Julia Sweeney

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Julia Sweeney
Sweeney julia.jpg
Sweeney in 2008
Julia Anne Sweeney

(1959-10-10) October 10, 1959 (age 61)
OccupationActress, comedian, writer, author
Years active1988–present
Stephen Hibbert
(m. 1989; div. 1994)

Michael Blum
(m. after 2008)

Julia Anne Sweeney (born October 10, 1959)[1][2] is an American actress, comedian and author. She was a cast member on Saturday Night Live from 1990 to 1994. She played Mrs. Keeper in the film Stuart Little and voiced Brittany in Father of the Pride.[3] She currently co-stars in the Hulu series Shrill and the Showtime series Work in Progress.

Early life[edit]

Sweeney was born in Spokane, Washington, the daughter of Robert Mark Sweeney and Jeraldine "Jeri" Sweeney (née Ivers).[4] Her father was an attorney and federal prosecutor, while her mother was a homemaker. Sweeney has an Irish Catholic background.[5] Sweeney is the oldest of five children. She had two brothers, William Robert "Bill" Sweeney, and Michael Ivers Sweeney,[6] who both died, and a brother, Jim Sweeney, and a sister, Meg Sweeney.

Sweeney was raised in Spokane. As a child, she was drawn to imitating voices and inventing characters.[7]

Sweeney attended Marycliff High School and Gonzaga Preparatory School, where she appeared in a number of plays.[5] She graduated with a double major in economics and European history at the University of Washington.[5] There she was student body vice president[8] and became a member of Delta Gamma sorority.[9]

After graduation, Sweeney moved to Los Angeles, where she worked as an accountant for Columbia Pictures and United Artists.[10]

Sweeney speaking at the Atheist Alliance International Convention in 2008


In 1988, while still working as an accountant, Sweeney enrolled in classes with the improvisational comedy troupe The Groundlings, eventually being selected to be part of the troupe's Sunday Company. It was at The Groundlings that she began to develop characters, which she would later bring to the stage, film, and television.[11] They include Mea Culpa, the title character of Mea's Big Apology (co-written by then-husband Stephen Hibbert), which won the Best Written Play Award from L.A. Weekly in 1988 and has been developed by Sweeney (in collaboration with Jim Emerson) into a screenplay; and the androgynous Pat, whose impossible-to-determine gender was the basis for Sweeney's popular It's Pat! skits on Saturday Night Live, and later for her feature film of the same name, which was pulled from theaters after one week due to its immensely negative reception.[7]

In 1992, she also worked with the rock band Ugly Kid Joe, performing in the music video for their hit "Neighbor" and contributing introductory audio to two tracks, "Goddamn Devil" and "Everything About You". The latter was on the soundtrack to the Lorne Michaels movie Wayne's World.

In 1994, she had a small role as "Raquel" in the movie Pulp Fiction.

Saturday Night Live[edit]

At a Groundlings performance in 1989, Saturday Night Live (SNL) producer Lorne Michaels discovered Sweeney[citation needed] and offered her a spot as one of SNL's featured players. She joined the regular SNL cast the following year and remained with the show through four seasons, from 1990 to 1994. One of her most memorable and popular characters was Pat, whose indeterminate gender confused other characters who would try to determine it. (Sweeney would play the character in a feature film, It's Pat, for which she was one of the writers.)

Sweeney's 1993 impression of US President Bill Clinton's daughter Chelsea caused a stir when First Lady Hillary Clinton found it offensive and sent an angry letter to the show.[12]


Sweeney has created and performed three autobiographical monologues, God Said Ha!, In the Family Way, and Letting Go of God.

God Said Ha![edit]

After leaving the cast of Saturday Night Live, Sweeney returned to Los Angeles where, shortly afterwards, her career was put on hold by a series of personal traumas. Her brother Michael was diagnosed with lymphoma, and shortly thereafter Sweeney discovered that she too had cancer.[13] Her brother did not survive the cancer. Throughout the ordeal, Sweeney told stories of her experiences in serio-comic performances at L.A.'s alternative comedy club, the Un-Cabaret, eventually developing the stories into a one-woman stage show, God Said Ha!, which debuted at San Francisco's Magic Theater in 1995.[14]

God Said Ha! moved to Broadway, winning the 1996 New York Comedy Festival's Audience Award, and a CD recording of the show earned her a Grammy nomination for Best Comedy Album that same year. Miramax released a film version of the show in 1998, directed by Sweeney and produced by Quentin Tarantino. The film earned the Golden Space Needle Award at the Seattle Film Festival. It was released on DVD in 2003. Portions of the monologues from Un-Cabaret were featured on This American Life (then known as Your Radio Playhouse) in January 1996 in episode 9. Since her initial monologue, she has appeared on three more This American Life episodes.[15]

