From ‘Seinfeld’ to ‘Veep’ to her hilarious acceptance speeches and beyond, we can’t get enough of Julia Louis-Dreyfus.
On September 17 Julia Louis-Dreyfus made Emmy history when she collected her sixth consecutive award for Outstanding Actress in a Comedy Series for her role as the narcissistic, neurotic VP-turned-president on HBO’s Veep. The following day Louis-Dreyfus was diagnosed with breast cancer.
Nearly two weeks later she took to social media to share the news with her fans in the form of a note: “1 in 8 women get breast cancer. Today, I’m the one,” Louis-Dreyfus wrote. “The good news is that I have the most glorious group of supportive and caring family and friends, and fantastic insurance through my union. The bad news is that not all women are so lucky, so let’s fight all cancers and make universal health care a reality.
Not many people who receive such frightening news immediately think about how to help others, but that’s why we love Julia Louis-Dreyfus. Of course, it’s hardly the only reason — so to celebrate her 57th birthday on January 13, let’s count the ways we love JLD.
1. Her Groundbreaking Role as Elaine on Seinfeld
Not only did Elaine dance like no one was watching (who could forget the little kicks?), but her role on the show was groundbreaking. As the only woman in the cast, she wasn’t relegated to the role of “girlfriend” or “wife,” a rarity in ’90s sitcoms. Although Elaine’s friend group was comprised of three men and they treated her like one of them, she maintained her femininity. Elaine was just as blunt and — let’s be honest — obnoxious as her friends, and she unabashedly took part in the infamous “contest” with the guys.
In a behind-the-scenes retrospective titled Queen of the Castle: The Elaine Benes Story, Jerry Seinfeld himself said, “Julia Louis-Dreyfus, as far as I was concerned, was the key to the success of the show.”
But as it turns out, a lot of the reasons we love Elaine are thanks to Julia Louis-Dreyfus herself. As diehard Seinfeld fans know, the character didn’t get many fleshed-out plotlines in the first several seasons. So Louis-Dreyfus took matters into her own hands and talked to the writers, Jerry Seinfeld and showrunner Larry David.
“I didn’t think I was getting enough really meaty comedy stuff,” Julia Louis-Dreyfus explains in the retrospective. “I had stuff, but it wasn’t the really funny stuff and, not that it was a competition, but that is what gets me going. So [I spoke to them] and things started to happen.”
Seinfeld is absolutely right that she was key to the show’s success, but she may not have been if she hadn’t stood up for herself and asked that her character receive hilarious plotlines just like the male characters did.
2. She Didn’t Just Break ‘The Seinfeld Curse’ — She Shattered It
The oft-discussed “Seinfeld Curse” followed the four main cast members after the finale aired. When Julia Louis-Dreyfus won her second acting Emmy for her role on The New Adventures of Old Christine in 2006, she declared “Curse this, baby!”
But the show that completely shattered the curse is Veep, which premiered in 2012.
Julia Louis-Dreyfus excels at playing the most unlikeable characters possible and somehow making us love them. And, frighteningly enough, DC insiders from both the Republican and Democratic parties have described Veep as the most accurate political show on TV. Yikes.
It’s hard to imagine, but Veep’s success has topped Seinfeld’s, and it’s largely because Julia Louis-Dreyfus is such a perfect lead. She hurls the most creative insults at anyone and everyone in her vicinity and repeatedly proves that her physical comedy game is stronger than ever.
3. Her Hilarious Acceptance Speeches
I don’t want to live in a world where Julia Louis-Dreyfus doesn’t win the Emmy every single year. The most obvious reason, of course, is that she deserves it — but another is that we can always count on her to give a hilarious acceptance speech.
For example, in 2013 she accepted her Emmy in character. Tony Hale, who plays Selina Meyer’s loyal bagman on Veep, accompanied her to the stage where he held her bag and whispered lines in her ear, reminding her of little things like thanking her family and how much she loves them.
4. She Prioritizes Her Family
In an industry where most marriages seem to end in the blink of an eye, Julia Louis-Dreyfus’ family life is both sweet and refreshing. Unlike her unlucky-in-love characters, she recently celebrated her 30th wedding anniversary to Brad Hall, whom she met when they were students at Northwestern University.
In June she shared a wedding portrait of herself and Hall on Instagram and wrote, “30 years ago today this happened. So far so good.”
“What I love most is that at the end of the day, [my relationship] is the most important thing — and I can rely on that,” Louis-Dreyfus told Redbook in 2010.
Meanwhile, her two adult children are rising stars in their own right. Henry, 25, is an up-and-coming musician and Charlie, 20, plays basketball at Northwestern, his parents’ alma mater. Both Henry and Charlie seem to have inherited their mother’s sense of humor, and they frequently share hilarious posts to their social media accounts. Henry wished his mom a happy Mother’s Day by posting a photo of Friends star Courteney Cox, and Charlie made headlines (and impressed Jimmy Kimmel) by conducting locker room interviews with his basketball teammates during the NCAA playoffs.
When the Cats made it to the NCAA tournament for the first time in history, Julia Louis-Dreyfus generated attention from the stands when the cameras frequently cut to her very animated reactions. “You couldn’t keep me away,” she told Kimmel of the games. It was pretty fun to simply watch her play the role of proud mom for a change.
5. Her Blooper Reels Are Almost as Funny as the Shows Themselves
Julia Louis-Dreyfus’ Seinfeld bloopers became a running joke in themselves, especially because Jerry Seinfeld couldn’t help but goad her on. In fact, writers say the now-legendary “Festivus” scene almost didn’t happen because she just couldn’t stop laughing.
“She would start to laugh, and part of me was like, ‘Ugh, dammit, we gotta get this done so we can go home and get a few hours of sleep before we have to come back tomorrow morning and start all over again.’ But her laugh is so infectious and so enjoyable that everybody else would just start laughing,” writer Alec Berg recalled in 2015. “I can’t remember what the line was, but she was supposed to turn to him and say something and we must have tried to do that line 30 times and she just kept breaking.”
Based on the blooper reel from the Veep episode “Running” above, it seems Julia Louis-Dreyfus’ habit of giggling during hilarious scenes hasn’t changed much. And the bloopers are almost as fun to watch as the shows themselves. Louis-Dreyfus never takes herself too seriously, and the outtakes show just how much she enjoys her craft. That could explain why she’s just so damn good at it.
What’s your favorite Julia Louis-Dreyfus moment? Share it in the comments!