Arts

Interview with Matt Walsh: Reading between the one-liners

Matt Walsh stars in the HBO comedy, "Veep," airing Sundays at 9:30 p.m.

As HBO’s “Veep” begins to roll out its sixth season, four college journalists and I had the opportunity to sit down with Matt Walsh, aka Mike McLintock, to talk about his comedic journey. Although fans mostly recognize this red-haired funny guy from his role on the show, Walsh’s credits extend far beyond the White House.

While Walsh’s onscreen character is quick to insult and dodge sensitive questions, he was nothing but charming, making jokes during awkward transitions and speaking with ease about everything from his parenting style to the politics behind “Veep.” As the show is a political satire, I was eager to hear his opinions on real world politics and how they’ve influenced the show.

Now that Selina Meyer is no longer president, Walsh believes it gives the writers more freedom because she won’t be directly compared to President Trump. Because most of their material is written and filmed in advance, they aren’t able to directly mirror the current political world, which Walsh believes offers them a level of creative freedom.

“It operates in this fiction which I think gives us a lot of our latitude to comment on, you know, the greater truths about what’s happening,” Walsh said. “So, I don’t think we lose anything by not being The Daily Show or not being Samantha Bee. We’re a different show.”

As “Veep”’s political storylines change, the humor behind the show remains the same. When discussing the show’s notoriously quick wit, Walsh says their original style came from Armando Iannucci, the creator of “Veep.” While doing some tours of D.C. when he was developing the pilot, Iannucci observed the way that people talked when they weren’t on camera, in the Senate or in an official meeting. He found these real life D.C. employees had filthy, foul mouths.

Even after Iannucci left the show in 2015, the crude one-liners are still very much present. “The show has always lived and died by its insults and the way we treat each other; these brutal, eloquent insults that Armando put in the DNA of the show,” Walsh said. “I think the American writers have just continued and perhaps heightened what’s already been in the show.”

While the writers continue to bring the jokes and craft Selina’s political blunders, Walsh says the whole team gets to help create the comedy. No stranger to the improv world, Walsh is a co-founder of the Upright Citizens Brigade (UCB), an improv and sketch comedy group that emerged from Chicago's ImprovOlympic. Along with pals Matt Besser, Amy Poehler and other notorious comedy legends, Walsh got his start on the stage. Although he’s no longer performing with UCB, Walsh uses his experience on the set of “Veep.”

“I think I get to use my improv chops in rehearsal; that’s where we really play with the script. And it’s usually scenes that aren’t working, it’s not like the whole script,” Walsh said. “We’ll have a table read and then we’ll turn the kitchen in our offices into a limousine or whatever…we don’t really have access to the stages every day.”

Outside of acting, Walsh has had credits as writer, director, producer and creator of many TV shows and films. While he’s taken on a few dramatic stories, Walsh says he prefers comedic roles, and loves having a hand in the creation of a character. With Mike McClintock, Walsh says he enjoyed developing his backstory and the evolution of the character throughout the past five seasons. Walsh says that playing Mike has become one of his favorite roles. “It’s such an honor to come back as an actor, to return to a character because you only get better, and you’re surrounded by a great cast,” Walsh said.

Looking ahead, comedy’s favorite ginger has some new projects in the works. “Brigsby Bear,” a Sundance favorite this year, will be heading to theaters on July 28. Walsh also discusses an upcoming film with Melissa McCarthy, “Life of the Party,” which won’t be released until next year.

With Walsh at the top of his game, I was curious about how he got his start in comedy. Walsh recounted tales from his childhood, sharing how his dad’s terrible jokes always had him laughing and how, in return, he loved making his parents smile. “There’s something about my family, wanting attention, being a middle child of seven, that I was drawn to comedy because I saw how it affected my parents,” Walsh said.

Now, as Walsh continues his comedy climb to the top, “Veep” fans can rest easy knowing that there is more darkly delicious humor to look forward to in the future.

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