Julia Louis-Dreyfus Says Laughter Got Her Through Breast Cancer Treatment: 'Everybody Needs Laughs'

Julia Louis-Dreyfus said during her Mark Twain Prize acceptance speech that laughter helped her through breast cancer treatments

Photo: Scott Suchman

For Julia Louis-Dreyfus, the last 13 months have been a whirlwind. In September 2017, she won her sixth-consecutive Emmy, beating her own record. But just twelve hours later, she was diagnosed with breast cancer, and she spent the next few months in treatment. Now, in October 2018, Louis-Dreyfus is in remission, and on Sunday night she accepted the Mark Twin Prize for American Humor at the John F. Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C.

During her acceptance speech, the Veep star, 57, reflected on the experience and how laughter aided in her recovery.

“Last year, I was lucky enough to get an Emmy award for my performance on Veep, which was an incredible thrill — and it set some kind of a record for most the Emmys by somebody for doing something or other. Then, about 12 hours later, I was diagnosed with cancer, another hilarious turn of events. I’m only half-kidding, of course. Cancer isn’t at all funny, but a big part of dealing with it has been finding the funny moments,” Louis-Dreyfus told the crowd, which included Tina Fey, Jerry Seinfeld, Stephen Colbert and more.

21st Annual Mark Twain Prize For American Humor

The mom of two joked that laughter is the drug of choice these days, out of necessity.

“The old cliché about laughter being the best medicine turns out to be true — which is good, because that’s what the current administration is trying to replace Obamacare with,” she said.

Louis-Dreyfus said the closest people in her life kept the laughs coming while she was in the hospital.

“When I was getting my hideous chemotherapy, I’d cram a bunch of family and friends into this tiny treatment room with me, and we really did have some great laughs,” she said. “Of course, I was heavily medicated and slipping in and out of consciousness, so I was probably a pretty easy audience, but my point is that laughter is a basic human need, along with love and food and an HBO subscription.”

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“There’s no situation — none — that isn’t improved with a couple of laughs. Everybody needs laughs,” she said, tearing up. “The fact that I have had the opportunity to make people laugh for a living is one of the many blessings that I have received in my life.”

Louis-Dreyfus told PEOPLE in September that she has “so much to be grateful for.”

“I’m grateful to be alive,” she says. “I’m grateful for my heroic husband and our lovely young boys, or young men, I should say, who are our boys. And my friends and family. I’m grateful I have the life I have.”

“It’s just a joy to do what you want to do and have success with it,” she added. “That’s happened to me in my life and it doesn’t happen to everybody. I’m well aware I’ve had a great deal of good fortune.”

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