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Julia Sweeney

Julia Sweeney

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Julia Anne Sweeney is an American
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

 actress, comedian
A comedian or comic is a person who seeks to entertain an audience, primarily by making them laugh. This might be through jokes or amusing situations, or acting a fool, as in slapstick, or employing prop comedy...

 and author
An author is broadly defined as "the person who originates or gives existence to anything" and that authorship determines responsibility for what is created. Narrowly defined, an author is the originator of any written work.-Legal significance:...

 best known as a cast member on Saturday Night Live
Saturday Night Live
Saturday Night Live is a live American late-night television sketch comedy and variety show developed by Lorne Michaels and Dick Ebersol. The show premiered on NBC on October 11, 1975, under the original title of NBC's Saturday Night.The show's sketches often parody contemporary American culture...

and for her autobiographical solo shows.

Personal life

Sweeney was born in Spokane, Washington
Spokane, Washington
Spokane is a city located in the Northwestern United States in the state of Washington. It is the largest city of Spokane County of which it is also the county seat, and the metropolitan center of the Inland Northwest region...

, the daughter of Jeri, a homemaker, and Robert M. Sweeney, an attorney and federal prosecutor, who made an appearance in her movie It's Pat
It's Pat
It's Pat, also known as It's Pat: The Movie, is a 1994 comedy film directed by Adam Bernstein and starring Julia Sweeney, Dave Foley, Charles Rocket, and Kathy Griffin...

as a priest
A priest is a person authorized to perform the sacred rites of a religion, especially as a mediatory agent between humans and deities. They also have the authority or power to administer religious rites; in particular, rites of sacrifice to, and propitiation of, a deity or deities...

. The oldest of five children, she was raised in Spokane
Spokane is a city in the U.S. state of Washington.Spokane may also refer to:*Spokane *Spokane River*Spokane, Missouri*Spokane Valley, Washington*Spokane County, Washington*Spokane-Coeur d'Alene-Paloos War*Spokane * USS Spokane...

, and quickly found a talent for imitating voices and inventing characters. Despite successful appearances in high school plays, she decided to put acting aside to pursue economic
Economics is the social science that analyzes the production, distribution, and consumption of goods and services. The term economics comes from the Ancient Greek from + , hence "rules of the house"...

 studies at the University of Washington
University of Washington
University of Washington is a public research university, founded in 1861 in Seattle, Washington, United States. The UW is the largest university in the Northwest and the oldest public university on the West Coast. The university has three campuses, with its largest campus in the University...

 where she became a member of Delta Gamma
Delta Gamma
Delta Gamma is one of the oldest and largest women's fraternities in the United States and Canada, with its Executive Offices based in Columbus, Ohio.-History:...

 sorority. After graduation, Sweeney moved to Los Angeles
Los Ángeles
Los Ángeles is the capital of the province of Biobío, in the commune of the same name, in Region VIII , in the center-south of Chile. It is located between the Laja and Biobío rivers. The population is 123,445 inhabitants...

 where she worked at various odd jobs, and as an accountant for Columbia Pictures
Columbia Pictures
Columbia Pictures Industries, Inc. is an American film production and distribution company. Columbia Pictures now forms part of the Columbia TriStar Motion Picture Group, owned by Sony Pictures Entertainment, a subsidiary of the Japanese conglomerate Sony. It is one of the leading film companies...

 and United Artists
United Artists
United Artists Corporation is an American film studio. The original studio of that name was founded in 1919 by D. W. Griffith, Charles Chaplin, Mary Pickford and Douglas Fairbanks....

, before turning her attentions again to acting. She is now married to scientist Michael Blum. Blum and Sweeney, along with their adopted daughter Mulan, relocated to the Chicago suburbs in early 2009.


In 1988, while still working as an accountant, Sweeney enrolled in classes with the improvisational comedy troupe The Groundlings
The Groundlings
The Groundlings are an improvisational comedy troupe based in Los Angeles, California. The troupe was formed by Gary Austin in 1974 and uses an improv format influenced by Viola Spolin to produce sketches and improvised scenes...

