The Veep star was on SNL for three years starting in 1982, and tells The New York Times that women were not "at all" treated equally on the show back then. "I did not come out of SNL as any kind of name. I didn't do anything particularly great when I was there. I didn't. It's fine," she says. "But I learned a tremendous amount. It was a very sexist environment."
The six-time Emmy winner adds, "Since I've gone back, I can tell you it's much more of an equal-opportunity environment."
Louis-Dreyfus did, however, learn a valuable lesson after leaving SNL. "I made this conscious decision that I would not take any jobs that didn't seem as if they would be really fun," she recalls. "That's very simplistic and Pollyannaish sounding, but really, I noted that. I’m not doing this unless I can have a deep sense of happiness while doing it. I’ve applied that, moving forward, and it’s worked. So in that sense, I have SNL to thank."
The 55-year-old actress also says that being on the show is why she has a "connection" with fellow alums, Amy Poehler and Tina Fey. "Saturday Night Live is like its own university. Once you’ve been there, there is a kinship with everyone who’s been there and everyone who is there," she explains. "Tina and Amy and I are friends. I met them both when I hosted, and we've been in touch since then. I like those guys. I feel a connection to them."
While Louis-Dreyfus' TV career spans 25 years, she doesn't see herself as a "pioneer" for women in the industry. "Opportunity for women in television has increased. It’s because the landscape has widened. More women got on the playing field," she explains. "But opportunity for women in film has not increased. I just think it’s that simple. By the way, I'm certain that there’s more much more in television that can be done. And I’m trying to do it. But I’ve certainly seen it change in my lifetime."
In 1982, ET caught up with Louis-Dreyfus right before she joined the cast of SNL. "I am incredibly excited about moving to New York, working on Saturday Night Live! I can hardly sleep!" she gushed. "This was kind of this supreme opportunity to become nationally successful."