Rachel Dratch Video Interview On ‘Girl Walks Into A Bar,’ ‘Saturday Night Live’
Known for her delightful work on Saturday Night Live, comedian Rachel Dratch has just released a memoir, Girl Walks into a Bar. Dratch’s experiences post SNL were a rough couple of years, she says in the book. After being cast as Jenna on 30 Rock, the role was recast due to poor testing. Unable to find any roles that she really wants, Dratch jumps headfirst into the dating scene with unsuccessful, though hilarious results; until, one night, she meets John and finds herself, six months later, pregnant. Dratch relates with great humor and sensitivity the pleasures of unexpectedly becoming a mother at 44.
Dratch is best known for her role on SNL from the years 1999 to 2006. During her time at SNL, Dratch developed many recurring characters, including the fan favorite “Debbie Downer.” The first appearance of “Debbie Downer” in 2003, in which every cast member involved in the skit can’t stop laughing, has become something of a cult classic. After retiring from the show in 2006, Dratch made a guest appearance during Saturday Night Live’s 2011 Christmas show.
Dratch is often grouped with fellow Saturday Night Live alums Tina Fey and Amy Poehler as one of the leading ladies in comedy. Dratch, who isn’t your typical Hollywood beauty, also found it incredibly difficult to find roles in Hollywood, a place where people often value looks over talent. She remarks in the interview, “I kept getting the weird secretary, which is fine. But then I kept on getting – and I am not making this up – but every part was a lesbian.”
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In the sketch world, you can play any part whatsoever, but when you get out of sketch land (a.k.a. SNL) then you’re in the world of Hollywood. I sort of thought that I would play the wacky best friend, but what I found was that I was sort of too odd to play even the wacky best friend. I kept getting the weird secretary, which is fine. But then I kept on getting – and I am not making this up – but every part was a lesbian. I don’t know what that was about. And as I make very clear in the book, I know lesbians come in all shapes, sizes and varieties of hotness. I know there are hot lesbians out there. I was not getting called in for the hot lesbian. I was getting called in for the obese, 55-year-old, manly lesbian. I don’t know how they see me, but that’s what I, without fail, kept on getting over and over. And it almost became a joke with my agent, but there’s not a lot of calls for those ladies in Hollywood either, so it was kind of few and far between. That’s what kept happening and finally – I don’t know – finally, that’s how I got typecast, I guess.
I talk with origins of this character in the book, but the way that I would develop a character was that sort of a random thing would happen in life that would create this character for me. I wouldn’t sit at the computer and be able to come up with anything. So I was on this vacation — I was vacationing by myself, which I explain in the book — and so it was a bunch of strangers sitting around a table and we are all sort of chit-chatting. You know, 'Oh where are you from, where you from, blah-blah-blah,' and someone asked, 'Where are you from?' and I said New York and somebody said, 'Were you there for 9-11?' and it was kind of this, like, [deflating sound] moment because we were all in this rainforest in Costa Rica. That kind of moment sort of just stuck in my head, and about a week later I thought of the name Debbie Downer. That’s kind of what sparked it all.
For me, the most memorable actually was that first Debbie Downer where we all started cracking up because, you know, sometimes people say, "Is the show really live?" and I’m like, "Yes, it’s right there in the title – Saturday Night Live." Like people don’t put that together. When moments like that would happen that show you, 'Oh, this is a live show, anything can happen, including a total breakdown of the cast into a fit of giggles.'
It's weird because I didn’t really go on that many dates because I hate “going on dates," but when SNL stopped I had all this time on my hands. So I was like, I’d better try to go on some dates — that kind of thing. So I was trying to be a little more active about it, but – um – yeah, God, I don’t know, I kind of hate the dating world so much. I have a couple stories in the book. One of the guys, it wasn’t so much the date. The story in the book is called "Horse Meat," where he told me he traveled to Japan and was really into eating horse meat. It was kind of strange, but the reason that date was so bad was because he blew me off so hard for the next date. We were supposed to go out, and he sort of texted me saying he couldn’t make it like an hour before. That’s why, when something goes wrong, it kind of makes a funny story. When everything goes great, there’s not really that much of a story there.
We’d been dating about a month of two and we woke up and he was like, 'Oh I had a really weird dream.' I had a really weird dream, too, but I wasn’t going to say it because it was so weird to me. And I said, 'What did you dream?' and he said, 'I dreamed of a detached penis'and I was like [gasp] 'I had a dream of a detached penis!' We were both like, 'What the hell?' We told our stories about the detached penis dreams. It was just a strange, strange thing. I don’t have those sort dreams very often so it was weird that we both sort of had some sort of astral plane thing sort of happening.
My gosh. Well, I think I had it in my mind. Like I had always thought I’d want kids, but as I was getting older, I didn’t want to do it by myself — raise a child by myself. So I was kind of starting to let go of the idea. I got to like 42, 43, but then I had the biggest surprise of my life. I got pregnant by surprise at almost age 44. So, it kind of like turned everything around. I had this set of where I thought my life was going to go — kind of in a bad way, like I’d wanted kids, but, um, so that was my sort of miracle to me and it’s been really fun. I never thought myself as the baby person, like, 'Can I hold your baby, la-la-la,' but it’s been really fun. Now I am a baby person.
No, actually, I got replaced. I was originally Jenna on 30 Rock and I got replaced by Jane Krakowski. I wasn’t really that shocked about it because when you are an actor, you are used it. Pilot replacements happen all the time. I didn’t feel like I was like, "But I’m Jenna!" I didn’t know because she was this diva character, you know, there were parts of it I could do and parts I didn’t feel were so me, so that wasn’t the big shock. But the bummer of the whole thing was that it just got so picked up by the media. It was reported and I would get asked about it all the time and, you know, that was kind of the bummer part. Just how public the whole thing was.
Favorite host... you know what? Well… I’ll let Tina do the talking. No, uh, let’s see. Favorite host — oh my gosh. You know, we get asked this all the time, and it’s really hard because there are so many different ones that are so good. You have the repeat offenders like Christopher Walken, Alec Baldwin, Steve Martin, they’re so great. But then you have the random ones — a politician or an athlete that comes on. Those are always really fun because if you get some Oscar-winner they like really want to be good, but if you get a politician or athlete, they're just like, 'I am just here to have fun.' They just end up being really funny. Like someone like John McCain on – like totally random – or Al Gore. But the stuff we had him do – I don’t know – there is a sort of fearlessness that happens when you have a non-actor as a host. Something fun happens.