, eventually being selected to be part of the troupe's Sunday Company. It was at The Groundlings that she began to develop personae she would later bring to the stage, film, and television. They include Mea Culpa, the title character of Mea's Big Apology (co-written by then-husband Stephen Hibbert
Stephen Hibbert
Stephen Hibbert is American actor and comedy writer. He is perhaps best known for his role as the The Gimp in the Quentin Tarantino film Pulp Fiction .-Career:Hibbert began his career as a member of the Los Angeles-based improv group The Groundlings...

), which won the Best Written Play Award from L.A. Weekly in 1988 and has been developed by Sweeney (in collaboration with Jim Emerson) into a screenplay; and the androgynous Pat
Pat (Saturday Night Live)
Pat was an androgynous fictional character created and performed by Julia Sweeney for the American sketch comedy show Saturday Night Live, and later featured in the film It's Pat...

, whose impossible-to-determine gender
Gender is a range of characteristics used to distinguish between males and females, particularly in the cases of men and women and the masculine and feminine attributes assigned to them. Depending on the context, the discriminating characteristics vary from sex to social role to gender identity...

 was the basis for Sweeney's popular It's Pat! skits on Saturday Night Live
Saturday Night Live
Saturday Night Live is a live American late-night television sketch comedy and variety show developed by Lorne Michaels and Dick Ebersol. The show premiered on NBC on October 11, 1975, under the original title of NBC's Saturday Night.The show's sketches often parody contemporary American culture...

, and later for her feature film of the same name, which never received a national release but has since gathered a small cult following.

In 1992 she also worked with the rock band Ugly Kid Joe
Ugly Kid Joe
Ugly Kid Joe is an American hard rock band from Isla Vista, California. The band's name spoofs that of another band, Pretty Boy Floyd. Ugly Kid Joe's sound includes a range of styles, including rock, glam metal, hard rock and heavy metal....

, performing in the music video for their hit "Neighbor" and contributing introductory audio to two tracks, "Goddamn Devil" and "Everything About You." The latter was on the soundtrack to the Lorne Michaels
Lorne Michaels
Lorne Michaels, CM is a Canadian-American television producer, writer, and comedian best known for creating and producing Saturday Night Live and producing the various film and TV projects that spun off from it.-Early life:...

 movie Wayne's World
Wayne's World
Wayne's World was originally a recurring sketch from the NBC television series Saturday Night Live. It evolved from a segment titled "Wayne's Power Minute" on the CBC Television series It's Only Rock & Roll, as the main character first appeared in that show...


In 1994, she had a small role as "Raquel" in the movie Pulp Fiction
Pulp Fiction (film)
Pulp Fiction is a 1994 American crime film directed by Quentin Tarantino, who co-wrote its screenplay with Roger Avary. The film is known for its rich, eclectic dialogue, ironic mix of humor and violence, nonlinear storyline, and host of cinematic allusions and pop culture references...


Sweeney serves on the Advisory Board of the Secular Coalition for America
Secular Coalition for America
The Secular Coalition for America is an advocacy group located in Washington D.C., representing atheists, humanists, freethinkers, agnostics, and other non-theistic people with a naturalistic worldview in American politics. Sean Faircloth, a five-term Maine state legislator, served as Executive...


In February 2010 she was named to the Freedom From Religion Foundation
Freedom From Religion Foundation
The Freedom From Religion Foundation is an American freethought organization based in Madison, Wisconsin. Its purposes, as stated in its bylaws, are to promote the separation of church and state and to educate the public on matters relating to atheism, agnosticism and nontheism. The FFRF publishes...

's Honorary Board of distinguished achievers.

Saturday Night Live

At a Groundlings performance in 1989, Saturday Night Live (SNL) producer Lorne Michaels discovered Sweeney and offered her a spot as one of SNL's featured players. She joined the regular SNL cast the following year and remained with the show through four seasons, from 1990 to 1994.

