The star shows off her "sharp, precise, blindingly quick comic skills" in the political comedy

By Tom Gliatto
Updated April 23, 2012 07:15 AM
Martin Schoeller/HBO

I am trying to imagine a marble bust of Julia Louis-Dreyfus. This bust rests atop a marble pedestal, and the pedestal sits in a gleaming marble hall.

Can’t do it. The hair is too chic, for one thing, and that’s hard to sculpt. So, I’ll spell it out: Veep, the new HBO comedy in which Louis-Dreyfus plays a vice president of very little brain, puts her firmly in the pantheon of TV’s great comedic actresses.

Yes, yes, yes, Louis-Dreyfus already proved she was fantastic playing Seinfeld‘s Elaine, the woman who invented the urban sombrero. But that was an ensemble role. And she was lovely, relaxed and charming as a divorced mom on her mellow sitcom vehicle The New Adventures of Old Christine.

Veep, though, is Julia Louis-Dreyfus unbound.

She plays Selina Meyer, a former Maryland Senator who would happily step up to president (you’ll see how happily in an upcoming episode) but who doesn’t have the political clout or competence to adopt a shelter dog. The vice president is too much of an egomaniac to know this – or, if she does, the realization darts in and out of her mind like an unusually translucent hummingbird. And then she furiously throws herself back into the game.

That’s the fun of Veep: Watching Louis-Dreyfus bring her sharp, precise, blindingly quick comic skills to a character who exists only in panic mode, frantically spinning herself out of her latest political predicament.

The actress’s energy of attack here is unflagging and exhilarating. It’s a little like watching a weed-wacker attack a redwood forest.