Best Politician in Comedy: Selina Meyer
As walking punchline-turned-Oval Office occupant Selina Meyer on Veep, Julia Louis-Dreyfus now sits in the most powerful seat on earth. Her standing in the comedy world is equally lofty: Between Veep, Seinfeld, and The New Adventures of Old Christine, the 53-year-old actress owns four Emmys (and is up for a fifth), which makes her the ideal person to share her laws of comedy. Although for some reason this request troubles her. ”It’s a lot of pressure,” she deadpans. ”If I had been dead for 25 years, then I’d have 25 years to really let things ruminate. I don’t really know what to tell anyone to do or say. Why the f— are you talking to me?” Because dropping a perfect F-bomb (see: rule No. 9) is just one example of why she’s our reigning comedian-in-chief.
1. Consonants are funny, usually — but not always.
In the video that Vice President Biden and I shot for the White House Correspondents’ Dinner, we did this one scene in which we’re in the White House kitchen eating ice cream, and Michelle Obama comes in and she says, ”What’s in your mouth?” and I say, ”Carrots.” Carrots was a good word to use in that moment. Two syllables and consonant-consonant. It just felt funny somehow. It has a crispness to it.
2. I love malapropisms.
I happen to do them in my own life by accident all the time. It’s fun to say things that are wrong with authority. So if you’re having a powerful moment and you misuse a phrase or an expression and you’re unaware of it, it’s the being unaware of the misuse that’s the funny part. On Veep, when Selina is throwing Jonah off the plane and she says, ”I cannot believe you put that out on Tumble” instead of ”Tumblr,” he corrects her and it’s even more infuriating. It has to do with playing confidence when the words fly in the face of it.
3. If the crew is laughing, then you know you’ve got it.
4. You have to incorporate your body into your performance.
I like physical humor. It’s just so basic. But it can also be a very nice support system for what’s already on the page…. There was a scene in the first season of Veep in which I’m railing against Dan, played by fabulous Reid Scott, and he had f—ed something up. I say, ”That’s like trying to use a croissant as a f—ing dildo.” But as I’m flipping out, there are papers on the floor and I tripped on the papers — and that was intentional. A woman who is off her game and in a rage and is slipping on papers is funnier than just a woman in a rage, right?
5. You can create a joke that wasn’t there with editing.
Editing is its own cast member, it really is. The editors on Veep are superheroes because it is so dense on Veep…. When you cut to Matt Walsh looking caught, just wiping his mouth from eating a doughnut, you’re going to get a laugh.
6. I don’t know why, but somebody entering frame, quickly walking across, and exiting frame is funny.
Seeing someone enter and disappear in a short window is an inherently funny thing. I think it’s fundamental. A baby might also think it’s funny.
7. Three is always a better number.
An odd number seems to work for a joke. It’s the rhythm.