Like many young comedians, a college-aged Julia Louis-Dreyfus dreamed of performing on Saturday Night Live one day. So when the future Seinfeld star was cast on NBC’s sketch show at the tender age of 21 — before she had even graduated from Northwestern University — she was understandably thrilled. (Louis-Dreyfus has called the moment “a huge Cinderella-getting-to-go-to-the-ball kind of experience.”)
Unfortunately, actually being on SNL was more Grimm brothers fairy tale than sanitized Disney story. “I did not adapt well,” the three-time Emmy winner (and current nominee) told EW editor Jess Cagle at a recent SiriusXM Town Hall. In fact, Louis-Dreyfus continued, “I was pretty miserable.”
Why? To begin, Louis-Dreyfus was a greenhorn accustomed to the friendly, nurturing environment of improv comedy — whereas SNL was a “very dog-eat-dog” kind of place in the early ’80s. “Plus, there were a lot of drugs, and I didn’t realize everybody was on drugs,” she added.
At least the story has a happy ending. While struggling to stay afloat on SNL, Louis-Dreyfus made a friend who would eventually write her the role of a lifetime: Seinfeld co-creator Larry David. “Larry was there my third year,” she recalls. “He never got a sketch on the air. We sort of became friends because we identified with each other’s misery.”
Hear Louis-Dreyfus’ full Town Hall on EW Radio (SiriusXM channel 105) today at 8 p.m. ET.