The fourth season of the CBS sitcom The New Adventures of Old Christine has added something borrowed and something blue to its bouquet with a lesbian wedding. The catch? Both characters are straight. Emmy-winning star Julia Louis-Dreyfus details the inspiration behind the same-sex subplot and revisits Seinfeld’s impact on gay people, even though her character, Elaine, was heterosexual. Not that there’s anything wrong with that!
By Brandon Voss
The Advocate: The 1993 Seinfeld episode “The
Outing” introduced the phrase “Not that
there’s anything wrong with that” into the mainstream consciousness. Did it feel like a
big deal at the time?
Julia Louis-Dreyfus: It did feel like a big deal. Yeah, it was groundbreaking, and from a writing point of view, it was spectacularly crafted. Somehow we were able to speak about taboo subject matters while poking fun at political correctness in a way that other shows weren’t doing at that time — like the episode when Kramer refused to wear the AIDS ribbon.
Elaine once exclaimed, “I hate men, but I’m
not a lesbian!” Looking back, though, is
there any possibility that she was actually a big dyke?
No, there’s no way Elaine was a dyke. She was just a totally fucked-up heterosexual.
So it’s a total fluke that comedian Carol Leifer,
on whom Elaine was partially based, now has a female
Yes, it is.
Did that revelation faze you?
No. But I have so many friends who are gay, it’s really like saying “She has blond hair.”
In the current season of The New Adventures of Old
Christine your character marries Wanda Sykes’s
character, who’s also straight, to prevent
her from being deported. What inspired that story line?
Obviously, same-sex marriage is a hot topic these days, particularly in California, and it just seemed like a strong story line for Wanda and me to play.
By mining laughs from a sensitive issue, aren’t
you running the risk of offending viewers?
There’s always potential for offending, and maybe we even will, although that’s not our goal. We do want to push the envelope because that’s the key with comedy, and that’s how you find great material. At the same time, all of us are very comfortable with and supportive of same-sex marriage. We don’t want to make fun of it. I’m all for it. I can’t imagine not being for it. That seems ludicrous.
Who’d make a better lesbian — you or Wanda?
[Laughs] It would have to be a tie. I think we would both make wonderful lesbians. I have been hit on by women, so I guess I’ve been mistaken for a lesbian. I say, “Thanks, but no thanks!” — just like Sarah Palin.
What’s your butchest quality?
My sailor mouth. I swear up and down.
What’s your favorite swear word?
The worst one.
Tell me the dirtiest joke you know.
I’m so bad at remembering jokes. A friend of mine had an uncle, and when he passed away — this isn’t the joke — in his wallet was a little piece of paper with a bunch of single lines written on it, and they were the punch lines to the jokes that he always wanted to remember. I wish I had that piece of paper right now! Oh, what’s the difference between a priest and a pimple? A pimple doesn’t come on your face until you’re 15.
With so many closeted actors out there, is it refreshing
to work on Old Christine with an openly gay actress like Jane Lynch?
Jane Lynch! That’s definitely who I would become a lesbian for. Oh, my God, she is so fantastic and funny. I love her. Yeah, I have worked with closeted actors, and I can understand why certain actors are reticent to reveal their sexuality in public for fear of everything you can think of — pigeonholing themselves into a certain kind of character, blah, blah, blah — but it’s always nice to not have to work around secrets.
When preparing for your role as a cabaret chanteuse in
your short-lived series Watching Ellie, did
you hang out at any gay cabaret clubs?
I have been to so many gay cabaret clubs in my lifetime, I didn’t need to hang out in one more.
Ever given any thought to your own cabaret act?
You know, I did think about it for a period of time, but the truth of the matter is that I have terrific stage fright when it comes to singing. But I love to sing, so for a moment there, there was a record label involved, and we were thinking of putting together an album. Then I thought, I can’t fuckin’ do this.
Did you have a name for the album picked out?
Yeah. Dirty Ditties. I wanted to find as many dirty songs as I could.
The Advocate, November 2008.