In the Family Way[edit]

Sweeney's second monologue chronicled the adoption of her daughter from China. In the Family Way started on stage in New York City in early 2003 at the Ars Nova Theatre. The show was directed by the Broadway stage director, Mark Brokaw. The show then migrated to the Groundlings Theatre in Los Angeles. Sweeney has also released a CD recording of In the Family Way, and in 2006 she performed a 25-minute excerpt of this show at the Hollywood Bowl with a new orchestration written especially for her piece by the composer Anthony Marinelli and performed by the Los Angeles Philharmonic.[16][17]

Letting Go of God[edit]

Sweeney's third autobiographical monologue is titled Letting Go of God. In it, she discusses her Catholic upbringing, early religious ideology, and the life events and internal search that led her to believe that the universe can function on its own without a deity to preside over it, and to her becoming an atheist. Sweeney shares the account of when her mother told her that her birthday was really October 10 instead of September 10, and how traumatic it was to discover she was not a winsome Virgo but really a Libra.[18]

She worked the show in small theaters and clubs around Los Angeles for three years and then opened it at the Hudson Backstage Theater in October 2004. An audio recording of Letting Go of God was released on CD in 2006, and it was filmed live on stage in May 2007. The film premiered at the Seattle International Film Festival on June 13, 2008. The DVD of the show was released in November 2008.[19]

Richard Dawkins referenced Letting Go of God several times in his book The God Delusion.[20]

Julia Sweeney: Older and Wider[edit]

After taking some years out of the limelight to be a suburban Chicago housewife and mother, Sweeney returned to the limelight with a fourth monologue in which she riffs on contemporary politics, and religion, among other topics. The performance was so popular that it sold out its original six-day run, at the Audrey Skirball Kenis Theater at the Geffen Playhouse, in Los Angeles. It then also sold out a one-week extension.[21]

Sweeney appeared at the 2019 CSICon put on by the Center for Inquiry (CFI) where she presented about half of the monologue for the conference attendees.[22]

Other work[edit]

Julia Sweeney was a writer for the SNL film It's Pat, in which she played the title character. Her other film roles include Gremlins 2: The New Batch, Coneheads, Pulp Fiction, Clockstoppers, Whatever It Takes, and Stuart Little.

In a segment for This American Life in 1999, Sweeney describes one of her first jobs, as a bartender's assistant, how she began embezzling funds from her employer, and the consequences thereof.[23]

In 2000, she provided the voice of Wanda MacPherson in the short-lived The WB/Adult Swim animated sitcom Baby Blues.[24]

A veteran of live television, Sweeney made her mark on primetime television as a series regular on George and Leo and Maybe It's Me and she guest starred on 3rd Rock from the Sun, Hope & Gloria, Mad About You, and According to Jim.

In 2004, Sweeney co-starred in two episodes of Frasier as Frasier's blind date turned litigious unwanted houseguest, Ann Hodges.

She had a guest role on Sex and the City. She served as a consultant on Sex and the City for its last three seasons. She consulted on season two of Desperate Housewives.

She was the voice of Margo on the ABC animated series The Goode Family, and serves as the voice of Dr. Glove on Back at the Barnyard.

In 2009 and 2010, Sweeney performed with singer/songwriter Jill Sobule in a revue called Jill and Julia. Sweeney and Sobule originally met at a Technology Entertainment and Design (TED) conference and performed together at TED in 2008. They brought the show on the road in 2009 and 2010, performing in New York, Denver and other locations. The show is an autobiographical mix of music, stories and commentary.

From 2009 to 2010, Sweeney was part of the regular rotation of panelists for the NPR news quiz radio show Wait Wait... Don't Tell Me!,[25] in downtown Chicago.

In 2013 Sweeney voiced Sheri Squibbles in the Pixar animated film Monsters University.

She also played a terrorist granny in season 6 of American Cop Comedy Brooklyn 99.

Board memberships[edit]

Personal life[edit]

Sweeney is married to scientist Michael Blum. They and their adopted daughter from China, Tara Mulan Blum (born 2000), have lived in the Chicago suburbs since 2009.[30] She is an atheist.

