Julia Louis-Dreyfus. Is she talented?
Seinfeld was one of the first shows I stumbled into watching after I landed in the US way back in 1997. As someone who loved movies and watched a good number of them, albeit primarily in my local language Tamil, with a smaller percentage in English, understanding accents didn’t come naturally to me. And I wasn’t unique. I was merely a reflection of the society I grew up in, none of which really understood accents other than their own.
And yes — just so there is no confusion. When I say accent, it means quite the opposite of what you are likely thinking (at least, if you happen to live in America). Back in India, we didn’t consider ourselves as the ones who had an accent. Everyone else did. Anyone who spoke the language differently from the way we did, they had an accent. And as you can imagine, it gets complicated rather quickly as none of us spoke like the other. So, it was a bunch of us speaking the English language the way we best could, all of which sounded very different but there were a few things in common — it sounded more like our native languages than English, it had as much grammar as we deemed necessary, and it wasn’t too complicated.
Now, why is that above paragraph relevant to Seinfeld, or more importantly, Julia. It is — because when I watched Seinfeld for the first time, and despite it being the very first show I got to watch in America only days after I landed, I didn’t have to make an effort in understanding it. And if you don’t understand what I mean by not having to make an effort in understanding it, it simply means that you don’t understand how hard it is for us to understand when you speak with an accent. Or, as you might call it, without an accent. It usually takes most of us many watches to understand Hollywood movies. And I am not talking movies along the lines of Howards End or Inglorious Basterds but rather simple ones like True Lies and Die Hard which shouldn’t require that you even know English to understand the movie. But it still took us a few attempts.
Coming from that background and immediately understanding Seinfeld was rather refreshing. The fact that it was set in New York (a city I had never been to), discussed the dating scene (as someone who had never dated much like most of my friends and society, not to mention), assumed that you understood the local culture (which I had no clue about, and 2+ decades in, still don’t), and more didn’t deter me from watching it but, on the contrary, encouraged me to watch more of it. So, I watched it.
I watched Seinfeld almost every day in 1997 (the year I arrived in the US). Then in 1998 (the year I decided to explore the art of Computer Science). In 1999 (the year I got married). In 2000 (the year my son was born). In 2001. In 2002. (You get the picture). In 2010… In 2015 (when my son watched it perhaps for the first time). In 2016 (with my son). In 2017… In 2021. In 2022 (with my son).
It may be worth mentioning that over these years, I hadn’t watched American Football. Or Baseball. Or Basketball. Or Ice Hockey. Or the Grammies. Not much, if any, TV. It was mostly Seinfeld, or nothing else (except for movies). I didn’t need Julia or Kramer or Jerry or George to even complete their dialogues (or even begin them) anymore. I knew what was coming. I knew it all. But that didn’t stop me from watching Seinfeld. That didn’t encourage me to watch something else. So, you could say I found my comfort zone in a single show. This brings us to Julia Louis-Dreyfus.
It’s hard to pick a favorite for me in Seinfeld. I love Kramer and think he’s one of the best actors ever. Doing Action-Comedy cannot be easy, certainly not the way Kramer does it. And who can’t love George. I doubt anyone can play a loser so convincingly. And Seinfeld is no muck either even if acting isn’t likely his biggest skill (it ought to have been his immaculate and ridiculously funny, not to mention timeless, writing). But, with all that said, it is actually not too difficult for me to pick a favorite.
It is Julia. I watched the show every single night for a variety of reasons, the same reasons, reasons that have hardly changed over the years, but one of the primary reasons was what Julia Louis-Dreyfus brought to the table. After all, what did she bring to the table? If you haven’t seen her in action, that would be a fair question to ask.
- Was it humor?
- Was it emotion?
- Was it versatility?
- Was it dialogue delivery?
- Was it her commitment to art?
- Was it her consistency?
It was all of that. Surely. But it was more. It was a lot more. Every time I watched the same episode, I noticed an additional thing or two. I enjoyed the episode even more. It was hard to not be impressed by her commitment to the art of acting. Clearly, she loved it. And when you see someone do something they love, it’s hard not to fall in love with what they do, in addition to falling in love with them. Her commitment was inspiring. I told myself I would give whatever I end up doing in life my very best, and if I could be half as good as Julia in whatever it is that I did (actually, and to be honest, much lesser than half is perhaps more than good enough), I would be immensely successful. But more importantly, immensely happy. After all, isn’t it happiness that we are all chasing?
Now, to my click baity question in the title of this blog as to whether Julia is talented. Well, I agree that it’s perhaps the dumbest question (even if intentionally so), and we all know that she is not just talented but hyper-talented. So, that’s not difficult to answer. But what is maybe not as easy to answer is what keeps her going. Sure, she loves what she does. Sure, she’s really, really, really good at what she does. But, more than all that, there’s got to be something that keeps her going. Of course, I don’t have the faintest idea what that is but that’s not going to stop me from speculating.
And I have to make a calculated guess as to what keeps Julia going after all these years, after all these awards, after all the wealth, I think it would be humility coupled with an insatiable appetite for learning. And I think that’s what inspires me the most about her.
As one goes through the Seinfeld episodes, it’s hard to not notice improvements from the primary cast. Everyone improves over time and that’s a no brainer but some people improve a bit more consistently, and at a faster pace, if you will. And outrunning Kramer or George isn’t an easy proposition for any actor I would imagine. Not even for Julia. But she did it. Time and again. As much as you could see the rest of the phenomenally talented crew improve over time, Julia went one step above all of them. She played the character to the tee. She brought life to the show. She brought variety. And I doubt she could have done all, or any, of that had it not been for her urge to continually learn.
So, as a software developer, if there’s one thing I think I’ve the ability to learn from Julia’s repertoire of talents, it is the fact that one ought to be humble about what one knows, and recognize how little we know of whatever it is that we think we know a lot of.
Thank you, Julia Louis-Dreyfus. The world of acting is forever richer because you decided to act. If you had decided to code, I’ve no doubts the world of software engineering would’ve been richer but there are a few people to fill that gap. Most of us can code but very few of us can dare to do what you do, let alone so well.
(And do not forget to watch the video above. Not unless you want to miss one of the best acceptance speeches ever).
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