Washington, 22 Oct (AP/UNB) — After a 35-year acting career and with two iconic television characters to her name — Elaine Benes of "Seinfeld" and foul-mouthed Vice-President Selina Meyer — Julia Louis-Dreyfus has been honored with the Mark Twain Prize for lifetime achievement in comedy.
On Sunday night at Washington's Kennedy Center, the 57-year-old actress received a stream of testimonials from celebrities including Jerry Seinfeld, Stephen Colbert and 2010 Mark Twain recipient Tina Fey--touching on the multiple aspects of her career.
Fey paid tribute to Louis-Dreyfus at the award ceremony by tracking the similarities between their lives.
"We both started comedy in Chicago. We both moved on to 'Saturday Night Live.' We both lost our virginity to Brad Hall," referring to Louis-Dreyfus' husband and former SNL castmate sitting next to the honoree. Fey praised the "secret precision" of Louis-Dreyfus' comedy and her willingness to make her Seinfeld character so flawed.
"Julia let Elaine be selfish and petty and sarcastic and a terrible, terrible dancer," Fey said. "Julia's never been afraid to be unlikable--not on screen and not in person."
Louis-Dreyfus is the 21st Mark Twain recipient, joining a list that includes Richard Pryor, George Carlin and Carol Burnett. Bill Cosby, the winner in 2009, had his award rescinded earlier this year after he was convicted of three counts of aggravated indecent assault.
During last year's ceremony to honor David Letterman, Cosby's name was never mentioned. But this year, two of the performers felt comfortable making Cosby jokes. Late night host Stephen Colbert displayed a sign proclaiming, "167 days since the last Un-Twaining."
With his fingers crossed, he told Louis-Dreyfus, "I think you'll be OK."
Later Keegan-Michael Key come onstage, dressed as Mark Twain himself and proceeded to roast many of the previous award recipients. When a picture of Cosby was briefly shown, Michael-Key quickly moved things along and said, "It's OK, he's not watching," then added that he doubted PBS was a popular channel "in the penitentiary."
Seinfeld, while on the red carpet before the ceremony, recalled first meeting Louis-Dreyfus during an informal audition. His iconic sitcom, "Seinfeld," was still in the planning stages and producer Larry David knew Louis-Dreyfus from their time together on "Saturday Night Live."
"We had just two short pages of script, and we sat down to read the dialogue together," Seinfeld said. "As soon as she opened her mouth, I knew she was the one."
Seinfeld also credited Louis-Dreyfus for having the confidence and strength of personality to hold her own on what he called "a very male show."
That confidence was evident very early for Louis-Dreyfus, who said she knew as a young child that she had a gift for comedy.
"The first time I really knew was when I stuffed raisins in my nose and my mother laughed. I ended up in the emergency room because they wouldn't come out!" Louis-Dreyfus said before the ceremony.
Comedian Kumail Nanjiani grew up in Pakistan and never saw an episode of "Seinfeld" until he immigrated to the U.S as an adult.
"But I became a huge fan as soon as I moved here," he said.
The co-writer of the movie "The Big Sick" particularly recalls her iconic, slightly convulsive "Elaine Benes dance" on the show, which he credits to Louis-Dreyfus' gift for physical comedy.
"There are some comedians who think physical comedy is beneath them," he said. "But she was just fearless and ego-less."
At the end of the night, Louis-Dreyfus accepted her award with an extended comedic bit and a few shots at new Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh.
The veteran comedic actress first drew laughs by repeatedly referencing her true life's ambition to be a respected dramatic actress_stopping in mid-speech to deliver a monologue from Shakespeare's "Merchant of Venice."
A native of the Washington suburbs in Maryland, Louis-Dreyfus is a graduate of the elite Holton-Arms school, alma mater of Christine Blasey Ford, who accused Kavanaugh of assaulting her at a high school party.
Louis-Dreyfus make a veiled but unmistakable reference to Ford's testimony_framing it around her performance a high school presentation of the play "Serendipity."
