For weeks people have been sending me emails and DMs with the same, simple demand: “Seth, please, tell us who you think are the funniest characters in Veep, in reverse order if you don’t mind.” Well folks, the truth is I think they are all pretty funny, except for that one congressman’s dumpy aide who always says pathetic stuff at that congressman’s behest. I don’t care for him very much at all. But if the people demand a ranking, then a ranking they shall have. Regrettably I must exclude many less-prominent characters, like Catherine or that one Scandinavian Prime Minister lady, who are very funny but don’t really do enough to merit Top 10 status, if you know what I mean. These have been hard choices, but that’s what pop culture journalism is all about: hard choices. Also premiere parties, and emailing people back a week later. Okay, here we go, HBO’s Veep’s Ten Funniest Characters.
Dan is a charmingly witty back-stabbing ladder-climber who would probably rank higher if he didn’t feel so apart from the main action this season. In earlier seasons he was perpetually jockeying for power, a quest that was much more satisfying when he was competing against the likes of Amy and Kent and Ben and Richard than a mad-with-not-all-that-much-power news anchor whom we just met. A worthy hero must have worthy villains. Sorry, Dan!
Oh Sue, how we miss you. Would that you had not forsaken Selina for President Montez, though on the other hand, what would Selina have done with you anyway. One of the few characters on this show with a moral center, maybe, Sue instantly enlivens every scene she’s in with her deadpan alone, an enchanting stone-faced indifference to whatever disaster is currently unfolding. May she come back soon.
Mike epitomizes the incompetent DC player uniquely ill-suited to the job he has, an intrinsically funny role that, again, was much more consistently entertaining when he was in the White House. Remember that bit when he dashed into a meeting after leaving it to check that they weren’t talking about firing him? Which they weren’t? And then in the next episode it turned out that they were? That was great. He has had some good bits this season, like when he managed to commit election fraud, but it’s been much more hit-or-miss with him away from the podium.
Is Amy the Huma Abedin of Veep? I think it’s either her or Gary, unless Gary’s the Doug Band and Amy’s the Huma. (Do people know who Doug Band is? Here’s a good primer.) Let’s say it’s Amy. Anyways, as the Huma Abedin of Veep, Amy is equal parts pitiable and contemptible, the architect of her own terrible hell tending to Selina Meyer’s every maniacal whim. My favorite Amy storyline is the one where Selina’s friend Karen comes to advise her but only ever offers perfect non-statements, which Amy recognizes as bullshit by Selina doesn’t, and Amy goes crazy and quits. “You have achieved nothing apart from one thing: The fact that you are a woman means we will have no more women presidents because we tried one and she fucking sucked. Goodbye, ma’am.”
Selina is the heart of Veep. If season six sometimes feels like it has no heart, maybe that’s because Selina has become shiftless and embittered in her political retirement, having learned no lessons from her failures, unrelenting in her disregard for everyone who cares about and/or pretends to care about her for political and/or material gain. Still, how good was that Georgian election episode? What a pleasure to have the gang back together.
Ben’s main qualities are that he’s sad, sarcastic and he carries around a big thermos. Have you seen that thing? It’s so big! According to his character bio on HBO’s website, it is a “nine-cup” thermos. That’s a lotta cups!
Kent, Selina’s strategist and (briefly) campaign manager, makes moral bankruptcy look reeeaaaaal smooth. His relegation to the sidelines this season has been a loss for the show, though he and fellow craven huckster Jonah Ryan do make excellent scene partners. Hopefully we’ll see Kent closer to the center of power next season, which, by the way, how great would it be if that center of power were Jonah, which probably won’t happen but does seem like a natural and very funny way to go? Anyway.
Gary is probably the character most central to Veep other than the Veep herself. He is to Veep what Kenneth is to 30 Rock, what Hank is to The Larry Sanders Show, what Zoidberg is to Futurama. The above scene, his fight with Selina in season four’s “East Wing,” when she finally turned on him and he finally turned back, is one of the most riveting scenes I’ve seen in any TV comedy or drama. Harrowing stuff. But funny! But harrowing.
The lone ray of sunshine in an ensemble otherwise devoid of joy, Richard Splett is as buoyant as Ben is grim, his boundless optimism an equal and opposite reaction to the cynicism that defines this show. He’s also stupid, stupid, stupid funny. Though I pine for the days when he worked with Jonah—first as his underling, then as his boss, then as his underling again—it is enough for now that he remains as funny as ever, immune to the waywardness that affects much of this season. Also, you should watch Detroiters.
Congressman Jonah Ryan, formerly White House Liaison Jonah Ryan, is the worst character on Veep and thus also the best character on Veep. He’s like if you combined Dudley Dursley and Draco Malfoy and then that dude fell in love with Veruca Salt and they had a beautiful baby boy-child who grew up into an ugly baby man-child who ruthlessly failed his way upward into Congress. His petulance is unparalleled, his success in spite of himself a marvel to watch. I am as grateful for Jonah as I am for Charlie Kelly in It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia or Tracy Jordan in 30 Rock. My great hope is that the show somehow vaunts him higher into power next season, perhaps in some sort of vice presidential role, which might be tricky to engineer but I think we can all agree would be very fun and good. Okay, list over.
Seth Simons is Paste’s assistant comedy editor. Follow him on Twitter.