SNL actress Rachel Dratch talks dating, pregnancy, motherhood in 'Girl Walks into a Bar'
Comedic actress Rachel Dratch's new book, "Girl Walks into a Bar," is about her career, her dating misadventures, and her life as a forty-something new mom.
Rachel Dratch is out with a new book, Girl Walks Into A Bar...: Comedies Calamities, Dating Disasters & A Midlife Miracle, which has been described as a funny memoir that looks behind the scenes of her days with Saturday Night Live.
Dratch, became well-known to audiences a cast member on SNL from 1999 to 2006, and has remained in the spotlight with recurring roles in other comedies, including the NBC sitcom 30 Rock.
In her new book, while there are a number of behind-the-scenes stories from her days at SNL, it focuses on the story of life after the show, when Dratch dove head-first into the dating pool. The titular miracle was an unexpected pregnancy at age 44, having been in a long-distance relationship with the father for just six months prior. As usual, Dratch found the comedy and humor in the situation.
Dratch found her comedic calling while attending Dartmouth College, an experience she didn’t really enjoy.
“All the guys looked like they were out of an ’80s teen movie, so I was kind of like, 'Oh, this is so cool!' But then when I was there, I realized it was all the James Spaders from Pretty In Pink and the Neidermeyers from Animal House, and I was more of the Ducky and the Bluto figure,” she said.
But Dratch eventually found her place.
“I kind of got sucked in by that preppy thing, and then I realized, 'Wait a minute, I don’t belong here,'" she said. "I have to say, though, eventually, I did ferret out my kind of people — a.k.a. a lot of closeted gay men.”
She joined an improv group, and on a trip to Chicago, Dratch decided she would stay and try her luck in the city. She didn’t have instant success, but each year, she made a little more progress, and that kept her going.
She became a member of an improv group at ImprovOlympic, a legendary improv theater in Chicago.
“I actually think that was good training because I was the only woman on the team and, if I wanted to get out and say something, I had to really get out there and say something. So it was a good group to be in,” Dratch said.
After spending a couple of years on the house team at ImprovOlympic, Dratch joined the touring company of Second City, another improv theater. Eventually, she auditioned for SNL.
The audition has a very specific format where the actors were asked to perform both original characters and celebrity impressions. For her first audition, Dratch impersonated Calista Flockhart. She was rejected. She had more success at her second audition, when she chose to impersonate Drew Barrymore, Sarah Jessica Parker and comedian Paula Poundstone.
At SNL, Dratch already had friends on the team, including Tina Fey, Adam McKay and Horatio Sanz.
“I ended up writing a lot with Tina and she already knew the ropes. The way a scene works at SNL is very different from Second City, because at Second City, you can take your time more and develop a character more; it’s more of a theatrical experience,” Dratch said.
But at SNL, Dratch said, the jokes have to come first, or someone’s going to change the channel. Fey helped her develop scenes in the SNL format.
“On the flip side, though, when you get there, it is just kind of sink or swim. No matter who you know, at the end of the day, you’re kind of on your own and you just have to figure out the system by yourself,” Dratch said.
Each SNL episode is written, rehearsed and performed over a week. The actors work crazy hours, often for a few weeks at a time, she said. But the actors got used to it.
“It’s what you’ve wanted for your whole comedy life. So, you’re psyched to be there when it’s three in the morning because it’s just — ‘Oh my God, I’m on Saturday Night Live.’ So, it’s a very nocturnal, intense schedule, but I think that kind of goes with comedy,” she said.
Dratch used SNL’s intense schedule as an excuse not to date, but after her time on the show ended, she found herself with a lot of extra time.
She met the father of her child at a bar and they dated long-distance for six months. When she told her parents she was pregnant, she didn’t get the reaction she expected.
“I thought I was gonna come in with this great news, and they were going to be all excited, but actually, they were kind of more stunned. They just kind of looked at me like, 'Huh?' So as I said in the book, I left feeling like Juno. I felt a little like I was 16 and telling my parents I got pregnant or something,” she said.
Altogether, Dratch said, the whole experience has been more fun than she anticipated.
“Although, I do talk in the book about trying to be in any sort of seductive or flirtatious mode when you’re hooked up to a breast pump. All the mystique is gone,” she said. “There’s a lot of that in the book, of looking your worst, stripped down to your inner animal core and being with the person who, six months ago, was just like, “Hey, can I get you a drink?” That was the funniest yet most surreal part of the whole story.”
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