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Politics & Government

TV's 'Veep' Writers Take On The Republican Convention

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Now, let's remember this convention is a civic event but also a television show. Many TV networks cover each party's effort to sell its vision of America. So we have some analysis now from TV writers, writers for "Veep," the satirical TV program in which Julia Louis-Dreyfus plays a shallow politico who floats to the top.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "VEEP")

JULIA LOUIS-DREYFUS: (As Selina Meyer) Move everything off of the sixth for me. You can clear that.

CRAIG CACKOWSKI: (As Cliff) Absolutely, ma'am. The only thing I need to move is the senators swearing in ceremonies. So we're good.

LOUIS-DREYFUS: (As Selina Meyer) That's not movable. That's immovable.

CACKOWSKI: (As Cliff) Surely nothing is immovable.

LOUIS-DREYFUS: (As Selina Meyer) This is like explaining gravity to a chicken.

DAVID MANDEL: People love "Veep" and I think sometimes want to think it's all made up just on the set. And we do do a lot of ad-libbing, but we always try and make sure we get the script first. And then we can kind of play with it and do one for fun. And Trump seems to start with one for fun and then keep going.

INSKEEP: David Mandel, executive producer of "Veep," brought along two fellow writers on the show, Erik Kenward and Billy Kimball.

MANDEL: It's the strangest campaign of my life time. I'm 45 years old, and it's definitely the strangest campaign ever. More so than ever before, the other party hates the other candidate with a fiery passion that I haven't seen on this level. And at the same time, neither party loves their own candidate. And that's a very confusing situation to me (laughter).

ERIK KENWARD: Yeah.

INSKEEP: So how would you review this campaign as a television program, looking at those elements like the plot and the dialogue?

MANDEL: I think we at "Veep" sort of joke that if we had tried to write a lot of this, we'd be, like, HBO would have, like, sort of fired us and replaced us with a different writing staff like (laughter).

KENWARD: You know, we struggle over every reality moment like, is this real? Would the president say that? Would someone say that to the president? And Trump has just blown that up. We sit around a lot of times trying to think of, like, you know, we're trying to think of a story but then we're also trying to think of things that could happen to make our main character sort of seem stupid and dump things on them and seem funny.

And we're writing those things on purpose. And they seem to be doing things, I guess, for - I don't know where it's coming from 'cause I can't imagine they're sitting around going, oh, you know what would be funny? If he picks Mike Pence as V.P. and then immediately regrets it and thinks about not announcing him.

I mean, that's something we might do. But it's crazy that that's happening.

INSKEEP: So what if it were up to you to plot out the next three days that we have here in this convention? What would you come up with?

KENWARD: I hope he sticks to sort of his own insane plan to just speak every night, possibly multiple times. Like, he should introduce - start the evening, close the evening. I feel like Trump should never leave the stage. They should bring up other speakers. And as they speak, he should constantly be going, like, yeah, no, yeah, all right, you can say that.

All right, that's good. Yeah, OK, keep going with that (laughter).

INSKEEP: You know, we interviewed a Trump campaign strategist who used the word genial. She would like Americans to see a more genial side of Donald Trump.

BILLY KIMBALL: I mean, it would be kind of hilarious to have him come out and sort of try to be genial for four and a half minutes and then the manic side coming out and, you know...

MANDEL: Or maybe every other night. Like, genial Monday...

KIMBALL: Yeah.

MANDEL: ...Crazy Tuesday, genial Wednesday, crazy Thursday.

KIMBALL: Yeah, we've had Benghazi Monday, Monica Lewinsky Tuesday. Now we're going to do genial Wednesday.

MANDEL: We're going to do genial Wednesday right into our salute to Vince Foster.

KIMBALL: There is an opportunity for Trump to seem less crazy. And, you know, so the best that they can probably hope for at this point is kind of a dull convention. But all signs are that, you know, they're not abandoning crazy yet.

INSKEEP: David Mandel, Erik Kenward and Billy Kimball are writers for the TV show "Veep" with suggestions for the Republican Convention. They will have suggestions for the Democrats on this program next week. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.