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14 Presidential Facts About Veep

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The comedy Veep stars Julia Louis-Dreyfus as Vice President Selina Meyer, a woman surrounded by foul-mouthed staff members dictating all of her actions, all the way to the Presidency. It was created by Armando Iannucci, who created the British political comedy series The Thick Of It, and wrote and directed the Oscar-nominated spinoff film In the Loop (2009). Despite Veep finally taking home the Emmy for Outstanding Comedy Series for its fourth season, Iannucci left the show. Here are some facts about the series to read before you fall asleep on C-SPAN.

1. ARMANDO IANNUCCI PURPOSELY DIDN'T WATCH OTHER AMERICAN POLITICAL SHOWS WHEN HE DEVELOPED VEEP.

He didn't want to be affected by them, but he had seen and heard enough to notice what was missing to come up with a "starting point" for his new show. "We went into [Veep] thinking that the portrayal of Washington had either been really melodramatic in the dark arts and corruption or heroic and noble and the president is also a qualified jet pilot who can defend America from an alien invasion."

2. LYNDON JOHNSON'S CAREER WAS AN INFLUENCE.

Iannucci read The Years of Lyndon Johnson, Robert Caro's four-volume series on the life of the former POTUS/VPOTUS. “He found himself sitting in his office just drumming his fingers thinking, I’m doing nothing. But three years later he is president," Iannucci explained. "That’s what I thought was the funny side: Somebody who has a certain amount of influence finding himself diminished but going, ‘No no no, I’m important here.’”

3. JONAH RYAN IS BASED ON A REAL GUY.

Iannucci based the character of Jonah Ryan on a man he met at the White House. When he asked the staffer if they could meet for research purposes, the man made a big deal about how busy he was, even though President Obama's personal assistant and other senior White House officials had made the time. According to Matt Walsh, who plays Mike McLintock, Jonah was originally written as a "fat, short, heavy smoker." After Timothy Simons auditioned, that changed.

4. THEY GOT SOME INTEL BY GETTING D.C. STAFFERS DRUNK.

Actors Matt Walsh, Timothy Simons, Tony Hale (Gary Walsh), and Reid Scott (Dan Egan) took some young White House staffers out for drinks to learn more about the inner workings of Washington, D.C. Scott said they were "only too willing to spill everything" about their work. "Two phones" and "pencil-fu*k" were some of the terms they picked up from the beer summits.

5. SUE WILSON COULD WORK AT THE DMV.

When actress Sufe Bradshaw was trying to figure out the best way to play her no-nonsense, executive assistant character Sue Wilson, she remembered the Department of Motor Vehicles. "DMV workers are strait-laced and go by the book and they don’t have much time because there’s so much to do in a day," Bradshaw noted.

6. IMPROVISATION IS A PART OF THE WRITING PROCESS.

The first step in the writing process is a draft of a formal script. When the actors rehearse the scenes, they work in their own lines. The staff writers take notes and use some of the actors' additions and put those into the shooting script. After filming a few takes off of the final script, they shoot a "fun run" for the actors to ad-lib further.

7. HBO WANTED SELINA MEYER TO HAVE MORE OF A POLITICAL PURPOSE.

After screening the first episode, the network expressed some concerns. "We need to feel she has a set of beliefs—an identity, even if she compromises it, or alters it," HBO told Iannucci in a conference call. This led to Meyer introducing a desire for filibuster reform in the second installment. She also was less inept at her job.

8. THE CHARACTERS PURPOSELY LOOK UNFASHIONABLE.

Iannucci instructed production design and the costume department to dress the offices and characters to be 10 years behind New York, as he feels that is the case with the actual offices and wardrobes in Washington, D.C. Dan Egan, however, gets to look three years ahead of everyone else (making him only seven years behind New Yorkers).

9. MEYER'S TITANIUM-ENFORCED BOX WAS INSPIRED BY BARBARA BOXER.

As part of her research on politicians, Louis-Dreyfus discovered that the California senator stands on a box when speaking.

10. SOMETIMES GARY WALSH IS LOOKING INTO HIS BAG SO THAT TONY HALE CAN HIDE A LAUGH.

When Tony Hale is looking at the ceiling or looking through his bag, he's being "awful and completely unprofessional" and trying not to ruin a take by cracking up. While Hale is usually the worst at keeping a straight face, Matt Walsh admitted he breaks character the most during the limo scenes.

11. BEN CAFFERTY COULD HAVE BEEN KENT DAVISON.

After reading for the role of Kent Davison (which eventually went to Gary Cole), Kevin Dunn asked if he could try out for Ben Cafferty, the President's Chief of Staff. He joined the cast in season two.