Works and publications[edit]

  • Sweeney, Julia, and Christine Zander. It's Pat!: My Life Exposed. New York: Hyperion, 1992. ISBN 978-1-562-82938-4
  • Sweeney, Julia. God Said, "Ha!". New York: Bantam Books, 1997. ISBN 978-0-553-10647-3
  • Sweeney, Julia. If It's Not One Thing, It's Your Mother. New York : Simon & Schuster, 2013. ISBN 978-1-451-67404-0


  1. ^ "Julia Trust Sweeney United States Public Records". FamilySearch. Retrieved February 21, 2015.
  2. ^ Ramos, Dino-Ray (February 13, 2019). "Julia Sweeney Talks One-Woman Show 'Older And Wider' And Life After SNL In Trumpian #MeToo Era". Archived from the original on February 14, 2019. I turned 60 in October and somehow that’s a really big deal....
  3. ^ Dell'Antonia, KJ (April 11, 2013). "Motherlode: Julia Sweeney Sees the Absurd in Motherhood (and Shares)". The New York Times. Retrieved February 21, 2015.
  4. ^ "Marie Ann Ivers". Yakima Herald Republic. March 25, 2001. Retrieved February 21, 2015.
  5. ^ a b c Ramirez, Marc (January 31, 1993). "Pat's World -- It's Funny Business, Hard Work And A Little Too Much Attention For Julia Sweeney". The Seattle Times. Retrieved February 21, 2015.
  6. ^ "Michael Ivers Sweeney - California, Death Index". FamilySearch. March 31, 1995.
  7. ^ a b "Behind the Curtain: Julia Sweeney". PBS.org. Retrieved September 2, 2016.
  8. ^ Frizzelle, Christopher (January 24, 2020). "Julia Sweeney Predicts the Future: "We're in for a Shit Show"". The Stranger. Retrieved January 24, 2020.
  9. ^ "Celebrity Parents Magazine: Julia Sweeney Issue". Celebrity Parents Magazine. June 6, 2013. Retrieved September 2, 2016.
  10. ^ Maron, Marc (November 14, 2014). "Episode 553 - Julia Sweeney" (Audio podcast). WTF with Marc Maron. Retrieved February 21, 2015.
  11. ^ "Notable alumni of the Groundlings improv troupe". June 25, 2015. Retrieved February 1, 2017.
  12. ^ Gill, Andrew (April 10, 2009). "Introducing The Wikipedia Files (with Julia Sweeney)!". WBEZ.org. WBEZ. Retrieved April 29, 2011.
  13. ^ Julia tells about her surgery and treatment on YouTube
  14. ^ "Episode 9: Julia Sweeney". This American Life. Retrieved September 2, 2011.
  15. ^ Julia Sweeney search results at This American Life
  16. ^ Kimpel, Dan (January 1, 2007). "Award-Winning Film Composer". Music Connection. No. XXXI, No. 1. p. 22. Retrieved September 18, 2015.
  17. ^ "Comedy Tonight! With special guests The Smothers Brothers & Julia Sweeney". Hollywood Bowl. August 25, 2006. Archived from the original on October 13, 2015. Retrieved October 13, 2015. Saturday Night Live alum Julia Sweeney narrates a segment from her one-woman show, In the Family Way, set to brand new music by Anthony Marinelli.
  18. ^ "How Does A Person Go From Believer To Atheist?". NPR. November 22, 2013.
  19. ^ "Letting Go of God (2008) Plot Summary". IMDb. 2016. Retrieved September 2, 2016.
  20. ^ Dawkins, Richard. The God Delusion. Houghton Mifflin Company, 2006, Preface, p.4 and "Chapter 9: Childhood, Abuse And The Escape From Religion", p.323.
  21. ^ Foley, F. Kathleen (February 8, 2019). "Review: Julia Sweeney is 'Older & Wider' and really, really (really) funny". Los Angeles Times. Archived from the original on February 9, 2019. Retrieved December 4, 2019.
  22. ^ Fidalgo, Paul (October 19, 2019). "Julia Sweeney Opens Up at CSICon". Center For Inquiry. Archived from the original on October 24, 2019. Retrieved December 4, 2019.
  23. ^ "Allure of Crime, Act I: Your Good Girl's Gonna Go Bad". This American Life. Retrieved December 30, 2011.
  24. ^ "WarnerBros.com | The WB's "Baby Blues" Will Take Its "Second Step" Next Season | Press Release". www.warnerbros.com. Retrieved August 9, 2019.
  25. ^ Linh Pham. "NPR's Wait Wait... Don't Tell Me!: Show Details and Statistics". WWDT.me. Retrieved January 30, 2014.
  26. ^ "Secular Coalition for America Advisory Board Biography". Secular.org. Retrieved July 20, 2011.
  27. ^ Salai, Sean (March 18, 2015). "Letting Go of God: An Interview with Julia Sweeney". America Magazine. Archived from the original on March 20, 2015. Retrieved December 4, 2019.
  28. ^ "Advisory Board". Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason & Science. Retrieved April 13, 2019.
  29. ^ "Actress Julia Sweeney Elected to Center for Inquiry Board of Directors". Center for Inquiry (CFI). September 13, 2019. Retrieved September 13, 2019.
  30. ^ Sweeney, Julia (February 2010). "Julia Sweeney: It's time for 'The Talk'". TED. Retrieved April 13, 2019.

External links[edit]