Sweeney's 1993 impression of Chelsea Clinton
Chelsea Clinton
Chelsea Victoria Clinton is a television journalist, currently serving as Special Correspondent for NBC News, and philanthropist, working through the Clinton Global Initiative. She is the only child of former U.S...

 caused a stir when Hillary Clinton found it offensive and sent an angry letter to SNL's Studio 8H.


Sweeney has created and performed three autobiographical monologues, God Said Ha!, In the Family Way, and Letting Go of God.

God Said Ha!

After leaving the cast of Saturday Night Live, Sweeney returned to Los Angeles where, shortly afterwards, her career was put on hold by a series of personal traumas. Her brother Michael was diagnosed with lymphoma
Lymphoma is a cancer in the lymphatic cells of the immune system. Typically, lymphomas present as a solid tumor of lymphoid cells. Treatment might involve chemotherapy and in some cases radiotherapy and/or bone marrow transplantation, and can be curable depending on the histology, type, and stage...

, and shortly thereafter Sweeney discovered that she had cancer
Cancer , known medically as a malignant neoplasm, is a large group of different diseases, all involving unregulated cell growth. In cancer, cells divide and grow uncontrollably, forming malignant tumors, and invade nearby parts of the body. The cancer may also spread to more distant parts of the...

, too. Her brother did not survive the cancer.

Following the ordeal, Sweeney began to tell of her experience in serio-comic performances at L.A.'s alternative comedy
Alternative comedy
Alternative comedy is a term that originated in the 1980s for a style of comedy that makes a conscious break with the mainstream comedic style of an era, and typically avoids relying on a standardised structure of a sequence of jokes with punch lines. Patton Oswalt defines it as "comedy where the...

 club, the Un-Cabaret
Un-Cabaret is a Los Angeles-based alternative comedy organization that produces live, TV and multi-media projects, workshops and events.-History:...

, eventually developing the stories into a one-woman stage show, God Said Ha!, which debuted at San Francisco's Magic Theater in 1995.

God Said Ha! moved to Broadway
Broadway theatre
Broadway theatre, commonly called simply Broadway, refers to theatrical performances presented in one of the 40 professional theatres with 500 or more seats located in the Theatre District centered along Broadway, and in Lincoln Center, in Manhattan in New York City...

, winning the 1996 New York Comedy Festival's Audience Award, and a CD recording of the show earned her a Grammy nomination for Best Comedy Album that same year. Miramax released a film version of the show in 1998, directed by Sweeney and produced by Quentin Tarantino
Quentin Tarantino
Quentin Jerome Tarantino is an American film director, screenwriter, producer, cinematographer and actor. In the early 1990s, he began his career as an independent filmmaker with films employing nonlinear storylines and the aestheticization of violence...

. The film earned the Golden Space Needle Award at the Seattle Film Festival. It was released on DVD in 2003. Portions of the monologues from Un-Cabaret were featured on This American Life
This American Life
This American Life is a weekly hour-long radio program produced by WBEZ and hosted by Ira Glass. It is distributed by Public Radio International on PRI affiliate stations and is also available as a free weekly podcast. Primarily a journalistic non-fiction program, it has also featured essays,...

(then known as Your Radio Playhouse) in January 1996 in episode 9. Since her initial monologue, she has appeared on three more This American Life episodes.

In the Family Way

Sweeney's second monologue chronicled the adoption of her daughter from China. In the Family Way started on stage in New York City in early 2003 at the Ars Nova Theatre. The show was directed by the Broadway stage director, Mark Brokaw
Mark Brokaw
Mark Brokaw is a stage director. He won the Drama Desk Award, Obie Award and Lucille Lortel Award as Outstanding Director of a Play for How I Learned to Drive.Brokaw was raised in Aledo, Illinois and graduated from the Yale Drama School...

. The show then migrated to the Groundlings Theatre in Los Angeles. Sweeney has also released a CD recording of In the Family Way, and in 2006 she performed a 25-minute excerpt of this show at the Hollywood Bowl
Hollywood Bowl
The Hollywood Bowl is a modern amphitheater in the Hollywood area of Los Angeles, California, United States that is used primarily for music performances...

 with a new orchestration written especially for her piece by the composer Anthony Marinelli and performed by the Los Angeles Philharmonic
Los Angeles Philharmonic
The Los Angeles Philharmonic is an American orchestra based in Los Angeles, California, United States. It has a regular season of concerts from October through June at the Walt Disney Concert Hall, and a summer season at the Hollywood Bowl from July through September...


