Pat (Saturday Night Live)

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Pat is an androgynous fictional character[1] created and performed by Julia Sweeney for the American sketch comedy show Saturday Night Live,[2] and later featured in the film It's Pat. The central aspect of sketches featuring Pat is the inability of others to determine the character's gender.

Physical appearance[edit]

Pat O'Neill Riley is overweight, has short, curly black hair, and wears thick glasses. Pat typically wears a blue Western-style shirt, with tan slacks.

In creating the character, actor Sweeney wore no makeup, colored her lips beige, and colored in her eyebrows, to create the character's gender-ambiguous appearance. Sweeney said that the Pat character originated when Sweeney tried to play a male character in a sketch, but looked unconvincing.


Pat is socially awkward, to the point of impairment. Pat speaks in a nasal voice which is much louder than everyone else Pat is around. Pat often ends sentences by making a strange whimpering, giggling, or 'thought-in-process' sound. Pat apparently has very sweaty palms, and is constantly wiping them on clothing, as if to dry them. Pat is annoying, self-pitying, and pathetic. The other characters are generally sympathetic, and attempt to include Pat. An exception to this is when Pat speaks of sexual and romantic interests, to which other characters react with disgust or, at least, disinterest.


The sketches always revolve around the gag of Pat's unrevealed gender. The name "Pat" can be short for "Patricia", a female name, or "Patrick", a male name. The celebrity guests on the show play everyday people who encounter Pat, and who then try to discern Pat's gender, without being so rude as to actually ask outright. Pat remains oblivious, and endlessly frustrates the questioners with answers that leave Pat's gender vague.

Pat often makes statements that seem to reveal a gender, only to then immediately confuse things again. A typical example might be, "Sorry if I'm a little grumpy, I have really bad cramps... I rode my bike over here, and my calf muscles are KILLING me!" In another sketch, Pat tells Kevin Nealon that their name is Pat Riley, "same as the coach of the Lakers," only to add, "except there's a big difference between him and me... I'm not the coach of a professional basketball team."

Other gags include Pat's attempts at humor, which serve to confuse everyone further: when asked what "Pat" is short for, the character replies, "Pat is short for P-a-a-a-a-a-t!" When asked about sex in an application, Pat responds, "Please!" In another joke, Pat is asked their full name, to which the character responds that Pat almost never uses their middle name, as it is "embarrassing". The eager audience then finds out that the middle name is "O'Neill," again continuing the joke. In yet another sketch where Pat goes to the hairdresser, the stylist asks which magazine Pat would like to read, naming gender-specific titles. In response, Pat asks for People.

Feature film: It's Pat[edit]

The character gave rise to a feature-length 1994 film called It's Pat (from the lyrics of the character's theme song on Saturday Night Live). The film was a critical and commercial bomb.


Pat meets Chris, another gender-ambiguous character, played by Dave Foley. (On SNL, Chris had been played by Dana Carvey.) They quickly fall in love, and propose to each other at exactly the same time. Before the wedding, however, Chris breaks up with Pat due to Pat's arrogance and lack of direction in life; Pat has a brief stint in a rock band, and starts to believe that they them-self are going to be an overnight celebrity. Meanwhile, Pat has become an object of obsession of a neighbor (Charles Rocket), who is so determined to discover Pat's gender that he goes insane. However, Pat's gender is never revealed in the film. At the end of the film, Pat and Chris are reunited, and, in an epilogue, they get married.


Sweeney helped co-write a book to coincide with the film's release, titled It's Pat!: My Life Exposed. Pat makes it through the entire 96-page book without revealing the character's gender.

Pat's sex[edit]

The character has been described as "hermaphroditic" in the book The Guide to United States Popular Culture.[2] The book Creating Contexts for Learning and Self-authorship: Constructive-developmental Pedagogy, states that the character's "gender is never revealed".[3]

See also[edit]


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