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October 25, 2019

INSIGHTS 2019: In conversation with Julia Louis-Dreyfus

The 2019 edition of Ceridian’s annual conference closed with a conversation with the award-winning actress and producer, who talked comedy, creativity, and words of inspiration.


INSIGHTS 2019 came to a close with a light-hearted conversation with actress, comedian, and producer Julia Louis-Dreyfus.

The actress, known for Seinfeld, The New Adventures of Old Christine, and Veep, took the stage to rousing cheers from the audience, and sat down for a discussion with INSIGHTS emcee Caleb McEwen.

First up: Seinfeld. Louis-Dreyfus said that the show’s writing was entirely different than any sitcom being made at the time. “It didn’t have that sitcom rhythm,” she added. “It was like a musical.”

On how the finale – watched by 75 million people – affected her emotionally, Louis-Dreyfus was reflective. “These were people I had worked with for nine years. If you had a job for an extended period of time – and a happy job – and your directive is to be as funny as a group as possible, how happy-making can that be? Saying goodbye to it was a bit heartbreaking. We all wept, and wept hard.”

Louis-Dreyfus provided an equally evocative answer for what she liked most about playing Selina Meyer, the Vice President of the United States (and President, for a single term) in HBO comedy series Veep.

“What didn’t I like? I like playing a toddler in a middle-aged woman’s body. It was like all bets were off from an ego point of view,” she said. “Nothing was her fault. She made one horrible decision after another and blamed everyone else. She was hyper-ambitious. All of that mashed up together, I loved it.”

The conversation later shifted to bigger picture themes – the current state of our world, finding balance, and human behavior.

On that last point, Louis-Dreyfus shared two bits of inspiration on being a good human.

One was related to a recent podcast featuring Malcolm Gladwell. A key takeaway for Louis-Dreyfus from the discussion was to examine your own behavior and understand that it’s good to admit when you’re wrong.

“It’s not necessarily such a good feeling to make a mistake,” she said. “But to admit [it], to own it, and take responsibility for being wrong is a grown-up thing to do. I think it can take tension out of the situation pretty dramatically.”

Louis-Dreyfus also shared a story about her high school physics teacher, Mr. Coyne, whose classes she loved because he was inventive and had a “great sense of joy.” Mr. Coyne, when returning papers to his students, would always write their grade, along with “Have fun at all costs.”

“This is a nice way to think about living your life,” Louis-Dreyfus said, laughing. “Have a good time, assuming there’s kindness connected to it and you’re not hurting other people.”

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