Julia Sweeney On SNL's 'White-Male Energy' and the Story of Pat


Beloved SNL alum Julia Sweeney was interviewed by Salon recently, and now I really miss Pat. During the conversation, Sweeney (a cast member from 1990-1994) had had plenty to say about Lorne Michaels, the show’s “white-male energy,” and whether or not Victoria Jackson is messing with all of us.

Sweeney was a cast member when Adam Sandler and Chris Farley started on the show during season 16. Though referring to the cast change that year as a “big shift,” she remembers loving them, but not exactly feeling the love in return.

[Adam Sandler] made me laugh maybe harder than any other person…I have so many memories of him just joking around and making prank phone calls where I laughed so hard I thought I was going to throw up. But they didn’t feel that way about me—that was not reciprocal! They didn’t get me comedically.

She goes on to say that she was seen as “matronly” and that she “existed in a very specific way, which didn’t show up very often.” Despite feeling like an outsider, she had nothing but kind things to say about her former boss, Lorne Michaels.

…It’s amazing that he’s been able to keep this boat floating for 40 years! I have such a respect and appreciation for that, and such an appreciation that he included me.

Sweeney quit the show in 1994, before her contract was up. It was a move she doesn’t regret, but one she occasionally dwells on.

…That whole last year that I was on, there were many shows I wasn’t in at all. Lorne didn’t want me to quit, but I totally understood why I quit. You could just watch how many more Adam Sandler and David Spade and Chris Farley sketches there are, that white-male energy that I wasn’t part of. I just wasn’t in that world. There really wasn’t enough for me to do…Later, when I watched Tina Fey and Amy Poehler and other people succeed, I felt mad at myself that I didn’t try harder. Of course, they were there at a different time and they were different people.

Even her most beloved character, Pat, felt like a mere consolation prize.

Sometimes I think it’s not a mistake that Pat was the only way I could get on; basically by being in drag. That was all I felt like I could do.

But Pat has stood the test of time. She went on about the character’s evolution from “complete joke” to a part of modern queer theory.

To me, the most interest part of it was that Pat was so oblivious to how other people were reacting to Pat…And that’s what was interesting to me…I wasn’t trying to make a statement about sex but once it became popular, the people’s reaction to Pat was really fascinating. I didn’t think it was that interesting that you didn’t know if Pat was a man or a woman; to me, so what? But people felt very uncomfortable not knowing. People would ask me to tell them but I didn’t have an answer, and they couldn’t stand that…We still have some of these letters that said, We find it immoral to have a character that you can’t tell if it’s a man or a woman. There was this response from people who thought it was subversive and the truth is, it is kind of subversive but I only came to that as I experienced while being Pat. It wasn’t something I thought about before I did it.

She then went on to say that the character of Pat is not transgender, as many people have come to believe.

The truth is, to me the joke is that Pat is not transgender—I think on the Wikipedia page it says Pat is transgender and I have to go on there and take that off (but I don’t know how to)— but identifies as a man or a woman but you just don’t know which.

Speaking of characters, Sweeney also discussed former cast mate Victoria Jackson and whether or not her support of the Tea Party is all just “performance art.”

So many people ask me that…But no…she really must think that Obama is a jihadist militant.

Good to know!

Image via Getty.

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