The Veep has landed, but all good things must come to an end. The satirical comedy started in 2012 and evolved with our political landscape, ending May 2019. The plot follows vice president (and later president) Selina Meyer (Julia Louis-Dreyfus) and her staff as they incompetently make their way through the brinkmanship and mire of corrupt politics.
While the show was originally created, written, and led by iconic Scottish satirist Armando Iannucci, starting with season 5, the show was led by David Mandel (from Curb Your Enthusiasm, Seinfeld, and SNL). Mandel is a self-described “fat Jew from New York City” and the show certainly took a Jewish bent in terms of its sense of humor after he took the helm. Mandel explains that he is the “first to laugh if they are good jokes, a fat joke, a Holocaust joke, or anti-Semitism. If they’re great jokes.”
Under any other circumstances, hearing about a show with Holocaust and anti-Semitic jokes would automatically make me not want to watch. But Veep has a purpose other than to offend: to incite change. Politicians themselves have admitted that the show nails the “fragility of the egos, and the, like, day-to-day idiocy of the decision-making.” The offensive spitfire profanity matches and exposes the obscenity of politics.
So, let’s get into the best, devastatingly brilliant Jewish jokes of all seven seasons of Veep.
– Ben: “You’re as welcome here as a swastika-shaped shit in a synagogue” (Season 5, Episode 1)
– Amy: “I’ve eaten hummus with a pen cap, don’t tell me how I can eat” (Season 3, Episode 5)
– Ben: “What in the lunatic f**k is the master cleanse? Sounds like Nazi domestic policy.” Kent: “Little known fact about the Nazis. Their polling numbers within Germany, through the roof. Unbelievable numbers. (pause) Though also tragic.”
– Ben: “The Jewish demo couldn’t have been that good.” (Season 5, Episode 2)
– Jeff to Jonah: “Shut up, you gum-recessed face-anus! You harelipped diarrhea golem!” (Season 7, Episode 7)
And now, without further ado, the best Jewish jokes:
10. This parody of Jewish a capella groups (Season 5, Episode 7)
Jewish a capella is a thing, we all know this. There’s the Maccabeats, Six13, and other groups who churn out Jewish holiday hits every year. In this scene, we’re gifted with “The Brandeis Chigh-notes” who don’t actually exist (though there is a group named “Chai Notes” at Cornell that does).
9. “7/11 truthers” (Season 7, Episode 5)
What a pitch-perfect parody of 9/11 conspiracy theorists. In the much beloved and time honored tradition of blaming Jews for everything, conspiracy theorists manage to warp the story of Richard (one of the only characters with integrity on Veep) rescuing people after a plane crashed into a 7-Eleven in Iowa.
8. Anything involving Sherman Tanz (Seasons 6 and 7)
The character Sherman Tanz (played by Jonathan Hadary) is known for being a “private prison and payday lending magnate, Israel hyper-enthusiast, billionaire, convicted of tax fraud.” He’s such a lover of Israel that he serves on the Nixon library, on the basis of the fact that “Richard Nixon [was] a terrible anti-Semite. Great friend of Israel, though.”
Throughout these seasons, Tanz’s lines were peppered with Yiddish, and other characters often insult him as a “human melted candle,” “Fyvush fuckhole,” “Shlomo/Shylock Tanz,” and “Typhoid Moishe” who “puts the ‘Jews’ in ‘why people hate Jews.’” Despite the depth of these insults, the politicos of Veep love him for the depth of his pockets.
Selina faces many obstacles in working with Tanz; she has to defend his abusive prisons:
So while, yes, this guy seems like an anti-Semitic caricature, Veep creator Mandel modeled Tanz as a “quasi-Mercers-meet-Sheldon Adelson.” Keith Kahn-Harris, a sociologist specializing in anti-Semitism, writes in JTA that the show is “a program of monstrosities” and the character is no different.
7. Jonah’s conversion and circumcision (Season 6)
Tanz’s daughter Shawnee becomes engaged to Congressman Jonah Ryan in season 6. Jonah is pretty much universally hated by the other characters. Yet, despite his annoying personality and almost impressive incompetence, Jonah miraculously continues to not fail. After his engagement, he starts to convert to Judaism so he can marry Shawnee.
During season 6, episode 8, Jonah shuts down the government over Daylight Saving (not Savings!) Time because he missed a meeting (and subsequently lost financial support) with Sherman Tanz. When meeting with President Laura Montez (played by the hilarious Jewish Greek actress Andrea Savage) over the shutdown, she refuses to end daylight saving. Jonah immediately retorts:
Obviously, Veep doesn’t call it quits with Jonah’s conversion storyline there. In season 6, episode 7, we get to see into his “Jiffy Jew” — AKA conversion — classes. Jonah’s Jewish education starts with him confidently declaring that Moses led Jews to Hanukkah (promised land of latkes and gelt), asking if he can still go to heaven, and more ridiculousness.
And, after his circumcision, he does understand the core of Jewish existence: pain!
6. Orthodox anti-vaxxers (Season 7, Episode 6)
Which, of course, Jonah calls “the real America.” A very relevant joke, considering the dangerous rise of under-vaccination in Orthodox communities, that simultaneously also skewers Trump.
5. Selina’s voter base (Season 3, Episode 4)
After a controversy with a mother of a newborn who ambushes her with fracking concerns, Selina quips that if she loses women, she’s left with “gay Latinos and Jews at college.”
The show refuses to name political affiliations and chooses to be “equal opportunity offenders” so that “Republicans watch the show and think it’s about Democrats and Democrats watch it and think it’s Republicans.” However, this quote is one of many (e.g., this Colonel Sanders being her presidential opponent) that confirms Selina as a Democrat.
4. Pork Schmork (Season 2, Episode 2)
In the midst of controversy over Selina’s daughter’s college essay that is critical of Israel, the Veep team is walking on eggshells. In the midst of the controversy, Selina has to attend a pig roast in North Carolina, where Selina is forced to speak on the situation. This ends up in a situation where she eats a pork sandwich while addressing the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and “voicing solidarity with the Jewish people in front of rotating pork.” Double whammy.
Jonah then makes a very valid defense of the visual:
3. Anne Frank’s Bat Mitzvah (Season 5, Episode 4)
After fighting for a recount, Selina changes her mind once she realizes that she won’t be getting those votes. She says to “cancel this recount like Anne Frank’s bat mitzvah.”
This joke really sums up Mandel’s philosophy that “a great joke can help people laugh at something they maybe didn’t even want to.” Did I want to laugh at this? No. Did I? Most definitely.
2. Non-Jewish department stores (Season 6, Episode 6)
In one episode, Selina has to send the Egyptian president’s mistress a gift. Which leads to the classic dilemma of avoiding Jews because Macy’s, Neiman-Marcus, Bloomingdales, Bergdorf Goodman, Saks Fifth Avenue, and more department stores are all Jewish (and not just in a JAP way).
1. Selina’s Jewish?
Short answer: NO. Long answer: NOPE. And she won’t let you forget it. Being Jewish is as toxic to her political career as a three-day lodged tampon or a “a urinal cake in Chernobyl.”
It has been a recurring problem over the years, summed up by her criminal (and similarly gentile) ex-husband’s plan to escape to Israel:
All of this is to say, she is very aware of anti-Semitism’s role in the viability of a Jewish presidency. Not that she cares about anti-Semitism (cue her calling the governor of New York “Governor Snozzlestein”); she just cares about its impact on her success.
All hail the chief of political satire.
All screenshots from HBO