Julia Louis-Dreyfus on the first laugh she had – and the trip to the ER that followed: NPR
Julia Louis-Dreyfus still remembers the first time she made someone laugh: She was around 3 years old and stuck raisins up her nose, prompting a laugh from her mother – until she inhales the raisins and has to go to the hospital.
“I remember the emergency part particularly well,” says Louis-Dreyfus. “But I had the laugh, so here it is!”
Louis-Dreyfus spent most of his adult life making people laugh. She is best known for playing Elaine in the hit comedy series Seinfeldbut his credits also include SNL, The New Adventures of Old Christine and the HBO series Veep. Along the way, she has won 11 Emmy awards.
In the new movie, You hurt my feelingsLouis-Dreyfus plays a writer whose world is turned upside down when she learns that her husband hates the novel she’s working on – despite his assurances to the contrary.
“The film is a sort of meditation on the truths and slightly untruths that we tell our loved ones,” she says. “And I also think another idea that comes out of the movie is, are you your job? Who are you minus your job? Is your value completely tied to the work you do? That’s one thing. interesting to consider.”
On his acceptance speech for the Mark Twain Prize for American Humor
I felt such pressure. I thought I was going to die. No one was happier than me once I finished that speech. If you watch it on YouTube, there’s a lectern there and I have my hands on it almost all the time because I was so nervous I thought it was going to fall. It’s a huge room. I think there were like 2,500 people in there or something. And I was exceptionally aware of the business I was in, i.e. previous recipients. And if they give you an award for humor, you better kill it. I really felt the pressure.
Going public with her breast cancer diagnosis in 2017
I would never have intended to go public with my disease, but because we were doing [Veep] and I had hundreds of people counting on me, I had to speak about it publicly, because we had to close for several months. I’m more private than that…not something I would normally mention. But the good thing about it, about being public…is that a lot of people reached out to me because I said I was going through this and so I was able to reach out and help others with their cancer struggles. And that was very meaningful to me.
By playing Selina Meyer on Veep, and find comedy in her character’s internalized misogyny and rejection of feminism
I got the idea and I understood why it was so funny. It’s very difficult to be ambitious and to be a woman, and especially in politics, I think it is. So how do you reconcile all of this? It is complicated. And in this case, in a much older episode from another season, someone presented Selina Meyer with a speech where the first line was, “As a woman, I feel,” and she reads that speech and she says, “Well, first of all, as a woman, I never start a sentence with ‘as a woman’. “…She doesn’t want to identify as a woman because she sees herself as a woman as a second-class citizenship, that she doesn’t have the same opportunity if she kind of leans into being a woman. And you could argue that’s true. So I think for me it was a very funny idea to be a trapped woman. She is.
Co-starring with James Gandolfini in Enough said shortly before his death
I’m really very lucky to have had the chance to work with him. I think that role he played in Enough said was very close to who he was as a human being. He was a very tender and sensitive guy, not the Tony Soprano type at all. But I would say it was that kind of sensitivity and even vulnerability that he had as a human being. [that] did the role, his portrayal of Albert in this film Enough said, so sublime. But also, I really think that’s what helped define the role of Tony Soprano. He brought many layers to Tony Soprano. …I think that’s why this character stands the test of time. But he was a lovely human being. I think he was one of the great American actors. I really do. He was natural, natural in the cinema, very authentic, and sometimes he lacked confidence, which always amazed me.
In his new podcast, wiser than me
It was born out of a kind of desire that I had. I had watched the Jane Fonda documentary on HBO, and I was really quite struck by the enormity and breadth of Jane Fonda’s life. And I thought we don’t hear enough about older women. Why don’t we document these older women who have had so much life experience? And I thought about it a lot and I thought, I want to talk to older women and get their wisdom, get their kind of advice from the front lines of life. And so this idea was born, and that’s exactly what I’m doing. I talk to older women. And the conversation is really through the lens of “Tell us what you know, please.” I find that very inspiring. I take advantage of it.
Heidi Saman and Thea Chaloner produced and edited this interview for broadcast. Bridget Bentz, Molly Seavy-Nesper and Beth Novey adapted it for the web.