You haven’t been able to explain why, but for some reason the past few months have felt… nicer. Friendlier. More humane. Like the world’s cynical edge has faded into a general aura of good intentions and widespread compassion. Well, hopefully you haven’t gotten to used to it, because the mean streak you used to know is back — Veep has returned for its third season on HBO, coming back in full force with the very best insult comedy on contemporary television. This season, we’re going to hone in on which of the series’ characters is leading the pack in general misanthropy by ranking the best barbs of every episode.
We start off with the season premiere, which sees Vice President Selena Meyer (Julia Louis-Dreyfus) on a book tour through Iowa as the rest of her staff is back home in D.C. for Mike’s (Matt Walsh) wedding to a reporter named Wendy. Due to Mike’s unprecedented giddiness, he sat the week out in the insults game, but his colleagues were on point in terms of disses, put-downs, hostile barbs, biting reproaches, and your run of the mill bullying. Who won the race with the coldest zingers?
6. Abhor-ney General: JONAH
“I’m leaving here with my head held high and my nuts hanging low on your mom’s chin, Martin.”
Jonah’s unimpressive, infantile sign-off after he’s been fired from the White House for running a gossiptainment blog.
5. Secretary of Offense: AMY
“Look at you, Dan. You have more nervous tics than a shoe bomber.”
There’s something about Amy’s subdued, even-tempered jabs that feel even more hurtful than her cohorts’ heated ones.
“Jonah, what’s the point? You don’t show up in photographs.”
Said, again calmly, when Jonah is trying to worm his way into a group photo at Mike’s wedding. Good for a chuckle, but this episode isn’t Amy’s best.
4. Secretary of Treachery: SUE
“Would you like me to mold the cake into a pair of testicles for you, Gary?”
To be perfectly honest, neither of Sue’s jokes this week (her only two lines in the episode, I might add) are Veep-caliber insults. But Sufe Bradshaw’s delivery is impeccable.
“I hate how he learned English from pornography.”
Markedly better; said in response to Jonah’s excessive use of phrases like “money shot” in non-sexual context.
3. Secretary of Hate: BEN
“Get out of the way or I’ll f**king inhale you.”
Ben yells this at Selena’s obscenely incompetent Iowa right-hand man. The believability of the threat makes it so funny.
[On the title of Selena’s book, New Beginnings: The Next American Dream] “You’re so full of s**t, there’s a colon right smack dab in the middle.”
Now that’s just terrific wordplay.
2. Viscious Vice-President: DAN
“I would hate the be the local Iowa guy that’s got to take care of [Selena]. Trying to source Gazpacho in a city that thinks soup is for f**s.”
An insult to Iowa, Selena, the gay community, and, somehow, Gazpacho. Points for versatility.
“What the f**k are you doing here? You weren’t invited. Unless you’re the Worst Man.”
This clumsy and obvious clunker docks the usually clever Dan a few points.
“Hey, Hepatitis J.”
Classy, elegant, hilarious.
Jonah: “What’s Google’s number?”
Dan: “I don’t know, ask Jeeves.”
Not so much an insult as it is just taunting and aggressively unhelpful. But one of the biggest laughs of the night regardless.
1. The President of Put-Downs: SELENA
“Hey, Richard. No offense… you’re a catastrophe.”
Julia Louis-Dreyfus is one of the few comedians who can deliver a line as blunt and unimaginative as this and make it feel sharp.
[To Ben] “Good to see your friendly-ish face-ish.”
In sharp contrast to the former, the beauty of this excellent jab at her friend’s personality and appearance is its majestic subtlety.
“That bag of wrist-slits got the nomination? With that face and personality?”
Boom. Easily the meanest thing said all episode. And she delivers it with that demonic smile. Oh, woe is the world in which she occupies the Oval Office.
And since we love Gary so much, we’ll also be running this little addition to our weekly insult-off:
NICE THINGS GARY SAID
“[To Wendy] You look gorgeous! Is that lipstick coral blush? Nicely applied!”
Oh, Gary. You sweet soul.