Stephen Colbert and Julia Louis-Dreyfus swapped stories about “Saturday Night Live,” Northwestern University, “Seinfeld” and the possibility of running for office during a Q&A held Saturday as part of Montclair Film Festival’s annual “Evening with Stephen Colbert” fundraiser.
Colbert, a Montclair resident, has long been a booster of the festival, which is going into its ninth year in May. More than 2,800 people turned up on Saturday for the benefit at Newark’s Performing Arts Center’s Prudential Hall.
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“Since you’ve played Selina Meyer (on “Veep”), have people sincerely asked you to run for office?” Colbert asked Louis-Dreyfus, who just wrapped a seven-season run as the ever-scheming politician at the center of the HBO comedy.
Louis-Dreyfus nodded before adding, “No. I won’t do it. Have they asked you?”
Colbert confessed that he has been asked to run for office. But like Louis-Dreyfus, he wants nothing to do with real-life politics.
“I’ve accused (the people who ask me to run) of mental illness,” Colbert quipped. “I’m like, ‘You’ve lost your mind!’”
Both stars are alumni of Northwestern University and reminisced about their days spent in Evanston, Ill. Louis-Dreyfus spoke about her departure from college at 21 to take a job at “SNL.”
Louis-Dreyfus described her three-year stint on the show with Eddie Murphy, Christopher Guest and Martin Short as a “brutal” experience.
“There were plenty of people on the show who were incredibly funny,” she said. “But I was unbelievably naive and I didn’t really understand how the dynamics of the place worked. It was very sexist, very sexist. People were doing crazy drugs at the time. I was oblivious. I just thought, ‘Oh wow. He’s got a lot of energy.’ ”
While it proved to be a rough three years, Louis-Dreyfus also found her time at “SNL” “informative.”
“I learned I wasn’t going to do anymore of this show-business crap unless it was fun,” she explained. “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 I’ve had since and that has been very helpful.”
For sure, one benefit to being at “SNL” in the 1980s for Louis-Dreyfus was meeting Larry David, who briefly worked as a writer for the NBC mainstay. The two bonded in part because they were both “miserable.” A few years after her departure, Louis-Dreyfus said she received a script written by David called “The Seinfeld Chronicles.”
“It did not resemble anything on television at that time,” she explained.
When Colbert asked if she had seen all 180 episodes of the NBC sitcom, Louis-Dreyfus said she had watched every one except for the pilot.
“Were you in the pilot?” Colbert asked.
“No I was not,” Louis-Dreyfus deadpanned.
As for her favorite “Seinfeld” episode, the eight-time Emmy winner explained that she didn’t have one. But she does cherish the memories of working with Seinfeld and others.
“(The cast) got a huge kick out of it,” she explained. “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. And If I looked at him and saw him doing that, then I would (crack) up. Anyway, it took a long time to shoot those things because I was ruining all the takes. And so that was my favorite thing.”
As for “Veep,” Colbert admitted that he wished Selina Meyer was president.
“It’s because no one, of any party, would defend (Selina’s) actions,” he explained. “It is so transparent, that there’s no defending what she did. I love the honesty of her mendacity and her selfishness. I just like it all laid out there, in a very human way. She’s understandable.”
Louis-Dreyfus agreed, saying of the character she played for seven seasons, “She’s an understandable, highly unlikeable person.”
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