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And the Winner Is… Julia Louis-Dreyfus (and Northwestern)

Julia Louis-Dreyfus

Julia Louis-Dreyfus (C83, H07) cemented her legendary comedic status with a historic sixth consecutive win in the Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series category at the 69th Annual Primetime Emmy Awards on September 17. She plays Selina Meyer on the HBO series Veep, which recently wrapped its penultimate season.

Stephen Colbert (C87, H11) was the host of the awards show.

Stephen Colbert

Having nabbed this award, Louis-Dreyfus now has seven Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy wins and is tied with fellow School of Communication Alumna Cloris Leachman (C48, H14) for most Emmys won by a female performer, numbering eight apiece.

Louis-Dreyfus’ domination did not come as a surprise. She was a shoo-in among Emmy prognosticators, and for valid reasons: she is widely considered one of the most gifted comedic actors in a generation, and Veep, which won its third consecutive Outstanding Comedy Series award, has become a cultural touchstone in a time of reality-show politics.

Louis-Dreyfus has won every year she’s played mercurial president Meyer, and this was her 24th overall Emmy nomination. Louis-Dreyfus advanced her already-record-setting streak to 11 overall Emmy wins, three as executive producer of Veep.

Her Outstanding Actress in a Comedy award in 2016 set a record for wins in this category (eclipsing Mary Tyler Moore and Candice Bergen) and wins in a row (one more than Helen Hunt). Louis-Dreyfus won the Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Emmy for the first time in 2006 as the titular character on The New Adventures of Old Christine, and earned a supporting actress award in 1996 for her work as Elaine on Seinfeld.

Cloris Leachman, who also studied theatre at Northwestern, earned her eight Emmys in a variety of categories: Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy, Guest Actress in a Comedy Series, Guest Actress in a Drama Series, Continued or Single Performance by a Supporting Actress in a Variety or Musical, and more. She has earned 22 Emmy nominations throughout her long and storied career and has additionally won a Daytime Emmy and a Best Supporting Actress Academy Award for her role in The Last Picture Show.

This was a banner year for Northwestern alumni Emmy nominees, with more than a dozen actors, writers, producers, and post-production specialists up for awards. Ashely Nicole Black (GC08), a writer for Full Frontal with Samantha Bee, took home the Outstanding Variety Special award at the Creative Arts Emmys the previous weekend. Seth Meyers (C96, H16) and Billy Eichner (C00), both nominees, were featured in the show as a presenter and in a pre-show gag, respectively. Both, unsurprisingly, got big laughs.

But the prize for biggest laughs of the night went to host Colbert, who showcased his clever, pointed, self-effacing wit in a pre-ceremony song-and-dance number, sketches, and a monologue taking aim at Hollywood and, of course, politics (featuring a surprise cameo by former White House press secretary Sean Spicer). Colbert, whose show The Late Show with Stephen Colbert lost to John Oliver’s Last Week Tonight in the Outstanding Variety Talk Series category, took a moment to languish in feigned disappointment during an impromptu bit with fellow late-night host Jimmy Kimmel. While sipping “specialty cocktails” of the “dry, British” variety, Colbert said, “Yes, it’s so high quality, they can only make it once a week.”

Now-legendary Louis-Dreyfus accepted her award toward the end of the evening, and kept her speech to the packed house at Los Angeles’ Microsoft Theater short but still meaningful. She thanked her “boyfriend” Brad Hall (C80), and her sons, and called her stint as Meyer “the role of a lifetime… utter joy.”

Congratulations to each and every one of our talented and accomplished Northwestern graduates in the creative arts and entertainment industry, many of whom are working on and for Emmy-winning and nominated programming.