The number-one question that Saturday Night Live alum Rachel Dratch gets is some variation of, “Why aren’t you on 30 Rock?” After her SNL stint ended, Dratch’s friend Tina Fey offered her the role of Jenna on 30 Rock — until the powers that be decided to de-emphasize sketch comedy on the show and replaced her with Jane Krakowski. In her funny new memoir Girl Walks Into a Bar, Dratch dishes on everything you wanted to know about the highs and lows of her comedy career — for a time, she was only offered parts playing “Lesbians. Secretaries. Sometimes secretaries who are lesbians… I am solely offered the parts which I like to refer to as “The Unf—ables.” But she also focuses on personal stories, like her misadventures in dating and her unexpected pregnancy at age 43. Read on for more Dratch!
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: How were you approached to write this book?
RACHEL DRATCH: Actually, I approached the literary agent at my acting agency because I wasn’t really acting much after SNL and 30 Rock, and I had a lot of time on my hands. While I was wasting a lot of time, I thought, if something funny happens, I should just write it down for a storytelling night or something like that. So I’d write after I had a bad day dog-sitting, and all these stories eventually went in the book. I went to the literary agent at my acting agency and she really liked them, but they didn’t really have a place to go, so they kind of sat around for about a year. Then I had this crazy life plot twist [meeting a guy and having a surprise baby at age 43] and then I went back and went, “Oh, now I have this crazy story on my hands.” That’s when I wrote the proposal and got the book deal.
The stuff about your time on 30 Rock and SNL – which was very interesting, by the way – happens early in the book. It’s almost as if you wanted to get that out of the way so you could get to all the later parts.
Yes! You little detective you. [Laughs] I debated whether I wanted to talk about 30 Rock only because I didn’t want to bring it all up again. Not even for me, but I wondered if I really wanted the public back on this whole 30 Rock questioning train. That did cross my mind — should I include it? I thought that maybe if I get the story out, people will finally lay it to rest and there wouldn’t be any more, “What ever happened with that?” So that’s why I wanted to. And in terms of what you picked up on about Second City and SNL – those were originally more of a footnote, but the editors wanted to know about those things. So I wrote about SNL but some of the other stories are just ones that I’d tell my friends. SNL was more like, “Okay, How do I talk about being on SNL?”
Well, I did love your “Unofficial Guide to Being on SNL.” Very illuminating.
Okay, good! Thank you.
Did you read some of the other comedian memoirs to get ideas for yours?
I read some of these books when I knew I was writing one — I read Kathy Griffin and Sarah Silverman. Then I read some other non-comedy autobiographies just to see how people do this. But I purposely didn’t read Tina [Fey]’s while I was writing this because I didn’t want her version of Second City or SNL to get in my head. I wanted to go in with a blank slate. Then afterwards when I looked at Tina’s book, they actually weren’t too similar because we had a completely different take on those things.
Tina Fey and Mindy Kaling both touched on the double standards concerning female comedians in Hollywood — you addressed it a bit too. Was it important for you to cover those issues?
You know what? What I didn’t want to do was pretend that I had any answers about women in comedy and Hollywood. I just wanted to tell my story and what I was experiencing because some other women might have a totally different experience. Maybe it’s me! I don’t know. I didn’t want to seem like, “Oh, the man is keeping me down!” This is just what actually happened. I actually was much more optimistic about my career even after 30 Rock, but literally, these auditions I would get … I wasn’t exaggerating. I was only getting auditions for obese people or 65-year-old people. Or butch lesbians. That was it! Then I realized it was my reality. No amount of meetings or auditions and convincing people, “Well, I’m different!” would change anything. I just had to accept what was coming my way, so that’s what I wrote about. I don’t think I have some sociological “women in Hollywood” message.
In either case, you tell a pretty jaw-dropping story about a terrible experience you had on the set of an Estella Warren movie. I promptly went on Google to figure out what movie that was.
I debated putting that one in, but I did. [Laughs] That was more a crazy anecdote than some kind of big statement.