Letting Go of God

Sweeney's third autobiographical monologue is titled Letting Go of God. In it, she discusses her Catholic
The word catholic comes from the Greek phrase , meaning "on the whole," "according to the whole" or "in general", and is a combination of the Greek words meaning "about" and meaning "whole"...

 upbringing, early religious ideology, and the life events and internal search that led her to believe that the universe can function on its own without a deity to preside over it, finally converting to complete Atheism
Atheism is, in a broad sense, the rejection of belief in the existence of deities. In a narrower sense, atheism is specifically the position that there are no deities...


In her monologue, Sweeney shared a story of when her mother told her her birthday was really October 10 instead of September 10, and how traumatic it was to discover she was not a winsome Virgo but really a Libra, symbolized as a cosmic scale.

She workshopped the show in small theaters and clubs around Los Angeles for three years and then opened it at the Hudson Backstage Theater in October 2004. An audio recording of Letting Go of God was released on CD in 2006, and it was filmed live on stage in May 2007. The film premiered at the Seattle International Film Festival
Seattle International Film Festival
The Seattle International Film Festival , held annually in Seattle, Washington since 1976, is among the top film festivals in North America. Audiences have grown steadily; the 2006 festival had 160,000 attendees...

 on June 13, 2008. The DVD of the show was released in November 2008 and sold via amazon.com.

Richard Dawkins
Richard Dawkins
Clinton Richard Dawkins, FRS, FRSL , known as Richard Dawkins, is a British ethologist, evolutionary biologist and author...

 referenced Letting Go of God several times in his book The God Delusion
The God Delusion
The God Delusion is a 2006 bestselling non-fiction book by British biologist Richard Dawkins, professorial fellow of New College, Oxford, and inaugural holder of the Charles Simonyi Chair for the Public Understanding of Science at the University of Oxford.In The God Delusion, Dawkins contends that...


Other roles

Julia Sweeney was a writer for the SNL film It's Pat
It's Pat
It's Pat, also known as It's Pat: The Movie, is a 1994 comedy film directed by Adam Bernstein and starring Julia Sweeney, Dave Foley, Charles Rocket, and Kathy Griffin...

, in which she played the title character. She has appeared on the big screen in Pulp Fiction
Pulp Fiction (film)
Pulp Fiction is a 1994 American crime film directed by Quentin Tarantino, who co-wrote its screenplay with Roger Avary. The film is known for its rich, eclectic dialogue, ironic mix of humor and violence, nonlinear storyline, and host of cinematic allusions and pop culture references...

, Clockstoppers
Clockstoppers is a 2002 science fiction film released by Paramount Pictures and Nickelodeon Movies. It was directed by Jonathan Frakes, produced by Gale Anne Hurd and Julia Pistor and written by Rob Hedden, Andy Hedden, J. David Stem and David N...

, Whatever It Takes
Whatever It Takes (film)
Whatever It Takes is a teen comedy starring Shane West, Marla Sokoloff, Jodi Lyn O'Keefe, and James Franco. It was first released in America on 31 March 2000...

, and Stuart Little
Stuart Little (film)
Stuart Little is a 1999 family film. It is loosely based on the novel of the same name by E. B. White. It combines live-action and computer animation. The screenplay was co-written by M. Night Shyamalan and Greg Brooker, with uncredited script doctoring by David O. Russell and Billy Ray...

. A veteran of live television, Sweeney made her mark on primetime television as a series regular on George & Leo
George & Leo
George & Leo is a short-lived American sitcom starring Bob Newhart and Judd Hirsch. Set on Martha's Vineyard, the series aired on CBS from September 15, 1997 to March 16, 1998.-Synopsis:...

and Maybe It's Me
Maybe It's Me (TV series)
Maybe It's Me is an American television comedy series that aired on The WB Network. It first aired on October 5, 2001 and ended on May 3, 2002...

and she guest starred on 3rd Rock from the Sun
3rd Rock from the Sun
3rd Rock from the Sun is an American sitcom that aired from 1996 to 2001 on NBC. The show is about four extraterrestrials who are on an expedition to Earth, which they consider to be a very insignificant planet...

