Julia Sweeney reflects on complicated legacy of SNL character Pat

The comedian was taken aback by the character's impact.
2024 TCM Classic Film Festival Day 2 – Friday
2024 TCM Classic Film Festival Day 2 – Friday / Rodin Eckenroth/GettyImages

Julia Sweeney is not a household name, but she was a household face for much of the 1990s. The talented comedian has bit parts in films like Pulp Fiction (1994) and Stuart Little (1999), and spent four seasons as a cast member on Saturday Night Live.

The irony, though, is that Julia Sweeney is best known for playing a character which rendered her unrecognizable: Pat. Pat was a recurring character on SNL, in which humor was derived from other people being unclear as to whether they were a man or a woman.

Julia Sweeney was saddened to learn how Pat was perceived

It was so successful, in fact, that Sweeney reprised the role in a feature film, It's Pat (1994). The more time has passed, however, the more complicated the legacy becomes. During a recent interview with People Magazine, Julia Sweeney recalled an interaction with a friend that led to her rethinking the Pat character entirely:

"[It] just broke my heart, because I felt that I carefully wrote all the jokes to be about the people’s uncomfortableness with Pat, not Pat being uncomfortable with Pat’s self."

Sweeney was told the outlet that she never intended Pat to be the butt of the joke. "To me it was an empowering nonbinary thing," she explained. "And that it was perceived that way was very upsetting." To the SNL alum's credit, she's doing her best to make up for the misconception.

Sweeney is working to reinvent the character for modern times

Julia Sweeney
Celebrating 50 Years Of Iconic Characters From The Groundlings To SNL, MadTV And Beyond / Harmony Gerber/GettyImages

The comedian is actually trying to reinvent the character of Pat for modern audiences. She met with different trans writers in an effort to ensure that Pat is afforded the respect Sweeney always intended for them.

"A lot of the people who were there, well, all of them loved Pat," the comedian added. "They were little kids when they saw Pat and felt that was a transformative thing for them to see."

Sweeney has not been revealed how or when Pat will be reinvented, or whether it will be on Saturday Night Live. Either way, we're curious to see where this reinvention goes.

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