For most TV actors, having a successful series means
many years of playing the same character, and often having to find new
ways to keep it interesting for themselves and the audience. Rachel
Dratch doesnt have that problem. In her four seasons on Saturday
Night Live, Dratch has played teenagers and grandmas, a girl with no
gaydar, and served up spot-on impersonations of such pop
culture icons as Kelly Osbourne and Calista Flockhart. Dratch has found
the perfect outlet for her comedic talents, and even her targets agree.
Calista hosted the show and she was very nice about it,
Dratch says about the stars reaction to her impersonation, and
notes that she heard through the grapevine that Weakest Link host Anne
Robinson reacted favorably to her portrayal. At various times in her
SNL tenure, she has incisively imitated Drew Barrymore and kept up with
the Joneses Jenny and Paula (the latter on SNLs Presidential
Bash in 2000.) But some of her favorites arent famous, just fun.
Theres Boston teen, Denise. I love that because its
just like high school, says Dratch, who as a native of Lexington,
Massachusetts has spent a lot of time in Beantown. And theres
Sheldon, the junior high school boy in the Wake Up Wakefield
skits. And the distaff half of the oversexed Luvahs, which,
to her regret, had to be retired when sketch partner Will Ferrell left
the show last spring. I liked it because it was so weird and gross
and outrageous, Dratch says.
Having joined the SNL company in 1999 as a featured
player, Dratch moved up to cast member in 2001. I feel that every
year you get more comfortable there, she notes, adding that the
cast, particularly the women, all hang out. Were all buddies
and talk in our spare time. Thats not surprising, particularly
since she and Tina Fey, SNLs Weekend Update co-anchor
and head writer, have been friends since their Second City days in Chicago.
Dratch moved there after her 1988 graduation from Dartmouth, where she
majored in theater and psychology.
Dratch, Fey, cast mate Horatio Sanz, and SNL alumni
John Belushi, Chris Farley and Bill Murray all honed their comedy chops
on Second Citys stage. It was the best; it was a great training
ground, raves Dratch. Youre up in front of a live
audience almost every night, improvising. She and Fey worked together
often, teaming up for their own show there (and later restaging it at
the Upright Citizens Brigade in New York). Fey joined SNL as a writer
in 1997, and, Dratch believes, Im sure it helped that I
got recommended by her.
These days, she and Fey collaborate on characters
and skits for the New York-based program, which won a 2002 Emmy award
for outstanding writing. Some of the sketches are written only
by the writers. The actors generate their own characters and write their
own stuff or co-write. I write with Tina a lot, Dratch explains,
pointing out the fact that given such a large ensemble cast of players
angling for airtime, theres plenty of incentive to use your imagination.
You just have to keep putting your energy into creating your own
characters, she says, naming SNL legend Gilda Radner, Lily Tomlin
and Carol Burnett as her comic heroes.
Dratch started in a comedic environment early on.
Yeah, I was the class clown type, she acknowledges. I
grew up with this group of funny girls. All my friends at home are funny.
I didnt think that I was any funnier than any of my friends. But
I was also interested in theater and school plays. I had both interests.
Raised in a Reform Jewish family, Dratch did have a Bat
Mitzvah but doesnt consider herself to be observant. Its
more a heritage thing, I guess, she says of her relationship to
her roots. Her SNL reper-toire has included only one Jewish character
to date, an older lady named Mrs. Rosenberg. Its kind of
hard to do a Jewish character these days because everyones seen
it. Everyone has a Jewish character, she muses. You have
to come up with something else about the character, so they just happen
to be Jewish and its not just a stereotype.
The latter might be said of the character Dratch plays
in one of the three movies Dratch shot during her break last spring
and summer, but its intentional. She plays Tikva, a nasal-voiced,
nail-filing Long Island secretary to the title character in The Hebrew
Hammer, a spoofy comedy in which Adam Goldberg plays an Orthodox Jewish hero whos hired by the Jewish Defense League to stop an
evil Santa bent on eradicating Hanukkah. Its a Jewish James
Bond thing, describes Dratch. Its pretty funny.
Ironically, Dratch plays secretaries in the other
two films as well. Down With Love, a romantic comedy starring Renee
Zellweger and Ewan McGregor as a columnist and a journalist respectively,
is kind of a 60s Doris Day movie, that style, according
to Dratch. It also stars David Hyde Pierce and Tony Randall.
Dratchs third trip to the secretarial pool comes
courtesy of Dickie Roberts: Former Child Star, in which she plays Rob
Reiners assistant. Reiner is one of many celebs who make cameo
appearances as themselves in the movie, which stars David Spade in the
title role and is tentatively set for release in October. Theyre
all tiny little parts, Dratch remarks. She also plays a small
role in the yet-to-be-released After School Special, a comedy about
a trio of high school kids who endeavor to make their own porno movie.
Well aware that female lead roles in major motion
pictures usually go to the likes of Julia Roberts, Dratch nevertheless
remains optimistic about her film future. You can have the dumpy
guy film star, but you cant really have the dumpy
woman film star. Hopefully, through writing, we can empower ourselves
as movie stars, but I dont know, she says.
Dratch appeared in theater productions at Dartmouth,
where she joined the Said and Done improv troupe in her sophomore year.
She wrote, directed and performed The Vagina Monologues, which premiered
at the New York Comedy Film Festival in 2001, and has appeared in guest
roles on the television series Kim Possible, The King of Queens and
Third Watch. She also impersonated Dolly Parton on VH1 Divas Live in
2001. The next step for her is developing her own projects. I
have a couple of ideas, she says eagerly, but without elaborating.
Perhaps she could draw on past experiences working with chizophrenic
patients at a mental health center or dressing up as Tweety Bird at
a mall, two of several jobs she held to support her Second City endeavors
Dratch briefly lived in Los Angeles between Second
City and SNL and has returned to Hollywood to work on films, but is
quite happy that her current job allows her to live in New York, where
she enjoys going to restaurants in her spare time. Asked about the future,
she is unable to predict how long her tenure on the long-running series
might last. I havent thought about that much; I cant
think that far ahead, she says. I still feel kind of new.
Im still trying to get more characters on.