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You Should Know … Julia Sweeney

It’s Pat!—with a new husband, a new North Shore address, and a new comedy series at the Lakeshore Theater

Post something on Craigslist and you might be surprised to find the former SNL cast member, acclaimed author, and Grammy-nominated monologist Julia Sweeney standing at your door. Since she moved to the North Shore with her daughter, Mulan, 9, and husband, Michael Blum, a scientist, she’s been getting to know her new city via the online trading post. “I love Craigslist!” says Sweeney in her distinctive, chirpy voice. “I’m getting to know different neighborhoods by driving around and buying things. I just bought a Catholic church pew in Oak Park.”

Sweeney first visited Chicago around 1979 for an audition at the Goodman School of Drama (now the Theatre School at DePaul), but that didn’t go so well. “I didn’t get in! But it didn’t shut me down,” she says. “I just said to myself, OK, that didn’t work—what’s next?” She worked as an accountant while taking comedy classes before joining the cast of Saturday Night Live in 1990. She created the iconically androgynous character of Pat, but left after four years, feeling that her moment had come and gone. She examined her spiritual and physical crises in the one-woman performances God Said Ha!, In the Family Way, and Letting Go of God. They also circuitously led to love, marriage, and her Illinois address. “I got an e-mail with ‘Desperately Seeking Sweeney-in-Law’ as the subject line,” she says. “It was from a fan who thought his [Chicago-based] brother would be perfect for me, which I thought was hilarious, but I didn’t do anything. Six months later, after meeting this fan, another friend, and even his mother, I started e-mailing back and forth with Michael, the brother. We hit it off, and when I finally invited him to lunch in L.A., he came that weekend.”

Since moving to Chicago to be with Blum, Sweeney, who script-consulted on Sex and the City and Desperate Housewives, has been developing a pilot with her writing partner Jim Emerson (who also runs Roger Ebert’s website) and working on ABC’s The Goode Family, an animated sitcom. She records episodes at a studio in Evanston: “It’s the best, because you don’t have to memorize anything or wear makeup.” She has also been popping up in the occasional Jill and Julia Show with the singer/songwriter Jill Sobule at the Lakeshore Theater, and spending an inordinate amount of time at American Girl. “Mulan is obsessed with those dolls,” she says. “They’re like crack cocaine for kids, but at least she’s learning historical things about the Depression. I never learned anything from my Barbies—all they wanted were dates.”

SEE Julia Sweeney and Jill Sobule have been performing the Jill and Julia Show at LAKESHORE THEATER. No dates were scheduled at presstime. For excerpts, go to youtube.com

 

Photograph: Ryan Robinson

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