Even with all the fascinating stuff about your career, I thought the funniest parts of the book were about your bad dates. Were those only funny in retrospect?
Good question — yeah! When they were happening, they weren’t very funny at all. But if you have a great day where everything goes well, then there’s no story there. These stories had to come from the day when everything goes to shit. If I wrote about a good date, it’d be really boring. While some of these dates were happening, I was bummed, but soon after, I saw the humor in them so I filed them away.
I liked how you applied comedy’s “rule of threes” to going on three really bad dates — a guy who ate horse meat, a guy who drank too much, and an egomaniac — before you met the right guy. Which was the worst date?
The worst one was also the funniest one: the horse meat story, but only because the actual date wasn’t bad at all. Even the horse meat stuff, at the time, wasn’t that ridiculous. It just made for a funny story later. I was just so psyched about him. The others I wasn’t so sure about, but with this one I was thinking, “Oh yeah, this is happening. It’s happening just like it happens in the movies.” Then I got totally blown off. That’s why that one was the worst, but not because the actual date was so excruciating. It was a blow-off. [Laughs]
I’ve noticed from reading books by female comedians, like you, Tina Fey, and Mindy Kaling, that you all spend an inordinate amount of time singing the praises of Amy Poehler.
[Laughs] Really? I didn’t even know! I guess she just has a good aura. People gravitate to it. She’s very supportive and she’s got a good combo of being cool enough that she’s one of the guys, but she’s also sensitive and wise.
Later in the book, when things start going really, really well for you, you point out a bunch of really fortuitous things that happen to you that just seem like fate. Have things like that always happened in your life?
God, that’s a good question. Maybe I just started noticing it more. At the beginning of the book, I say “I’m really not like this,” like into superstition or New Age-y ideas, but I keep on telling stories about it. That was sort of a natural evolution too. In the end I had to say, “Okay, I guess I am into all this stuff,” even though I’m kind of embarrassed by it. All those things really happened. I have that whole story about The Secret in there, which is embarrassing, but maybe it’s because I started noticing all these signs from the UNIVERSE. I haven’t gone through life with all these crazy signs and symbols. I just started to notice these things, and once I started writing, I thought, “Oh my God, there are lot of these weird little magical events.”
You write about really doing the mom thing, not doing a Hollywood version of the mom thing — but what if the perfect role came along?
You know what actually happened is ironically I just got a pilot that we shot this week. It’s the Kari Lizer pilot. It was called Lady Friends but I think they’re changing the name, but it’s with Minnie Driver. We just shot it on Tuesday. It’s just so weird because out of the blue I got this part a couple of weeks ago, and then we just shot it and it’s a really funny part. So maybe it is all MAGIC that it all turns around right when the book comes out!
So it’s a good project this time?
Yeah! It’s about Minnie Driver and this other woman Andrea Anders. Minnie’s single and Andrea’s married and they’ve been friends for years so it sort of explores that whole married vs. single friendship. I really like it because it’s really real but it’s also really funny. I have this side part where I’m Minnie’s friend who’s just a little socially awkward and it’s a really funny part so hopefully something will happen with it. But if not it’s just fun to play a regular girl for once, not a 300-pound lesbian. I said in the book that I’m too odd for the best friend role. This is good because I’m the odd friend. It’s perfect!
So now you’ll be doing the mom/working-actress thing?
I’ll kind of wait and see what happens with the book and see what happens career-wise. We’ll see with this pilot, and if it doesn’t happen, I don’t know what I’ll do. I’ll figure something out!
Follow Stephan on Twitter: @EWStephanLee
Kristen Johnston talks about her drug addiction, her life-threatening illness, her recovery, and her new memoir, ‘Guts.’
Mindy Kaling: An in-depth interview about her book, childhood, shoes, and homemade sashimi
Mindy Kaling takes the EW Book Quiz: Her favorite books, and the book she’d kill a bug with
Tina Fey’s ‘Bossypants’: EW review