The actress joined the cast of NBC sketch comedy show in 1982, becoming the youngest female player at that time

By Diane Herbst and Aurelie Corinthios
December 09, 2019 01:04 PM
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Julia Louis-Dreyfus is reflecting on her difficult tenure at Saturday Night Live.

The Veep star sat down for a Q&A with Stephen Colbert on Saturday night at the New Jersey Performing Arts Center in Newark, New Jersey, as part of a fundraiser for Montclair Film’s annual “Evening with Stephen Colbert.”

Asked about her three years as a cast member on the NBC sketch comedy show, Louis-Dreyfus, 58, admitted it “was a pretty brutal time but a very informative time.”

Louis-Dreyfus joined the sketch series in 1982 at 21 years old, making her the youngest female cast member at the time. The cast included Billy Crystal, Eddie Murphy, Martin Short and Christopher Guest, plus her future husband Brad Hall.

“There were plenty of people on the show who were incredibly funny,” she told Colbert, 55. “But I was unbelievably naive and I didn’t really understand how the dynamics of the place worked.”

“It was very sexist, very sexist,” she continued. “People were doing crazy drugs at the time. I was oblivious. I just thought, ‘Oh wow. He’s got a lot of energy.'”

Julia Louis-Dreyfus and Brad Hall on SNL in 1983
RM Lewis Jr./NBCU Photo Bank/NBCUniversal via Getty

Louis-Dreyfus said she learned an important lesson on the show that she carries with her to this day.

“I learned I wasn’t going to do anymore of this show business crap unless it was fun,” she said. “I don’t have to walk and crawl through this kind of nasty glass if it’s not ultimately going to be fulfilling, and so that’s how I sort of moved forward from that moment. I sort of applied the fun-meter to every job since, and that has been very helpful.”

SNL also introduced her to then-writer Larry David, which would ultimately lead her to the beloved sitcom Seinfeld.

“We bonded because he was as miserable as I was,” she said of David, 72. “I would go into his office and cry a lot. He would bitch, and he would write sketches, and they would not see the light of day, and I was in all of them.”

After they both left SNL, Louis-Dreyfus got a call that David had written a show for Jerry Seinfeld tentativelt called The Seinfeld Chronicles — and the rest is history.

“What struck me is that it did not resemble anything on television at that time,” she said. “I was intrigued by it.”

“Jerry’s laughing the whole time. I mean, he can’t act at all and so he’s got a huge smile on his face when anyone is saying anything,” she continued. “And If I looked at him and saw him doing that, then I would crack up. It took a long time to shoot those things because I was ruining all the takes!”