before I started the show.

What do you think of Melissa McCarthy’s Sean Spicer?
Man, she is so funny. Melissa doing physical comedy is just amazingly joyful. She’s so funny.

You guys were shooting a good amount of this season during the campaign season and the election, right?
We were actually filming the scene where we were in Georgia monitoring the elections. That was the night of the election. It was a very gloomy, and as the returns came in, it got gloomier and gloomier. We were all together on the night of that election and fortunately we had a hiatus after that. I think the writers wanted to regroup to make sure what we’re doing is still going to be funny. But when Trump was elected, nothing changed as far as plot. We stuck to the same storyline. Maybe a couple of jokes have been altered because they became real, but in general all the storylines are intact.

Is there a psychological change in the way you approach a political satire when it starts to seem, as Julia said in her Emmy’s acceptance speech, more like documentary?
I think that’s on the shoulders of the writers next season, honestly. Because as an actor, you know the character and you just sort of try to embody all the things he’s been through and try to remember what these moments mean to your character, what’s at stake. But the writers have more of a philosophical challenge to make the show funny since, obviously, we’ve been affected by this terrible presidency in real life. So I think that responsibility falls on the writers. As actors, we just try to nail it and make it as funny or as stupid as possible.

What can you say about Mike’s journey in these remaining episodes? Obviously, he is working on Selina’s book and remains, in my opinion, the most likable person in a group of utterly amoral careerists. Well, Mike’s poor, he has children, he has a terrible boss, and he fancies himself a writer, so anything he tries to write I’m sure will get shot down. It applies to all the characters. We’re living at the whims of Selina Meyer, and you never know which way the wind is going to blow. So I think there’s some suffering ahead for Mike and a couple victories.

Don’t you ever wish he could just cut her loose?
Yeah! I don’t know where the show is going, but sure. Like I said, I think Mike thinks he’s a great writer, so I imagine he would love to write a book or be a pundit or maybe be an educator and get praise for his experience in politics.

Do you have a favorite episode from the last six seasons?
I guess the things that come to mind are these fun physical moments, like smashing the barn or running around an airport with Tony Hale in Iran or when we went to Silicon Valley and Mike was bouncing around and falling off a ball. Those things make me laugh still.

What about your comic inspirations?
I grew up on the Marx Brothers and Peter Sellers and then as I matured it was sketch comedy, like Saturday Night Live and The Kids in the Hall. And also Woody Allen. Those are the things I aspire to and am really inspired by.