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Veep and Seinfeld star Julia Louis-Dreyfus won the Mark Twain Prize for American Humor.
Out of 25 previous winners, JLD became the sixth female to receive the honor in a ceremony held at Washington, D.C.’s Kennedy Center. Louis-Dreyfus joins an esteemed group of past winners, including Richard Pryor, George Carlin, Carol Burnett, and Tina Fey.
Before the actress could accept the award, comedians such as Jerry Seinfeld, Larry David, and Fey spoke heartfelt words and jokes to honor the comedienne.
“I’ve always liked Julia, maybe because I’d like to believe that we have a lot in common,” Fey said. “…Julia made the bold choice for her character Elaine Benes to wear long, loose dresses, flat shoes and over-sized coats and a center barrette. Julia was letting us know that she was the real deal comedy-wise, and she didn’t need to give us midriff for [us] to watch her work because, here’s the secret, Julia’s not afraid to be unlikable—not onscreen and not in person. Just try sharing an elevator with her.”
Seinfeld creator Larry David mentioned how he admired her dedication. “I want to congratulate Julia for this unbelievably prestigious award… Working with her was like being in charge of the Hope Diamond: I felt vastly protective and constantly in awe, a condition in which I still remain to this day. Congratulations, Julia. I love you.”
Several female colleagues mentioned how Louis-Dreyfus paved the way for women in the industry. Broad City’s Abbi Jacobson said, “Every time you create a character, you open a door, a door for another generation of young women to goofily walk through.”
The six-time Emmy Award winner spoke about this impressive honor. “I thought I was being asked to honor someone else… This is a great night, a great honor. Anybody would be lucky to be part of a night like this, honoring someone like me.”
Louis-Dreyfus was previously diagnosed with cancer, which delayed production on the final season of Veep. She recently revealed on Jimmy Kimmel Live that she is now in remission following surgery and chemotherapy.
“Cancer isn’t at all funny, but a big part of dealing with it has been finding the funny moments,” she said when she accepted her award. “The only cliché about laughter being the best medicine is it turns out to be true.”
The Mark Twain Prize ceremony airs on PBS November 19 at 9 p.m.