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The Exquisite Immodesty of Julia Louis-Dreyfus

The Exquisite Immodesty of Julia Louis-Dreyfus

This week, an Amy Schumer creation is making the rounds that casts Julia Louis Dreyfus, Tina Fey, and Patricia Arquette as themselves, picnicking in the forest and celebrating JLD’s “last fuckable day.” On the face of it, Schumer encounters a trinity of feminist greats and we delight in their signature beats in equal measure: Patty’s warmth and Tina’s acuity. 

But there’s not enough oxygen for all of them. Julia Louis-Dreyfus is the building (or the meadow, if you will) and trounces them both. She brings trademark incredulity, physical comedy and sexy self-awareness. She has the best lines, and it’s her party after all, but that’s not why she pops against an Oscar-winner and a Mark Twain Prize recipient. If Meryl Streep had attended this picnic (Of course she was invited.), JLD still would have pulled focus. It’s what she does better than anyone else. 

Julia Louis-Dreyfus is a maple-glazed ham. I suppose she’s had to be, to hold her own with scene partners like Michael Richards and Jason Alexander. To attack her first season on Saturday Night Live. To elevate a lame midlife sitcom to Emmy triumph. To steal the heart of a movie from James Gandolfini at his finest. 

On this blog, I discussed how Taylor Schilling’s generosity on “Orange Is the New Black” evokes Mary Tyler Moore. JLD has a more certain place alongside Moore in the television hall of fame, but the two are vastly different. Moore let the magic happen all around her, but JLD isn’t afraid to compete with it, and win. If someone in her orbit wagers 10, she bets 1,000.

Watching the Schumer sketch, it occurred to me that as a performer, Julia Louis-Dreyfus might not be so different from her “Veep” character, Selina Meyer, as a politician. Meyer’s tragic flaw is an unshakable narcissism, self-absorption that manifests as obsession. JLD is a sincere and charming and phenomenal lady, but she never forgets she’s paid her dues. 

Julia Louis-Dreyfus is great and she knows it, and makes no apologies for actively seeking her light. So often we prize humility and generosity above hunger and gameness. When ladies win awards for playing bitches, they thank their husbands for “putting up with them” through filming. We don’t like for our actresses to be as powerful, commanding or ambitious as the women they play. 

But JLD is. She’s not afraid to make her mastery of comedy evident for all of us to see. On the awards trail for Enough Said, she wasn’t shy to revel in her own achievement. This isn’t to say she’s conceited, because she’s not. She’s just a gal at the top of her game. Julia Louis-Dreyfus is to comedy what Ruth Bader Ginsburg is to the Supreme Court or Martha Stewart is to living. 

If she wins her fourth consecutive Emmy this year, don’t expect JLD to feign “It’s too much!” modesty about her embarrassment of riches. For her, there’s no embarrassment, only riches.

This Article is related to: Features