12. IT TOOK A WHILE FOR LOUIS-DREYFUS TO REALIZE SHE HAD WORKED WITH KEVIN DUNN BEFORE.

After wrapping up a day of shooting Veep, Louis-Dreyfus randomly found a Seinfeld rerun on TV. She spotted her co-star, Dunn, on the episode. Since Louis-Dreyfus' character Elaine Benes wasn't in the Seinfeld pilot, the first episode she worked on was "Male Unbonding," which featured Dunn as Joel, the friend Jerry tries to break up with.

13. THEY ALWAYS SAY NO TO POLITICAL GUEST STARS.

Iannucci said he frequently gets requests from politicians who want to make cameos, but that he has a policy of saying no because it might tip off Selina's or the POTUS' political ideology.

14. IT'S WATCHED BY SOME SUPREME COURT JUSTICES.

Associate Justice of the Supreme Court Elena Kagan told Louis-Dreyfus that she would have lunch once a week with fellow justice Antonin Scalia, where they would talk about Veep

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Shout! Factory
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The Mystery Science Theater 3000 Turkey Day Marathon Is Back
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Shout! Factory

For many fans, Mystery Science Theater 3000 is as beloved a Thanksgiving tradition as mashed potatoes and gravy (except funnier). It seems appropriate, given that the show celebrates the turkeys of the movie world. And that it made its debut on Thanksgiving Day in 1988 (on KTMA, a local station in Minneapolis). In 1991, to celebrate its third anniversary, Comedy Central hosted a Thanksgiving Day marathon of the series—and in the more than 25 years since, that tradition has continued.

Beginning at 12 p.m. ET on Thursday, Shout! Factory will host yet another Mystery Science Theater 3000 Turkey Day marathon, hosted by series creator Joel Hodgson and stars Jonah Ray and Felicia Day. Taking place online at ShoutFactoryTV.com, or via the Shout! Factory TV app on Apple TV, Roku, Amazon Fire and select smart TVs, the trio will share six classic MST3K episodes that have never been screened as part of a Shout! Factory Turkey Day Marathon. Here’s hoping your favorite episode makes it (cough, Hobgoblins, cough.)

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Troma Entertainment
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11 Bite-Sized Facts About Cannibal! The Musical
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Troma Entertainment

Back in their film school days, the creators of South Park made a twisted tribute to Rogers and Hammerstein. Cannibal! The Musical is (very) loosely based on the life of Alfred "Alferd" Packer, an American prospector who resorted to eating his travel companions in the harsh winter of 1874. Below, you’ll find a buffet of bite-sized facts about this weirdly upbeat black comedy. Bon appétit!

1. IT ALL STARTED WITH A GAG TRAILER.

In 1992, Trey Parker was studying film at the University of Colorado, Boulder, where pretty much everyone knows all about the legend of Alfred "Alferd" Packer. Indeed, when a new restaurant opened up on campus in 1968, the student body chose to name it after this famous man-eater. The restaurant’s slogan? “Have a friend for lunch.” As a joke, Parker rounded up some of his fellow film majors and spent three days shooting a phony trailer for a nonexistent movie called Alferd Packer: The Musical. Included in the ensemble was Matt Stone, with whom Parker would go on to create South Park.

Once the Alferd Packer promo was finished, those who worked on it weren’t sure if they could turn this concept into a feature-length picture. Fortunately, the trailer was a huge hit. “People thought it was really funny,” Parker told The Denver Post, “so we went around … and said, ‘So do you want to invest?’” Thanks (for the most part) to donations from a few CU grads with wealthy parents, Parker and his co-stars amassed a $100,000 budget.

2. LIANE THE HORSE WAS NAMED AFTER TREY PARKER’S EX-FIANCÉE.

At age 21, Parker was all set to marry his high school sweetheart. “We had plane tickets, the dress was bought, the church was paid for,” Parker shared on the DVD commentary. Then, about a month before the wedding, he caught his bride-to-be with another man. Devastated, Parker broke off the engagement and came up with an unusual way to get even. “I really wrote this movie for her,” he said.

A major character in Cannibal is Liane, Packer’s beloved horse, who leaves him for another rider. The two-timing equine was named after Parker’s former fiancée. Some artistic license was taken here, as there’s no proof that the real Packer ever owned a horse named Liane—or that he ever wistfully sang about being on top of her.

3. AN AVANT-GARDE LEGEND WAS CAST IN A MINOR ROLE.

World-renowned for his experimental filmmaking, the late Stan Brakhage taught off and on at the University of Colorado, where he met Parker and Stone. The two convinced him to appear in Cannibal! as George Noon’s father, who gets about two minutes’ worth of screen time.

