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Debbie Downer does a book

Rachel Dratch shares comedy calamities and dating disasters

April 30, 2012|By Julia Borcherts | for RedEye

"Girl walks into a bar"--sounds like the set-up of a classic joke. It's also the title of comedian and former "SNL" cast member Rachel Dratch's humorous new memoir, "Girl Walks Into a Bar--Comedy Calamities, Dating Disasters, and a Midlife Miracle," in which she dishes on everything from bad dates to getting replaced on "30 Rock" to becoming unexpectedly pregnant at 43.

Dratch, who earned two "Best Actress in a Revue" Jeff Awards performing on The Second City mainstage in the mid-'90s--with casts that included Tina Fey, Adam McKay and Scott Adsit--was featured on "SNL" from 1999 to 2005. Many fondly remember her for signature characters like Boston teen Denise "Zazu" McDonough, the "Lovers" professors (with Will Ferrell) and perennial pessimist Debbie Downer.

Tonight, Dratch returns to The Second City for a sold-out reading, signing and Q&A at the UP Comedy Club. We called her--during the baby's nap--to catch up.

Go: 6 p.m. tonight at UP Comedy Club, 230 W. North Ave.
Tickets: SOLD OUT;; 312-662-4562

What does the book's title refer to?

It refers to the randomness of life because that's how I met my baby daddy [laughs], my son's dad. Through all the trials and tribulations in life and dating and everything, I eventually just walked into a bar.

Which of the book's dating disasters seems the most ridiculous to you?

Probably that horsemeat story. [Dratch was rejected by a man who was into horsemeat.] But while I was on that date, it wasn't like, "Oh my god, this is so crazy." It was more that I got blown off so hard for the second date.

What was the most difficult part for you to write?

I wasn't sure if I should talk about the whole "30 Rock" thing. Getting replaced wasn't exceedingly painful. You kind of get used to stuff like that happening. It was more that it got picked up by the media, and it was reported so much. That was the bummer of it. So then I had this choice—do I even want to bring this up again? Like, people just forgot about this whole thing and now here I am, dredging it all up again.

But I felt like for where I started my story, it was necessary. Here's where I was off "SNL," off "30 Rock," now what do I do?

What was it like making the transition from Second City to "SNL"?

With Second City, you are only writing through improv, and that was a lot easier. I didn't think of myself as a writer, but you kind of have to at Second City--everyone does, just through the improvising.

But then when you get to "SNL," you're sitting in front of a computer, you're with maybe one or two other people. You're not doing it on your feet. So thinking up jokes that way is a lot--different. [Laughs] I feel like I come up with funnier stuff just improvising, so that was a big transition.

And the other thing--scenes that killed at Second City, I'd try to put up at "SNL" and I couldn't get them on the show. At Second City, you could have some character that could take time to develop in the scene or it could be based on something really subtle. At "SNL," you need that punch line right away 'cause they can change the channel.

What would Debbie Downer say about Chicago?

Except for the cold, I can't think of one bad thing to say about Chicago because I idealize it so much. There are no downers about Chicago. [Laughs.]

What's next for you?

Right when the book was about to come out, I got a pilot, finally--the timing is so funny. I'll find out on May 15 if it goes or not. It's written by Kari Lizer, who wrote "The New Adventures of Old Christine." The original title was "Lady Friends." It's with Minnie Driver and Andrea Anders. I play the odd side-friend of Minnie Driver, but it's a really funny part.

So that's what could be next. I've learned not to plan too much in crazy old show business. You just kind of float down the stream and go where it carries you.

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