"I can remember every single aspect of that play that night, so much so that I would testify under oath about it," she said, to a round of laughter and applause. "But I can't remember who drove me there or who drove me home."
Louis-Dreyfus emerged from Chicago's famed Second City comedy troupe before joining the cast of "Saturday Night Live." Her best-known role is her nine-year run as Elaine Benes on "Seinfeld." More recently, her work as Vice President Selina Meyer on "Veep" earned her six consecutive Emmy Awards.
Production on the upcoming seventh and final season of "Veep" was delayed as Louis-Dreyfus received treatment for breast cancer. That season is currently in production.
PBS will air the Twain event on Nov. 19.
Minneapolis, Sep 24 (AP/UNB) — Actor James Woods has been locked out of his Twitter account over a tweet he sent out months ago that was found to be in violation of Twitter's rules.
The tweet was posted July 20 and includes a hoax meme that said it came from Democrats and encouraged men not to vote in the midterm elections. Woods got an email from Twitter on Thursday saying the tweet "has the potential to be misleading in a way that could impact an election." The email says Woods can use his account again if he deletes the tweet.
In an exclusive interview with The Associated Press on Sunday, Woods said this means he'll be allowed back on Twitter only if he decides to do what Twitter says. He says he won't do that, and he won't delete the tweet.
"Free speech is free speech — it's not Jack Dorsey's version of free speech," Woods said, referring to Twitter Chief Executive Jack Dorsey.
Twitter said it doesn't comment on individual accounts for privacy and security reasons. A spokesman for the social media platform said by email that he had nothing more to share when asked if Dorsey would respond directly to Wood's comments.
"The irony is, Twitter accused me of affecting the political process, when in fact, their banning of me is the truly egregious interference," Woods said. "Because now, having your voice smothered is much more disturbing than having your vocal chords slit. If you want to kill my free speech, man up and slit my throat with a knife, don't smother me with a pillow."
Woods said if he deletes the tweet, it would force him to watch his step with everything he says in the future, chilling free speech. The email Woods received from Twitter said Woods would be suspended from the social media platform permanently if there are repeated abuses.
He noted that his original tweet was reposted by his girlfriend on Friday and had been retweeted thousands of times by Sunday. His girlfriend's account wasn't locked, which he said was proof that he'd been singled out because of his large Twitter following.
Woods, who has more than 100 acting credits to his name and starred in several movies including "Salvador," ''Ghosts of Mississippi" and "Casino," has more than 1.7 million Twitter followers and is known for his conservative political views. His Twitter page is still online, though he can't access it. Many of his recent tweets include his views of Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh and Christine Blasey Ford, who accuses Kavanaugh of sexually assaulting her decades ago.
The meme that Woods posted in July said #LetWomenDecide and #NoMenMidterm. It claimed to be from a Democratic group, but it was determined to be a hoax campaign to encourage liberal men not to vote in November, according to the website knowyourmeme.com.
Woods called it a parody. In his tweet, he acknowledged the meme likely wasn't real, saying: "Pretty scary that there is a distinct possibility this could be real. Not likely, but in this day and age of absolute liberal insanity, it is at least possible ..."
The tweet is considered to be material that would suppress votes or deliberately deceive, and was found to be in violation of Twitter rules.
Social media companies like Twitter have come under pressure to get hate speech and posts that could influence elections offline, learning quickly that they can't please everyone as they try to act as gatekeepers of discourse. Dorsey testified before the GOP-led House Energy and Commerce Committee earlier this month, as the committee examined whether Twitter has censored conservatives.
The AP reached Woods on Sunday through his girlfriend's Twitter account. After he shared information over messaging, he agreed to have a FaceTime conversation so the AP could verify his identity.
Woods said he wants open discourse, and called the situation a dangerous one for free speech.
"I wish this were about an unknown Twitter user so that I could be even more passionate about it," Woods said. "This is not about a celebrity being muzzled. This is about an American being silenced — one tweet at a time."
