Benevolent, sweet-faced, actress and comedienne Julia Sweeney, who was born in 1959 in Spokane, Washington, is normally identified with one single, highly unappetizing androgynous character. This sniveling, chunky-framed, springy-haired, plaid shirt-wearing, grotesque-looking character named Pat was the basis of many hilarious sketches that toyed with revealing his/her true gender. The oldest of five children, Julia demonstrated an early talent for mimicry but downplayed any interest in performing for serious college studies. She first came into contact with the show business arena following graduation. Behind the scenes she worked for five years as an accountant for Columbia Studios in Los Angeles. Developing the courage to realize her dream, she started taking classes on a whim at the famed Groundlings Theater. After fine-tuning her skills in improv, character development and sketch-writing, Julia was escalated to the big time when she was selected to join Saturday Night Live (1975) in 1990 as a featured player. Though she became a regular cast member the following season and found an instant audience rapport with her creepy Pat character, she was vastly underused, which seemed to be the case for many of its distaff team at the time. “Pat” would outshine practically everything else she did on the show, including her timid wallflower type named “Mea Culpa,” whose character became the basis of a stage show co-written by Julia and actor/writer/husband Stephen Hibbert called “Mea’s Big Apology” in 1992. Discouraged, Julia parted ways with SNL in 1994 and worked up a feature film version of It’s Pat: The Movie (1994) while her irons in the fire were hot. She co-wrote the script with Hibbert and co-starred with Dave Foley who played Pat’s equally androgynous partner “Chris.” The feature film did not generate great buzz, however, as it was basically a one-joke premise stretched to the limit. Following this and a few other insignificant character cameos on film, life turned extremely dark for Julia. Divorced from Hibbert, brother Michael developed lymphoma. She and her family vainly tried to nurse him back to health. Following his death, Julia herself was forced to fight a life-threatening illness — cervical cancer. The whole process triggered an outpouring of writing which evolved into a hit one-woman stage show entitled, “God Said, Ha!” Applauded for its candor, wit and humorous handling of such painful subjects, the monologue debuted in San Francisco in 1995, and was playing Broadway by November of the following year. Preserving her work on film, she wrote and directed, with Quentin Tarantino in the producer’s chair. While embracing this second career-defining moment, Julia won an Audience Award at the New York Comedy Festival in 1998 for her efforts, and earned a Grammy nomination for the CD version. She went on to complete a trilogy of personal sojourns. “In the Family Way” (2003) recounted her experience adopting a daughter as a single parent, and “Letting Go of God” (2004) traced her religious roots from devout Catholic to atheist.
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