, Hope & Gloria, Mad About You
Mad About You
Mad About You is an American sitcom that aired on NBC from September 23, 1992 to May 24, 1999. The show starred Paul Reiser and Helen Hunt as a newly married couple in New York City. Reiser played Paul Buchman, a documentary film maker. Hunt played Jamie Stemple Buchman, a public relations specialist...

, and According to Jim
According to Jim
According to Jim is an American sitcom television series starring Jim Belushi in the title role as a suburban father of three children. It originally ran on ABC from October 3, 2001 to June 2, 2009.-Synopsis:Jim is an abrasive but lovable suburban father...

. In 2004, Sweeney co-starred in two episodes of Frasier
Frasier is an American sitcom that was broadcast on NBC for eleven seasons, from September 16, 1993, to May 13, 2004. The program was created and produced by David Angell, Peter Casey, and David Lee in association with Grammnet and Paramount Network Television.A spin-off of Cheers, Frasier stars...

(as Frasier's blind date-turned-litigious unwanted houseguest, Ann Hodges) and had a guest role on Sex and the City
Sex and the City
Sex and the City is an American television comedy-drama series created by Darren Star and produced by HBO. Broadcast from 1998 until 2004, the original run of the show had a total of ninety-four episodes...

. She served as a consultant on Sex and the City for its last three seasons. She also consulted on season two of Desperate Housewives
Desperate Housewives
Desperate Housewives is an American television comedy-drama series created by Marc Cherry and produced by ABC Studios and Cherry Productions. Executive producer Cherry serves as Showrunner. Other executive producers since the fourth season include Marc Cherry, Bob Daily, George W...

and was the voice of Margo on the ABC animated series The Goode Family
The Goode Family
The Goode Family is an American animated sitcom, which originally aired on ABC from May 27, 2009 to August 7, 2009. The series was created by Mike Judge and follows the life of an environmentally responsible, albeit obsessive, family...

, and serves as the voice of Dr. Glove on Back at the Barnyard
Back at the Barnyard
Back at the Barnyard is a Nickelodeon CGI animated show that is a spin-off of the 2006 film Barnyard. The debut series premiered on September 29, 2007 on Nickelodeon. The show is produced by Omation Animation Studio, in association with Nickelodeon Animation Studios. The show mainly features pop...


In 2009 and 2010, Sweeney performed with singer/songwriter Jill Sobule
Jill Sobule
Jill Sobule is an American singer-songwriter best known for the 1995 single "I Kissed a Girl", and "Supermodel" from the soundtrack of the 1995 film Clueless...

 in a revue called "Jill and Julia". Sweeney and Sobule originally met at a Technology Entertainment and Design
TED (conference)
TED is a global set of conferences owned by the private non-profit Sapling Foundation, formed to disseminate "ideas worth spreading"....

 (TED) conference and performed together at TED in 2008. They brought the show on the road in 2009 and 2010, performing in New York and Denver among other locations. The show is an autobiographical mix of music, stories and commentary.

Sweeney is also a part of the regular rotation of panelists for the NPR
NPR, formerly National Public Radio, is a privately and publicly funded non-profit membership media organization that serves as a national syndicator to a network of 900 public radio stations in the United States. NPR was created in 1970, following congressional passage of the Public Broadcasting...

 news quiz radio show Wait Wait... Don't Tell Me!
Wait Wait... Don't Tell Me!
Wait Wait... Don't Tell Me! is an hour-long weekly radio news panel game show produced by Chicago Public Radio and National Public Radio. It is distributed by NPR in the United States, internationally on NPR Worldwide and on the Internet via podcast, and typically broadcast on weekends by member...

, which records in downtown Chicago.

External links