Providence, Sep 6 (AP/UNB) — Author and actor Christopher Kennedy Lawford, who was born into political and Hollywood royalty, sank into substance abuse and addiction and rose to become a well-known advocate for sobriety and recovery, has died.
Lawford died of a heart attack Tuesday in Vancouver, Canada, his cousin, former U.S. Rep. Patrick J. Kennedy, told The Associated Press. He was 63.
Lawford was in Vancouver living with his girlfriend and working to open a recovery center. He had been doing hot yoga, which he did often, but the strain of it "must have been too much for him at that point," Kennedy said.
Lawford was the only son and oldest child of Patricia Kennedy — sister of John, Robert and Ted Kennedy — and Peter Lawford — the English actor and socialite who was a member of Frank Sinatra's "Rat Pack."
"I was given wealth, power and fame when I drew my first breath," Lawford wrote in his 2005 book, "Symptoms of Withdrawal: A Memoir of Snapshots and Redemption," the first of several books he wrote about his substance struggles.
He wrote that his parents got telegrams predicting big things for him from Bing Crosby and Dean Martin and said he once got a lesson in doing "The Twist" from Marilyn Monroe. The cover of his books shows him sitting poolside as a child with his uncle and soon-to-be-president John F. Kennedy looming behind him.
He spent his youth frolicking with Hollywood stars on one coast and rubbing shoulders with political stars on the other, living between libertine Los Angeles and the hyper-competitive Kennedy compound in Hyannis Port, Massachusetts, where he was a big-brother figure to John F. Kennedy Jr.
"You can't get much more fawned over than being a Kennedy male," Lawford wrote.
His life with drugs began with LSD while at boarding school at age 14. In the years before he had experienced the assassinations of his two uncles and his parents' divorce in 1966.
With heroin and other opioids as his substances of choice, Lawford leapt into deeper substance abuse in drug-heavy 1970s Hollywood, where his father also abused drugs and alcohol as his career faded. Peter Lawford died in 1984. Patricia Kennedy died in 2006.
In his memoir, Christopher Lawford told tales of mugging women for money, panhandling in Grand Central Station and getting arrested twice for drug possession before getting sober at 30.
"There are many days when I wish I could take back and use my youth more appropriately," Lawford told The Associated Press in 2005. "But all of that got me here. I can't ask for some of my life to be changed and still extract the understanding and the life that I have today."
Patrick Kennedy, the former congressman from Rhode Island whose father is Edward M. Kennedy, said his cousin "did something very difficult," airing family secrets and temporarily hurting his relationships within the Kennedy clan when he wrote his book.
"He had the courage to know that he had to find himself, and he wasn't going to be able to do it while holding on to the old family narrative," Kennedy said.
Lawford was "tormented by the fact" that for a time he was estranged from his sisters, Patrick Kennedy said.
"Over the years of recovery, he ended up reconciling with his sisters, happiest I ever saw him," Kennedy said.
His life's work became helping others recover — including his cousin.
"He was the absolute cornerstone to my sobriety, along with my wife," Patrick Kennedy said (the former politician had been addicted to drugs and alcohol). "He was the one who walked me through all the difficult days of that early period."
After his memoir, Lawford authored several more books on addiction and recovery, most recently 2015's "What Addicts Know."
He worked steadily as an actor, with moderate success. He had a small part in 2003's "Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines," made appearances on TV shows including "Frazier" and "The O.C." and had recurring roles on the soaps "All My Children" and "General Hospital," playing a senator in the latter.
He told the AP in 2005 that his famous dual identities both helped and hurt him in Hollywood.
"The names give you entree, absolutely, but it's a kind of a double-edged sword," he said. "People do pay attention to you, but nobody gets ahead in Hollywood unless they are really lucky or they deserve it."
He is survived by his sisters, Sydney, Victoria and Robin, and his children, David, Savannah and Matt.