4. PARKER’S DAD WAS IN IT, TOO.

Just like Stan Marsh’s dad in South Park, Trey Parker’s father, Randy, is a geologist. In Cannibal! The Musical, he portrays the Breckenridge judge who sentences Packer (played by Trey) to death.

5. “SHPADOINKLE” WAS MEANT AS A FILLER WORD.

In addition to penning the Cannibal! script, Parker also wrote the film’s musical numbers. The first of these is “Shpadoinkle Day,” an offbeat tribute to “Oh, What a Beautiful Morning” from Rodgers & Hammerstein’s Oklahoma! Parker knew that the first verse had to include a positive, three-syllable word, but couldn’t think of any that fit. So he used the made-up term “Shpadoinkle” to plug the gap until he could come up with an alternative. However, the creative team liked “shpadoinkle” so much that it stayed put and became one of Cannibal’s running jokes.

6. THEY SHOT IN THE COURTROOM IN WHICH PACKER WAS ACTUALLY TRIED.

On April 6, 1883, Packer was put on trial at the Hinsdale County Courthouse in Lake City, Colorado. Over the next few days, he admitted to dining on two of his dead travel companions—one of whom he supposedly killed in self-defense (the other died of natural causes). Packer was found guilty of murder, but avoided the hangman’s noose by fighting for a second trial, which took place 30 miles away in Gunnison. This time, he was charged with five counts of voluntary manslaughter and sentenced to 40 years in prison. However, while Packer languished behind bars, public opinion slowly turned in the cannibal’s favor. Under near-constant pressure from The Denver Post, Governor Charles S. Thomas pardoned Packer in 1901.

More than 90 years later, Parker filmed the trial scenes of Cannibal! The Musical at the still-standing Hinsdale County Courthouse. About halfway through the movie, the judge delivers a big speech in which he sentences Packer to death. His on-screen monologue was copied word-for-word from the court transcript of that 1883 Lake City trial.

7. AS THE MINERS SING “THAT’S ALL I’M ASKING FOR,” YOU CAN SEE PARKER MOUTH THE WORD “CUT.”

It goes by fast, but you can see Parker call "cut" to end the shot at the 3:06 mark in the clip above.

8. PARKER USED A PSEUDONYM FOR THE OPENING CREDITS.

Parker billed himself as "Juan Schwartz" in the cast of Cannibal because, according to the movie's website, "Trey doesn't like seeing one person's name plastered all over a movie's credits." Since he is properly credited as writer and director, he likely felt the additional acting credit was a bit too much. Incidentally, Packer called himself “John Shwartze” while evading the law before his arrest.

9. A FEW SONGS WERE DELETED.

The original cut of Cannibal! The Musical ran for two and a half hours, but thanks to some major-league editing, the runtime was reduced to a breezy 93 minutes. “There were fights about that from the get-go, but I give credit to Trey for being the toughest critic,” producer Jason McHugh told MovieMaker Magazine. “He had the maturity to know that a musical comedy about cannibals can’t be two and a half hours long.”

In the streamlining process, two musical numbers got the axe. The first was a quick little dirge called “Don’t Be Stupid,” wherein some nameless miners tell Packer’s group to postpone their journey until springtime. The other was “I’m Shatterproof,” a rap/funk song that Packer, hardened by his recent ordeals, delivers during a bar fight. Also deleted was a reprise of “When I Was On Top of You.”

10. COMEDY CENTRAL WOULDN’T BROADCAST IT.

Cannibal! was distributed by Troma Entertainment, an independent production company best known for creating The Toxic Avenger series. When South Park began to emerge as a major player on cable TV, Troma’s co-founder, Lloyd Kaufman, assumed that Comedy Central would jump at the chance to air some of Parker and Stone’s earlier work. Instead, the channel flatly refused to air Cannibal.

Kaufman was sent a rejection letter from Comedy Central, which read: “Thank you for submitting and re-submitting Cannibal! The Musical, but it is simply not up to our standards for broadcasting.” Troma forwarded a copy of this dispatch to Parker. Today, it’s prominently displayed in his office—at Comedy Central!

11. IT HAS BEEN TURNED INTO A STAGE MUSICAL ON MANY OCCASIONS.

Can’t get tickets to The Book of Mormon? Perhaps you can catch a live reenactment of Cannibal! The Musical instead. Since 1998, the movie has been seen more than 60 stage adaptations. There’s no “official” version of the theatrical show. As such, acting troupes that might be interested in performing Cannibal! have to write their own scripts based on the original movie. 

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