In 11 Questions, The A.V. Club asks interesting people 11 interesting questions—and then asks them to suggest one for our next interviewee.
Best known for her seven-year stint on Saturday Night Live, Rachel Dratch has since become a seasoned co-star, appearing on shows like 30 Rock and in movies like I Now Pronounce You Chuck & Larry. Her memoir, Girl Walks Into A Bar: Comedy Calamities, Dating Disasters, And A Midlife Miracle, is out now, as is her new Amazon pilot, Salem Rogers. Co-starring Leslie Bibb, Salem Rogers follows a supermodel who emerges from 10 years in rehab and attempts to re-adjust to society with the help of her former assistant, played by Dratch. It’s streaming right now on Amazon as part of the site’s “pilot season.”
Rachel Dratch: When I was in Chicago—you know, you’re first starting out acting—and somehow I got this job to be in one of those costumes at the opening at a Warner Bros. store. And so I had to dress up in a Sylvester costume in a mall in Schaumburg, Illinois. But those things get super hot 10 minutes in. You’re like, “Oh, man, I did not bargain for this.” So then I got to switch to be Tweety Bird, so I had a giant, styrofoam Tweety Bird head on. But teenagers would run up and just hit the back of the Tweety Bird head.
It only lasted one day. So I can’t really complain that much.
The A.V. Club: Why was it so hot? Was it summer?
RD: It was not. I don’t know why it was so hot in there. I don’t remember the season; I was in a mall.
RD: The one that immediately comes to mind is getting SNL. But that’s the big daddy of the successes. That’s the dream one for me.
Maybe when I got into the touring company of Second City, because I was still wavering between trying to do the whole acting thing and committing to it or doing something more traditional. But then once I got in the touring company I finally blew off my other more regular job ideas. So that was my smaller-scale success.
AVC: What were your other regular job ideas?
RD: I wanted to be a therapist. That was the other thing I really wanted to do.
RD: I would be invisible and, out of nowhere, I would surprise those groups of people who walk slowly taking up the whole sidewalk by pushing them vigorously onto the ground.
RD: When I was really little, I was super shy. Someone would say “Hi” to me and I would hide behind my mom. And I actually have a kid now and he’s very outgoing and I cannot imagine. He’ll just walk down the street and say “Hi” to random people, and that’s so un-me.
I don’t know how old I was when I kind of started being more of a comedy type. Maybe seventh grade or so? And then I became a little bit of a class clown/nerd class clown. A combo platter.
AVC: That’s unusual, because sixth or seventh grade is usually when kids who are usually really outgoing start getting shit on by other kids and just shut down.
RD: I know. I grew up with a lot of funny people. So maybe it was kind of in the air, making jokes. I had funny friends, even in seventh grade. They were just around me I guess.
RD: I guess the first thing that comes to mind is like a combo-platter of [Laughs.]—this is so embarrassing—Fonzie and Vinnie Barbarino. The two leather-jacketed hoodlums. In real life, we know they are quite different from their characters, though.
I had Fonzie socks. Actually, I got to meet Henry Winkler eventually, and I didn’t tell him I had a crush on him, but I did tell him I had Fonzie socks.
AVC: What made you like them? Is it because they were bad boys?
RD: It was probably an ill-advised crush. They were bad boys. Why would I have a crush on them? I don’t know. I’d like to think it’s because everyone did at the time and I was going with the flow. I’d like to give you like a deeper answer of someone much more pensive. One of my friends was really into John-Boy Walton—Richard Thomas of The Waltons. I didn’t go for the studious, quiet type. I wanted the guy who could hit the jukebox and make the songs play.
RD: I keep thinking, like, “Rhapsody In Blue” to make a big entrance. But I think I just heard that in Starbucks a half hour ago, so it’s in my head. That would be amazing entrance music, but it wouldn’t be good for a talk show.
AVC: It doesn’t have to just be for a talk show.
RD: Oh, like when I walk into a room it just plays?
AVC: Yeah, definitely. But for “Rhapsody In Blue” you’d have to have a really sweeping dress on.
RD: That would be pretty cool. I’d have to wear a sweeping dress at all times and walk with great grandeur.
RD: Well, I was hanging with my child for the first part of the day until he went to school. I am ashamed to say that I did let him watch a movie in the morning, which is not my proudest thing today. Then I dropped him at school, then some boring errands.
Oh, but here’s a funny thing. My kid is taking these little chess lessons once a week but today was the day that I was like, “We’ve got to stop this, he’s just not into it.” The teacher is really nice, and he’s really good with kids and everything, but instead of actually focusing, my son just wants to talk about the kings and the dragons. Today was the day I finally thought I should pull the plug on that one.
RD: People think I’m Amy Poehler all the time. And they think that we’re each other, which is a huge compliment for me. I think it was because we both used to have wigs on, we were playing different characters on SNL, we’re both short and both have big blue eyes. So I get confused for her a lot. People are like, “Hey, Amy!” and I don’t even correct them anymore. I’m like, “Hey, what’s up?” She’s a great person to be mistaken for.
I know if you’re reading this you might think, “What? You guys don’t look alike at all,” but it really happens all the time.
And then in terms of celebrity resemblance, I do look like Tony Blair’s wife quite a bit. But unfortunately she hasn’t been in the news that much. It would have helped me on SNL. If she were all over, I would have had a franchise on SNL, but it just didn’t happen that way.
AVC: People don’t yell, “Hey, Cherie Blair!” at you on the street?
RD: Exactly, exactly.
RD: Oh my gosh, this is where I find out that I have no skills.
Well, back to the therapist thing, I think I’m really good at analyzing people’s dreams, so that would be a good therapist skill.
This might be too related to acting, but I’m also good at writing poems for people’s wedding toasts. They really bring the house down. But that kind of stands to reason that if you’re in comedy and you’ve written some things, you can do that. But I don’t know if it’s far-flung enough.
AVC: No, I think that’s good. If you came down with horrible stage fright and had to stop acting, you could make a good living coming up with wedding poems. There’s a lot of money in that industry.
RD: I’d rather analyze people’s dreams, I think.
RD: I really don’t. I mean, I have this collection of rocks and shells and cool things I find on my travels, but they’re just in this little thing on my table. I’m not like, “I’ve got to go hunt down more shells now.” It’s just sort of an accidental collection.
RD: One time I was lucky enough to have the pasta tasting at the restaurant Babbo here in New York, so I think I would pick that because it was stupendous and took a long time to eat. And I’d finish with a mocha chip ice cream cone from Brigham’s, which is a Boston ice cream chain that seems to be disappearing. But it’s so much food I would probably explode and have the last laugh on my executioners.
12. The bonus question comes from Nate Corddry. “What’s the most special Christmas or Hanukkah gift that you’ve ever received?“
RD: I don’t know if this was for Christmas or Hanukkah—it might have been a birthday present—but my mom is a pretty good cook and we’re not a family that has all the photos up and does all the scrapbooking. We don’t have a lot of memorabilia skills—so this was extra special that she did this—but she made me this homemade binder cookbook thing with all of her favorite recipes that she makes, but she also made it to a theme. So she put little childhood poems with each category. So if it were soups, it would be [Maurice Sendak’s] Chicken Soup With Rice and a little blurb from that. If it were desserts it would be “C is for cookie and that’s good enough for me.” Then there’d be all these little recipes that she used to make or her little cooking tips. So it’s this really cool homemade family special thing that she made for me.
AVC: What would you like to ask the next person?
RD: What’s the most reckless, life-endangering thing you’ve done?