Pat (Saturday Night Live)
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Pat is an androgynous fictional character created and performed by Julia Sweeney for the American sketch comedy show Saturday Night Live, and later featured in the film It's Pat. The central aspect of sketches featuring Pat was the inability of others to determine the character's sex.
Pat (Pat O'Neil Riley) was a somewhat overweight character with short, curly black hair who wore glasses and a blue western-style shirt with tan slacks. The character spoke in a nasal voice that sometimes squeaked. Pat apparently suffered from very sweaty palms and constantly wiped them on his or her clothing while making a strange whimpering sound, further adding to the character's unappealing quality. Sweeney wore no face makeup but colored her lips beige and overdid her eyebrows to hide any gender identity clues. Sweeney has said that Pat originated when she tried to play a male character in a sketch but looked unconvincing.
The sketches always involved the celebrity guest hosts of the show playing everyday people who encounter Pat and then go to great lengths to discover Pat's true sex without being so rude as to actually ask (because Pat can be short for either "Patrick", a male name, or "Patricia", a female one). Pat remained oblivious, endlessly frustrating the questioners with answers that leave the character's gender vague. The character often made statements that seemed 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 his or her name is Pat Riley, same as the coach of the Lakers, "except there's a big difference between him and me. I'm not the coach of a professional basketball team." Other gags included Pat's attempts at humor, which served to confuse everyone further, such as when asked what Pat is short for, the character would reply, Pat is short for "P-a-a-a-a-a-t!", or when asked about sex in an application, Pat responded, "Please!" Another joke was when Pat was asked the full name, to which the character responded that Pat almost never referred to the character's self by the middle name, as it was embarrassing, to which an eager audience was filled in that it was "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. However, Pat asks for People.
The character was popular enough to spawn a feature length 1994 film called It's Pat (from the lyrics of the character's theme song on Saturday Night Live). In the film, 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 on account of Pat's arrogance and the fact that Pat cannot decide on a direction in life. 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. Pat also has a brief rock music career in the film and plays with the band Ween. After the band hired Pat for a cameo appearance, he/she built it up and started looking at it from an unrealistic point of view (in which Pat thought he/she was going to become an overnight celebrity), which had a hand in the breaking up of Pat and Chris. The film was a critical and commercial bomb.
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 his or her true sex.
The character has been described as "hermaphroditic" in the book The Guide to United States Popular Culture. In the book Creating Contexts for Learning and Self-authorship: Constructive-developmental Pedagogy, it states that the character's "gender is never revealed".