Sometimes in life you get a chance to right an historic wrong. To take a gross miscarriage of justice and fix it. To do something that realigns things in the universe and makes everything run smoothly again. We have that kind of opportunity staring us in the face right now. We must act. We must do the right thing. We must give Peter MacNicol an Emmy for his role as Uncle Jeff on Veep.
A little backstory is necessary. In season five, MacNicol appeared as Jeff Kane, a New Hampshire political boss and the uncle of Jonah Ryan (Timothy Simons), the show’s — all of television’s, really — favorite punching bag. Uncle Jeff was hilarious and profane in a way that stood out even on Veep, a show known for being hilarious and profane. He (and Peter) were among the best parts of a great season (shoutout to Richard Splett, always and forever), and HBO rightfully put him up for an Emmy in the Guest Actor category.
But then, disaster. To be eligible for a Guest Actor Emmy, you must appear in “less than 50 percent” of the show’s season. MacNicol had filmed scenes for four of the ten episodes by the time he was submitted, but after that he appeared on camera for 10 seconds of “archival footage” in the season’s ninth episode. This brought him to five total episodes, technically, and made him ineligible. His nomination was rescinded. And in the cruelest twist of fate, the 10 seconds that cost him a nomination we’re probably the best 10 seconds of a terrific season. Please put your headphones in if you are at work. Or don’t and get fired. I’m not the boss of you. Your boss is, though, so please reconsider the headphones.
This brings us to the present. In this week’s episode of Veep, Uncle Jeff returned to make his season six debut. He dropped in on his nephew — who was recovering in the hospital after getting a circumcision so he could marry the Jewish daughter of his corrupt private-prison-magnate financial backer — to inform everyone that he was replacing Jonah on the ticket with Cousin Ezra because Jonah orchestrated a disastrous government shutdown over Daylight Savings Time. This paragraph should serve as your notice that Veep is still hitting on all cylinders.
The scene is so good. It is so good. He charges in and takes over, ripping off insult after insult. In fact, just about every sentence he speaks is either an insult or a setup for one. There are some real doozies in there. Like, for example, this one, which a screencap does not do justice because you really must hear his delivery of it.
Or this one, which is the middle part of a longer insult but requires no context at all.
Or this one, which I made a GIF of because there are so many moving parts that you need to see it as a whole to appreciate it.
The whole thing is basically perfect, a small little tornado inside an episode that was also pretty great. A big part of that is the writing, sure. They gave MacNicol a lot to work with, and it is my personal belief — based on no evidence — that they stockpiled the best insults of the season to give to him for one big juicy “we’re sorry we cost you that Emmy” rack of lamb to gnaw on. But all the words in the world mean nothing without a performance that does them justice and, my God, did MacNicol ever do them justice. This was kind of like the library cop scene from Seinfeld (one of the best scenes by a guest actor in any comedy, ever), but meaner and louder and full of cusses. I mean, look at my man right here. Look at the evil glee in his eyes.
It’s beautiful. And in case you are wondering, yes, this performance is eligible for an Emmy, and yes, HBO has submitted it for a nomination. Here’s the official write-up for his submission:
Congressional King-Maker and Jonah’s uncle, Jeff Kane, returns with more sulfuric insults. Jeff delights in telling Jonah he’s dropping him from the Congressional ticket, he heckles Jonah’s fiancée to her face and cackles when she breaks up with him. There’s no greater pleasure for Jeff than seeing Jonah in pain.
“Sulfuric insults.” I suppose that’s a nicer way of saying “he calls his nephew an epileptic Picasso painting.” Either way, it works for me. The important thing here is that we fix what we all broke last year. No more technicalities. No more injustice. The time has come to give Peter MacNicol an Emmy for his role on Veep.