Julia Louis-Dreyfus Acceptance Speech | 2018 Mark Twain Prize

Julia Louis-Dreyfus Acceptance Speech | 2018 Mark Twain Prize

When Mark Twain first emailed me about
the Mark Twain Prize I have to admit I totally misunderstood, I assumed that I
was being asked to honor somebody else who was receiving the Mark Twain Prize
and I thought, “Oh my god what a hassle. I mean, seriously, who would put me through
this? I have to go all the way to Washington DC which, no offense, is a nightmare
and make up flattering things to say about how funny someone else is? No ——— way. (laughter) And then, I reread the email, and I
realized, “Oh, it’s me! They’re giving it to me! I get the prize!” And my attitude about the
whole thing changed, it really did. I don’t know—honestly!
(laughter, applause) I really don’t know what I was thinking,
this is a great night, and a great honor and in beautiful Washington DC no less! Anybody would be lucky to be a part of a night like this honoring
somebody like me, right? (laughter) As a great fan of the
work of Mark Twain I was so sorry when I recently
learned he was dead. (laughter) My thoughts and prayers go out to the whole Twain family especially the wonderful Shania. (laughter, applause) Unfortunately the President of the
United States couldn’t make it tonight either, even though he lives in the
neighborhood Mondays through Wednesdays. (laughter, applause) I am so lucky to have been on television
doing comedy for more than 35 years isn’t that ridiculous? It’s, you know, the
really ridiculous thing is that I am just as good at drama. Yeah, I’m gonna
tell you a little story, it’s a little trivia, the the very same week that I got
cast in Seinfeld, I was being considered for the juicy little part of Portia in
director Sir Peter Hall’s Broadway production of The Merchant of Venice
apparently I didn’t get the part since someone else eventually played the role
on the stage and, you know, of course I’m happy that I didn’t get that part
because if I had, I would never have played Elaine on Seinfeld, and without
Seinfeld I would not be here today so you know it worked out great, totally
fabulous, no regrets here, none at all. None whatsoever. Anyway,
I think it’s time for me to get into some serious thank-yous. Abbi and Ilana, thank you so much
for taking time out of your busy schedule just to be
completely clear I gave an excellent audition for Merchant of Venice, okay, I
mean just objectively speaking now, I, I nailed it, okay, so I’m just a little
confused as to why Peter Hall didn’t cast me. That’s all, that’s all. I’m not upset
obviously because I love comedy, and I love my career. Uh, so, um. Where was I? Oh yes yes yes. Keegan! Oh my god, Keegan Michael-Key! I thank you so much for being here on my
special night look Sir Peter Hall might have made a mistake. okay?
My audition was Portia’s speech about
mercy, you all probably know the scene, I mean
obviously, I am NOT gonna perform it right now, because that would be a pretty
weird tangent to hear Shakespeare intelligently and energetically
performed in the middle of a comedy tribute to me so, ahem. Kumail, thank you for being here.
It is so inspiring that you were able to co-opt your wife’s
harrowing medical ordeal for an Oscar nomination. (laughter, applause) Bryan Cranston, you are a truly
incomparable talent and a pleasure to work with, you know when I think of us on
Seinfeld, um—look, I’m just going to do it. You want to hear it, right? I can do Shakespeare, okay? (laughter, cheers) (clears throat) The quality of mercy is not strain’d! It droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven upon the place beneath! It is TWICE bless’d. It blesseth him that
gives and him that takes! (laughter, cheers) Thank you. Thank you. And Stephen Colbert, my fellow
Northwestern alum, thank you so much for being here, you were my every night hero
when at 11:35 a nation turns its lonely eyes to you woo-woo-woo. (laughter, cheers) Stephen used to play a manic
conservative, and now he plays a depressed liberal, THAT is range,
ladies and gentlemen. It is so great to see Lisa Kudrow here, setting me up just like in
the old days when Friends would set up Seinfeld, and just like in the old days
Jerry’s, got all the money. And my darling, dear, sweet, Tony Hale. If I weren’t
already married and Bryan and Keegan
weren’t already married and if you weren’t already
married, then I’d definitely get your opinion about any
guy I was dating before marrying him. (laughter, applause) And Tina Fey, you are a comedy genius
whom I admire above all humans Tina was honored with the Mark Twain
prize, too – you know before they got real serious about who they
give these things to. And thanks to my wonderful neighbor Jack
Johnson, I was gonna make a joke about Jack Johnson, but for the love of God
can’t something remain sacred this evening? and finally to my wonderful
friend, Jerry Seinfeld, I learned a lot from Jer over the years, principally, the
importance of hard work. Jerry killed himself to make Seinfeld
good. He and Larry David worked so hard, it is, actually, it is impossible to
describe, and they didn’t just do it to make the show successful, because
once it was successful, they worked even harder, and I hope, I
hope a little of that rubbed off on me. I grew up here in Washington DC back
during the quaint, old-fashioned “rule of law” period. (laughter, applause) Being funny was a big part of my growing
up, my great-grandmother Bessie was the first person I remember telling jokes. She was in her 90s, and I was really little, and she would do these extremely
repulsive impressions of her first-grade teacher having life-threatening seizures,
at least I think it was an impression, anyway! either way, I realize now, that it was offensive, and she was way way out of
line, but when I was 5 years old hilarious stuff! My mom and dad got
divorced when I was 3, also hilarious! My mom is actually here tonight
with 80 of her closest friends. (laughter, applause, cheers) 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 the most Emmys by somebody for doing something or
other, and 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. The old cliche 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. (laughter, applause) 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, 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. There’s no situation,
none, that isn’t improved with a couple of laughs, everybody needs laughs. So the
fact that I’ve had the opportunity to make people laugh for a living is one
of the many blessings that I have received in my life. (applause, cheers) According to Wikipedia, I have two sons,
Charlie and Henry. You know when you’re a working mother, you really worry about
the time spent away from your kids, you try your best to be there as much as
possible, but the truth is that you miss stuff, and you worry that they’re
gonna just get all screwed up and suffer all kinds of angst and neuroses when
they grow up and then you get the Mark Twain Prize,
I gotta say it’s worth it! (laughter, applause) I’d also I’d also like to acknowledge my
cherished husband Brad Hall, who I didn’t just marry because his name sounds like
Peter Hall and it kind of felt like I was getting the part. Brad never fails to
show up at events like this very one. He puts on a suit, he puts on a smile,
and is the most supportive and present spouse in the world. Thank you. (laughter) Thank you so, so much,
dear Brad. Thank you. And finally, thanks to Mark, and Mrs.
Twain, and to everyone who has participated in this exhausting evening. Thank you so much, and good evening and thank you. (applause, cheers)

