It’s ironic that Rachel Dratch is probably best known for her portrayal of “Debbie Downer” on Saturday Night Live. The character that made her recognizable was known for zapping people’s energy with constant reminders of doom is a far cry from the upbeat real-life Dratch. When she left SNL and was quickly replaced on 30 Rock, Dratch found herself 40, single, and unemployed after seven years of living the dream with Fey, Fallon, and after-parties. “The only [role] offers I was getting were lesbians, secretaries and sometimes secretaries who are lesbians,” says Dratch.
But unlike her famous character, Dratch found the silver lining. Realizing she finally had time to do things like date, do yoga, and contemplate religion, she embarked on a journey of self-discovery. Her debut memoir, Girl Walks into a Bar: Comedy Calamities, Dating Disasters and Midlife Miracles (Gotham Books), is a whirlwind of hilarious, unpredictable adventures. Girl Walks into a Bar stands up for all women in their thirties and forties who haven’t lived their lives in sync with the societal timeline.
We spoke with Dratch about topics including sex-addict boyfriends, channeling spirits, and how her “unplanned non-career” led to her surprise mid-life pregnancy.
LIANNE STOKES: After being on SNL for seven years and having such huge experiences, what inspired you to finally share your story?
RACHEL DRATCH: It was out of necessity. Nothing was happening after SNL, and I had worked so steady for so long. After SNL and the 30 Rock thing, I was kind of frittering away my days. I didn’t originally intend on writing a book. I started writing during the day to feel like I was accomplishing something creative. The stories I wrote about being single and dating, I wrote way before anything happened. Then when I became pregnant, I thought, “Now this thing has somewhere to go.”
STOKES: Your book focuses on your life after Saturday Night Live, when you find yourself single and 40. The movie offers weren’t coming in, but you used this time to take up yoga and finally focus on the finding love. It’s like you were finally discovering the deeper you that had been neglected. Did you ever get depressed?
DRATCH: I think I didn’t get depressed because the year after I left the Second City main stage I went out to LA and nothing was happening. That’s when I was worried that I would never work again. But a year later I got Saturday Night Live. This time around, I didn’t wallow in it. I just believed that eventually something would come along.
STOKES: What I liked about your story is that you never feel sorry for yourself. No one wants to read a book about someone who solicits sympathy from the reader.
DRATCH: Yeah, that’s very true. I never wanted to be that person who leaves SNL and nothing happens. Then I thought, “Oh wow, that’s me now.” It was a little bit of a bummer, but it wasn’t an earth-shattering event.
STOKES: I loved how after dating all these dysfunctional addicts, you end up meeting the father of your son at Shoolbred’s, a bar in the East Village. You were already in your forties. I think that’s very inspirational for women, especially those in their thirties and forties who are still worried about where they’re going to end up. After your experience, what dating advice would you give?
DRATCH: I met John at a bar. I hate to give anyone encouragement that you’re going to meet someone at a bar. You go there a thousand times and nothing happens. I’m no expert. Some people throw themselves into it and do the whole Internet thing. That wasn’t for me. I have to say it will happen when you’re not looking, because I’m not really an active looker.
STOKES: Ladies just have to keep going to bars.
DRATCH: I know. I hate to say it.
STOKES: When you were pregnant with your son, Nate Berkus’ design team came in to build a nursery for his show. It was all very innocent until you had to hide your large, red dildo, a gift from your sex-addict ex. You claim you never used it. I believe this, because you also call it a vibrator. Dildos and vibrators are two different things.
DRATCH: Well, the telltale dildo sounded better than the telltale vibrator. [laughs] I hope you… frame this with context.
STOKES: Well, I once heard that sex sells, and not having sex sells. Your book is going to sell.
DRATCH: [laughs] When you’re writing about these experiences, you’re not thinking about people knowing all these personal details about your life.
STOKES: How did you fit into the comedy world, being so innocent?
DRATCH: I know a lot of girls in the comedy world who are kind of like me. I don’t know where the slutty girls hang out, but it’s not the comedy world as far as I know.
STOKES: You say when you met your boyfriend, John, you thought you had a psychic connection because you both had the same dream about a detached penis. For you, a comedian, this isn’t far out. But for John, an alleged Republican from the Midwest, that’s pretty wild.
DRATCH: We were both in shock, because neither of us had ever had that dream before. He’s the one who brought it up. So maybe he’s a little more edgy than I give him credit for.
STOKES: There’s a hilarious scene in your book where you go to a medium that channeled a spirit named Kendra. I thought that was a funny name for someone who was supposed to be a wise, ancient soul. Kendra is the name of one of Hef’s ex-girlfriends.
DRATCH: I know. I have no idea how she got that name. Is it Indian? Nah.
STOKES: Well, at least she wasn’t a Tiffany or a Britney.
DRATCH: [laughs] I don’t regularly consult psychics, but she predicted my pregnancy. I went back to her when I was still in the fear stage and she told me everything was going to be okay. At the time, that’s all I needed to hear.
STOKES: In the book, you claim you wouldn’t trade your son, Eli for an Oscar, an Emmy, or even a SAG Award, but what about a People’s Choice Award?
DRATCH: Now you tempt me! The people, they are the ones with the real answers. [laughs] No, not even for a People’s Choice.
STOKES: What’s your dream role?
DRATCH: I don’t have a dream role per se, but I’m exited about a pilot I’m shooting tomorrow in L.A. Plus, the book is coming out. You know what they say, “The universe!”
STOKES: It’s on your side. I assume you’re not playing a lesbian secretary.
DRATCH: [laughs] No, no not this time. This time I am not a lesbian secretary.
GIRL WALKS INTO A BAR IS OUT TOMORROW.