Julia Sweeney is best known for her androgynous character Pat on “Saturday Night Live,” and her critically acclaimed one-woman monologue,”God Said, Ha!” “God Said, Ha!” played on Broadway at the Lyceum theater in 1996. Miramax released the film version of the show in 1998 which was produced by Quentin Tarantino. The CD version of the show was nominated for a Grammy. More recently she has been consulting on the HBO show, “Sex & the City,” and has written and performed two other monologues, and appeared as a guest star in several TV shows and had small parts in a few movies.
And yet, Julia Sweeney came to Hollywood not as an actor, but as an accountant.
The oldest in a family of five children raised in Spokane, Washington, Sweeney quickly found a talent for imitating voices and characters. Despite successful appearances in high school plays, she decided to put acting aside while she pursued her economic studies at the University of Washington.
After graduation, Sweeney headed south to Los Angeles to work as an accountant for Columbia Pictures. Once there, she decided on a whim to sign up for classes with the improvisational comedy troupe The Groundlings. It only took one class to convince her that acting was her true calling. Steadily auditioning, she continued to develop her characters with the troupe such as “Mea,” the character that inspired the play “Mea’s Big Apology,” which won the Best Written Play Award from L.A. Weekly in 1988 and has been developed by Sweeney into a screenplay, and “Pat,” an androgynous person whose gender mystified others. At a Groundlings performance, she was discovered by “Saturday Night Live” producer Lorne Michaels and tapped for the late-night show, with which she stayed for four hit seasons.
Sweeney spun one of her most popular characters into the feature film “It’s Pat,” and after leaving “Saturday Night Live,” moved back to Los Angeles. The film was a flop at the box office, but still has a cult following. Sweeney is very proud of the film.
Within a matter of months, after moving back to L.A., Julia’s brother Michael was diagnosed with cancer, and so was she. Her experiences led her to write and star in “God Said, Ha!” Released theatrically by Miramax, the film version of the play earned the Golden Space Needle Award for best directing, while Sweeney’s recording earned her a Grammy nomination for best comedy album.
Sweeney has also appeared on the big screen in “Pulp Fiction,” “Clockstoppers,” “Whatever It Takes,” and “Stuart Little.” A veteran of live television, Sweeney made her mark on primetime television as a series regular on “George & Leo” and “Maybe It’s Me” and she guest starred on “3rd Rock from the Sun,” “Hope & Gloria,” “Mad About You,” and “According to Jim.” Last year, Julia co-starred in two episodes of “Frasier” and had a guest part on “Sex & the City.” She also served as a consultant on “Sex & the City” for its last three seasons.
Among Sweeney’s more recent stage work is the one-woman show “In the Family Way,” which started on stage in NYC in early 2003 at the Ars Nova Theatre, and has since migrated to the Groundlings Theatre in Los Angeles. “In the Family Way” chronicles the adoption of her daughter from China, which she is adapting as a pilot for Warner Bros.
Julia’s third monologue “Letting Go of God” chronicles her journey from faith to philosophical naturalism. It opened in October 2004, and is now playing at the Hudson Backstage Theatre to sold-out houses every weekend. “Letting Go of God” was Critics’ Choice for the Los Angeles Times, Pick of the Week for the LA Weekly, and Critic’s Pick for Backstage West. She is also writing a book called, “My Beautiful Loss Of Faith Story” for Henry Holt & Co. And she recently filmed a small part in Win Wender’s upcoming film, “Don’t Come Knockin’.”
Sweeney currently resides in Los Angeles.