Would SNL's "Pat" survive today's gender-conscious viewers?

Would SNL's "Pat" survive today's gender-conscious viewers?
SNL's "Pat" was played by Julia Sweeney (middle)

Saturday Night Live alum Julia Sweeney was at Chicago’s Museum of Broadcast Communications on Friday helping promote Saturday Night Live’s new exhibit SNL: the Experience.

To many comedy and SNL fans, Sweeney was best known for creating and portraying the hit androgynous character “Pat” of the 1990s.

When asked if she thought the character would hit with today’s potential audience or solicit an onslaught of angry tweets, it was apparent the topic was fresh in Sweeney’s mind.

“I actually have a lot to say about that,” the actor said. “I’m opening a new show at Second City, I’m going into workshops in December, and opening it probably mid-January, and I have a whole Pat chunk about [that topic].

“Because the thing is, all the jokes about Pat were about people reacting to Pat, not about Pat. In fact in the song, it’s like, “A ma’am or a sir, except him or her, whoever it might be…” So it was always that way. Looking back on it, I wish I hadn’t made Pat so … like such a bad personality, which is separate from the gender thing.

“It’s because of how it got started. I wasn’t trying to be androgynous, I was trying to be a guy and it just wasn’t coming off right. And I was imitating a certain guy. It’s part of the genesis of it. I actually think it would work now, but there would have to be a lot more explanation of making it okay, that it’s a positive image of androgyny.”

Julia believed the 1994 movie It’s Pat actually didn’t do anything to help the character’s popularity.

“Only like three people saw the movie,” Sweeney said. “The movie, people know what a disaster that was. Most people don’t even know the movie. Most people just know the character from SNL.

“It is a blessing and a curse,” Sweeney said of having a hit character on SNL. “But I would say more blessing than curse. Because if I didn’t have Pat, I probably wouldn’t be invited to stuff like this. There were a lot of people on SNL that were so great, but they didn’t have a character that hit that big, and when you do, you are kind of included in the pantheon, although they were just as good of actors. I guess I think it’s a blessing.”

Julia also reminisced about what made the late Chris Farley so funny.

“It’s a cliche, lightning in a bottle,” Sweeney said. “But it really applies to him because first of all, he was a lover of SNL himself, a student of SNL. He cared about it, he cared about the show. All he wanted to do was be on the show.

“So it wasn’t like he was a comedian who’s coming into it. He was made for the show. His energy and his commitment to his character, just his comedic instincts. All the right things happened for him to be as funny as he was.”

Sweeney had a lot of trouble keeping it together as she saw Farley’s “Matt Foley” motivational speaker character take off in his first sketch.

“All I could think at that time was, they had to cut around me because I was laughing so hard at the character that I almost got cut from the sketch because I couldn’t control myself,” she said. “I just kept thinking, ‘Don’t laugh, don’t laugh.'”

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Tags: gender, Julia Sweeney, SNL

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