Julia Louis-Dreyfus on Her SNL Days: ‘It Was a Pretty Brutal Time’

Julia Louis-Dreyfus Photo: Jon Kopaloff/Getty Images

Julia Louis-Dreyfus has always been honest about the fact that her time as a Saturday Night Live cast member in the ’80s wasn’t exactly the best experience. This weekend, she expanded on her thoughts during a conversation with Stephen Colbert at a fundraiser for Montclair Film.

“There were plenty of people on the show who were incredibly funny,” Louis-Dreyfus told Colbert, according to a release recapping the event. “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.” Speaking on drug use at the show more, Louis-Dreyfus added, “I don’t know how anybody could work stoned … It was a pretty brutal time, but it was a very informative time for me.” Thankfully, the experience at SNL turned out to be a useful lesson for the future Seinfeld and Veep star. “I learned I wasn’t going to do anymore of this show-business crap unless it was fun,” she told Colbert. “It is important, it’s so basic, but I just thought, I don’t have to do this. 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.”

Louis-Dreyfus has said similar things about her time at SNL in the past. During a SiriusXM Town Hall in 2013, she said she was “pretty miserable” on the show and described the environment as “dog-eat-dog.” Later, in a 2016 interview with the New York Times, she said, “I didn’t do anything particularly great when I was there. I didn’t. It’s fine. But I learned a tremendous amount. It was a very sexist environment. Since I’ve gone back, I can tell you it’s much more of an equal-opportunity environment.” She told NYT that she decided after the show she wouldn’t take any job “unless I can have a deep sense of happiness while doing it. I’ve applied that, moving forward, and it’s worked. So in that sense, I have SNL to thank.” A useful strategy indeed.

Julia Louis-Dreyfus on Her SNL Days: ‘A Pretty Brutal Time’