Terry Sweeney

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Terry Sweeney
Terrance Sweeney

(1951-03-23) March 23, 1951 (age 68)
ResidenceBeaufort, South Carolina
Los Angeles, California
OccupationComedian, actor, writer
Partner(s)Lanier Laney

Terry Sweeney is an American artist, actor, and writer. He was a writer and cast member of Saturday Night Live in the 1980s, co-wrote the 1989 film Shag, and has written for the television series MADtv, Hype, and Tripping the Rift.

Early life and career[edit]

Terrence (Terry) Sweeney was born on March 23, 1951 in Queens, New York and raised in Massapequa Park, New York as the younger of two children to Terrence, a butcher, and Lenore Sweeney.[1] As a child, he was bullied and found solace in books and movie musicals as well as in performing his own Broadway plays.[1] At a young age, his interest in the performing arts grew and he became a star of the high school talent show.[2] He graduated Farmingdale High School in 1969 and attended Middlebury College, where he continued his studies in Spanish and Italian, and graduated in 1973 with a bachelor of arts degree.[1]

Saturday Night Live[edit]

Sweeney is best known for his appearances as a regular cast member of Saturday Night Live (SNL) during that program's 1985–86 season. After college, Sweeney started out doing edgy performance art as various drag characters at multiple New York City venues. A rave New York Times [3]review of "Banned in Frnace" led to an audition at SNL for the series producer Lorne Michaels.[1] Sweeney, who is not related to fellow SNL alumna Julia Sweeney, was also a sketch writer for SNL during the early 1980s under producer Jean Doumanian prior to being hired as a member of the cast.

Not only was he was SNL's first openly gay male cast member but he was the first openly gay series regular on network television[4]; Sweeney was "out" prior to being hired as a cast member.[5] Sweeney's run on the show came at a time when there were few openly gay characters or actors on television. For roughly 27 years, there were no other openly gay cast members on SNL,[6] until Kate McKinnon (a former cast member of Logo's The Big Gay Sketch Show) was added to the cast in April 2012.

During his season on SNL, he became known for his celebrity impersonations, particularly female impersonations of stars like Diana Ross,[7] Patti LaBelle,[7] Joan Collins, Brooke Shields's mother Teri Shields, and Joan Rivers,[7] as well as Ted Kennedy[7] (the only male celebrity he impersonated). His most notable recurring character was a portrayal of then-First Lady Nancy Reagan;[8][9] While at SNL, he faced many hardships from both the writers and cast because of his sexuality, especially from Chevy Chase.[2][5] Sweeney was told by Ron Reagan, who hosted one of that season's episodes, that he was "more like his mother than she is."

Other credits[edit]

Sweeney has written for the FOX TV series MADtv,[6] The WB's short-lived sketch comedy series Hype (and co-created),[10] and Sci Fi Channel's Tripping the Rift,[6] among a few others, all with his partner, Lanier Laney. Sweeney's major film credit was as the co-screenwriter for the film Shag, which was released in 1989.[11] Sweeney also performed a stand-up routine for the special Coming Out Party in 2000.[12] He is the author of two published books. The first, "Nancy Reagan: It's Still My Turn" (1990) which started as performance art piece at Highways in Santa Monica, and transferred to New York's the Actor's Playhoue Off Broadway. His second book, "Irritable Bowels and the People Who Give You Them" (2015), is a collection of comic essays about his life in Hollywood. In 2018 he appeared in two episodes of FX's Emmy Award-winningThe Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story as David Gallo.

Episodes of Tripping the Rift written by Sweeney and Laney[edit]

  • "Mutilation Ball" (also written with Sy Rosen)
  • "Power to the Peephole"
  • "Android Love"
  • "Roswell"
  • "Creaturepalooza"
  • "Chode's Near-Death Experience"
  • "Six, Lies, and Videotape"

Personal life[edit]

Terry Sweeney's husband is Lanier Laney, an artist and comedy writer who also wrote for SNL in the 1985–1986 season.[6] According to a 2000 magazine article, they first met as members of a sketch comedy troupe called the "Bess Truman Players" before joining SNL.[13] Laney and Sweeney were also writing partners for Saturday Night Live during the 1985–1986 season, the film Shag, and the Syfy Channel cartoon Tripping the Rift. As of 2012, the couple reside in Los Angeles and Beaufort, South Carolina.[2]


  1. ^ a b c d Hutchings, David (1986-06-02). "Terry Sweeney Opens Some Eyes, and Maybe a Few Minds, as Saturday Night Live's First Lady". people.com. Retrieved 2012-11-18.
  2. ^ a b c Wright, Megh (2012-04-12). "Saturday Night's Children: Terry Sweeney (1985-1986)". splitsider.com. Retrieved 2012-11-18.
  3. ^ New York Times, July 26, 1983 by Stephen Holden
  4. ^ Uncommon Heroes: A Celebration of Heroes and Role Models for Gay and Lesbian Americans publisher+Fletcher Press year=1994 isbn_B000UCIBGI
  5. ^ a b Shales, Tom; Miller, James Andrew (2002), Live from New York: An Uncensored History of Saturday Night Live, Back Bay, p. 316, ISBN 0-316-73565-5
  6. ^ a b c d Hartinger, Brent (November 21, 2010). "Ask the Flying Monkey: Why Is "Steel Magnolias" Fabulous? (Or IS It?)". afterelton.com. Retrieved October 15, 2012.
  7. ^ a b c d "COMEDY NEWS & NOTES". Daily News of Los Angeles. February 9, 1990. Retrieved October 15, 2012.
  8. ^ Roush, Matt (June 15, 1987). "Sweeney will drag Nancy along to `The Late Show'". USA Today. Retrieved October 15, 2012.
  9. ^ Dyess-Nugent, Phil (September 19, 2012). "Distilling 4 decades of Saturday Night Live down to just 10 episodes". avclub.com. Retrieved October 15, 2012.
  10. ^ Out Magazine, September 2000, p. 62
  11. ^ Holden, Stephen (July 21, 1989). "Movie Review - Shag The Movie (1988)". nytimes.com. Retrieved October 15, 2012.
  12. ^ Vary, Adam B. (October 14, 2003). "I'll laugh if I want to". The Advocate. Retrieved October 15, 2012.
  13. ^ Goodridge, Mike (October 24, 2000). "Believe the hype". The Advocate. Retrieved October 15, 2012.

External links[edit]