Julia Sweeney Talks Sex, SNL, Suburbs and Stories
Former SNL alum and Chicagoland resident Julia Sweeney held a hilarious book reading in Evanston at SPACE. Sweeney is most known for portraying the androgynous character, Pat, on SNL. She’s currently in the middle of writing a new book called “If It’s Not One Thing, It’s Your Mother” that talks about parents and parenting.
During this hour-long reading, Sweeney read segments of her new book and was quite the storyteller. She spoke about becoming a mother when she flew to China to adopt her daughter, Tara Mulan Sweeney. She also hilariously explained how she first told her daughter about sex. After the show, she stopped next door to Union Pizzeria to eat pizza and chat with her fans.
Sweeney occasionally performs with the “I Kissed A Girl” musician, Jill Sobule, around the Chicago suburbs. Sobule and Sweeney are performing a show at SPACE to an almost sold out crowd on New Year’s Eve.
I sat down with this talented actress/comedienne/author to learn more about her.
The Local Tourist: You grew up in Spokane, lived in New York and Los Angeles, why did you choose to reside in Chicago?
Julia Sweeney: There’s two reasons; one is that I met a man who has a business in Evanston. He’s a scientist and we were getting married and he actually wanted to manage his business from afar and move to LA, but I was in a public school nightmare in LA and felt like leaving. Plus, my grandmother, who I was really close to, grew up here and was from here and so I grew up hearing stories about Chicago my whole life. I have such a feeling from Chicago like I’m from here even though I’m not from here. I suggested to my husband that we move here and he was completely shocked.
The Local Tourist: Do you have a favorite play or performance that you've seen in Chicago?
Julia Sweeney: The Lookingglass Theatre’s production of “Hephaestus”. I saw it a couple years ago but it completely rocked my world, I just didn't know theatre like that existed.
The Local Tourist: Do you have a favorite restaurant around the Chicago land area?
Julia Sweeney: I love Topolobampo downtown – Rick Bayless’ restaurant, another one I love is the Terzo Piano at the Art Institute it’s just their fancy top floor restaurant which I just think it’s so fantastic. Fuel, really great place. It’s just a little restaurant; it’s really sweet, really fresh, organic food, great atmosphere.
The Local Tourist: What is your favorite thing about Chicago?
Julia Sweeney: I love the history of it, I love taking the Metra, I love the transportation system, because in LA I was trapped in my car and in New York I went around a lot on the subway, but the idea that I’m 28 minutes from downtown the Metra and I bought a house one block away from the Metra station.
The Local Tourist: I love the name of your new book, “If It’s Not One Thing, It’s Your Mother,” what made you choose to write about parents and parenting?
Julia Sweeney: Well, it started at the TED conference telling my daughter about sex for the first time, then it became like a mini internet sensation, so I started writing funny essays about being a mother. I thought I was going to write the whole book before I tried to sell it, but in August I tried to sell it. I did. I sold it to Simon & Schuster and then I decided to started to book these readings.
The Local Tourist: What is the best advice your parents have ever given you?
Julia Sweeney: Act happy, and you’ll be happy.
The Local Tourist: What other characters were your favorites to play on SNL, besides Pat?
Julia Sweeney: I liked playing Phil Hartman’s wife in a lot of sketches; it was always really fun because I loved him so much. I did Jane Pauley several times, I did Ethel Merman several times, I really enjoyed that.
The Local Tourist: How did you come up with Pat?
Julia Sweeney: I worked with somebody who was definitely a guy, he wasn’t androgynous, but his mannerisms were a lot like Pat and he was always drooling, his eyes were kind of weeping all the time, had a runny nose, he was really odd, didn’t pick up on personal cues and he’d say "do you want to go to lunch" and I’d say, "no" and he’d say, "what about tomorrow?" He would always stand really close and so I was trying to figure out a way to do that. I worked with another person, a woman who was a little androgynous and odd and another guy and I put them all together at The Groundlings.
The Local Tourist: Do you ever get nervous before your performances (SNL, book readings, etc.)?
Julia Sweeney: I don’t. I actually calm down before I go onto stage, I just get out there and start doing it, I think it’s something you have to do a lot and then you get used to it.
The Local Tourist: Who was the best SNL host you’ve ever worked with?
Julia Sweeney: Probably Alec Baldwin, that’s not a very easy choice, but he’s the best and the funniest person all around.
The Local Tourist: What was your most memorable moment at SNL?
Julia Sweeney: Probably when I came out as Pat, I did a sketch with Roseanne Bar, it was the second Pat sketch and it got this big entrance applause and I was completely shocked because I didn’t think people knew the character.
The Local Tourist: Where is your favorite place to travel?
Julia Sweeney: I've traveled a lot. This will sound like an exotic answer, but I think about it a lot. I went to Bhutan which is a country between India and China and spent a few weeks there. It was really great. You can’t get into the country without an escort. I went 10-12 years ago and went hiking.
The Local Tourist: If you had the power to change one thing in this world, what would it be?
Julia Sweeney: I wish the truth had legal rights, so that if the truth was marred, you could sue on behalf of the truth.
Photos by Janelle Rominski www.JanelleRoPhoto.com