Julia Louis-Dreyfus was presented with a super-special award on Sunday: the Mark Twain Prize for American Humor, which has been awarded to one person annually for the last 20 years. She was roasted by celebrities including Bryan Cranston, Tina Fey, Lisa Kudrow, Kumail Nanjiani and Jerry Seinfeld before taking the stage herself to make a heartfelt speech that likely didn’t leave a dry eye in the house.
As reported by E! News, Louis-Dreyfus once again opened up about her 2017 breast cancer diagnosis, which delayed production on the final season of her hit HBO series, Veep. During her speech, Louis-Dreyfus said, “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 [sic] Emmys by somebody for doing something or other. Then, about 12 hours later, I was diagnosed with cancer, another hilarious turn of events.”
She continued, “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 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.”
Louis-Dreyfus is thankfully cancer-free after receiving treatment, which included chemotherapy and surgery. She went back to work on the set of Veep in August.
“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 during her speech on Sunday night. “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.”
At this point, Louis-Dreyfus was choked up. She said, “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.”
In an interview with The Washington Post published on Thursday, Louis-Dreyfus said she never even dreamed of walking away from Veep, even when her treatments left her exhausted. “I love making people laugh, and I love making people cry even, and I find the pursuit of a truthful performance to be deeply satisfying to my core,” she said.
Per E!, Louis-Dreyfus is only the sixth woman to be honored with the Mark Twain Prize. Her career has been long and illustrious, and we are grateful she is able to keep performing as her health continues to improve. Like she said, we all need laughter, and she provides tons.