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Mark Twain Prize honoree Julia Louis-Dreyfus: Laughter 'best medicine' for her cancer

Erin Jensen
Julia Louis-Dreyfus received the Mark Twain Prize for American Humor on Sunday, Oct. 21, 2018.

WASHINGTON – When receiving her Mark Twain Prize at the Kennedy Center Sunday, Julia Louis-Dreyfus shared how humor helped during her battle with breast cancer.

"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 Emmys by somebody for doing something or other," Louis-Dreyfus, 57, began. "Then about 12 hours later, I was diagnosed with cancer, another hilarious turn of events. 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," she continued, "which is good because that's what the current administration is trying to replace Obamacare with." 

The "Seinfeld" alum shared her diagnosis with the world in September 2017 on Twitter, writing: “One in 8 women get breast cancer. Today, I'm the one."

While Louis-Dreyfus underwent chemotherapy, production of "Veep" was put on hold. She returned to the set of "Veep" in August.

Sharing exactly how humor helped her get through treatment, Louis-Dreyfus painted an almost comical picture.

"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. "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 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," she added.

"Everybody needs laughs," she said, getting choked up. "So, 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." 

Contributing: Andrea Mandell

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