100 thoughts on “Julia Louis-Dreyfus Acceptance Speech | 2018 Mark Twain Prize

  1. Remember when she took Obama to task for arresting reporters and locking children in cages? Me neither…

  2. great team on Seinfeld…funny stuff…well deserved Julia LD…however, have to say it..Stephen C. is not funny.

  3. Sadly she got political, and is a reason a lot of people are no longer tuning in to see these self aggrandizing shows any more. The effort to also turn them into a virtue signaling and social justice warrior audition takes the enjoyment out of it. A little political humor is fine, especially if it is directed at both sides. But the combination of everyone being afraid to make fun of or criticize Obama for 8 years (out of fear of PC accusations of racism) was obvious.

    Now like locusts swarming every so often, a Republican is in office, so they feel free to attack, even when it is not funny. Now we have those suffering with TDS, and even what could be funny jokes about Trump are lost with the venom and vile hatred being spewed by the Hollywood types.

    Julia did not go over the top in this instance, but she is talented enough to have a funny acceptance speech without involving politics.

  4. That was fantastic. Going inti to politics takes away from it quite a bit, but overall enjoyed it. Great speech

  5. Brilliant. Just got done watching Veep. Three months ago all I knew about her was Elaine. This woman is comic genius. This speech was genius.

  6. As ALWAYS, Julia nailed it. She has entertained and made me laugh for years. A well deserved award…Bravo!!!

  7. Julie's side-swipes at the Drunk Admin are hilarious. Especially since she and Joe Biden did the whole white-house schtik

  8. When I listen to Julia using a time when she is being greatly honored to mouth off on her political opinions, I realize how much I love the character of Elaine but wish the person who played her had as much “grace” 😉

  9. I didn't know the voice of Princess Atta from A Bug's Life, would be such an amazingly hilarious and such an underrated actress and comedian! Guess i learned something new for today.

  10. Her speech was hilarious and heartwarming but more notable is her exquisite timing. Sheer genius. A good heart and a very very funny woman.

  11. I loved that she did the Elaine little kicks during Shakespeare speech. And that "laughter is the best medicine " segue into Obamacare joke had perfect timing and devliery ! Loved it !

  12. I've watched this several times and I still LMAO when she says she grew up in Washington during the quaint "rule of law" days. Her delivery is wonderful.

  13. Gary Walsh (Tony Hale) must go down as the best assistant character of all time… I mean, he even assists her outside of the show…

  14. she was clearly nervous but she delivered. it was funny and heartfelt. could have done without the politics though

  15. And then u get the Mark Twain award and it's all worth it! Lol I cried when she cried because cancer ain't no joke and chemo is horrible, but she kept keepin on like the BADASS she is. She has brought a whole lot of joy into this world and I'm sure there is much more to come because she is a fighter…RESPECT!

  16. That 'prize' is a fragile, hollow, ceramic, cheap little deformed statue. It would be better if it was just a chocolate Easter bunny.

  17. Seriously such a heartfelt and funny speech. Julia's truly deserving of it. And I haven't even seen Seinfeld.

    P.s.: Absolutely ADORE Tony Hale's dedication to the role of Gary at times like these.

  18. Great speech Julia! And no one has ever deserved that award more than you do. You’re a national treasure!

  19. Ah yes. It's great for rich people to bring up the glory that is Obama Care. Because telling uninsured low income people they have to spend $200 a month on terrible insurance or spend $100 a month not to have insurance isn't the biggest joke of them all.

  20. Coming from an English man i will say that she is one of your finest exports. A true comedy genius. There really aren't many who are on her level. She could actually be the closest you get to an American with a British sense of humour. She is truly worthy of being a Python.

  21. She didn't mention Larry David?
    Probably not for that reason but I thought he's jokes about her cancer was in terrible taste.

  22. Not many folks talk about "The New Adventures of Old Christine" on top of allllllllllllllll her other stuff, that's one Series I will watch over and over and over again!! Love ya Julia!!! XOXOX

  23. I'm surprised she didn't thank Larry David… or did I miss that? I only ask because they did SNL together for a bit and they knew each other through Seinfeld and are friends.

  24. According to the New York Times, "the real star of the evening (was) Geraldine James's Portia" – https://www.nytimes.com/1989/12/20/theater/review-theater-merchant-restored-as-a-comedy.html

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