Rachel Dratch must be the least appreciated woman in comedy…and that’s saying something, because very few women are appreciated in comedy anyway. That’s not knee-jerk feminism, that’s fact. As a veteran of not only Saturday Night Live but also the highly esteemed Second City troupe in Chicago, she deserves our respect! …And bucketloads of regular work. Most people would remember Dratch, (that’s if they remember her at all) from her years as a cast member on SNL. She played several recurring characters including the mopey Debbie Downer and one of “the lovers”, Virginia Klarvin–the other one was Will Ferrell. Remember them? They were always eating giant cuts of meat in a hot tub? NOW do you remember her? She was very funny, right? Well, today I’d like to celebrate her as our first great thing of 2010! I’d especially like to highlight her appearances in one of the best shows ever, 30 Rock.
114. Rachel Dratch in 30 Rock
In season one, Dratch’s cast of oddball characters included this prostitute:
Liz Taylor (in the shadows):
And this imaginary blue dude:
Now, if you’ve been paying attention, you may have noticed that she hasn’t played one of these quirky little characters since that inaugural season. I can’t say why that is except for maybe a subtle shift in tone in the series. Was it too zany to have one person playing a raft of weirdos on a consistent basis? Or, perhaps the parade of glitzy guest stars have crowded out what may have originally been ripe pickings for Dratch? At any rate, I’m not the only person who has noticed her absence. Here’s the original post of a rather amusing blog: dearracheldratch
They miss her too, which makes me feel less alone.
It’s not to late to re-insert her as a fixture on to 30 Rock. As most fans of the show are aware of the behind the scenes casting changes anyway (basically, Dratch was supposed to be a lead character on the program–only to have the execs re-tool the show at the eleventh-hour–relegating Dratch to these amusing bit parts), you could even write a hilariously self-referential joke to get her back on the job! Come on, I miss the lesbian cat wrangler she played. Or, what about the debut of any of these characters, which I’ve thought up just now?
–Carrie Prejean’s smart sister
Now, as I’m writing this blog in Britain and some of my most loyal readers are, in fact, British (Hi Matt T of itsayshere ), I feel that I must make an effort to communicate to my non-American amigos how and why Rachel Dratch is so funny. Even if you’ve never seen Saturday Night Live you are undoubtedly aware that it is a fertile breeding ground for many of our most successful comedy actors, Bill Murray, Eddie Murphy, Will Ferrell, Dan Akyroyd, and Mike Meyers (so he’s Canadian…big deal) to name but a few. What you’d begin to see, if you looked into it, is that until recently, very few women were springboarded into mega-stardom after their SNL careers ended. I can think of exactly one woman, who–pre 2006–stayed busy after departing the show: Julia Louis Dreyfuss. It was only when Tina Fey became head writer on the show, that people really started to fully appreciate the ladies of the program. In fact, the early 2000′s were arguably a real golden era for the show. Not only did you have the adorable ‘corpsing’ of Jimmy Fallon and Horatio Sanz, the weirdness of Tracy Morgan sketches, but you had the best team of women to EVER be on the show: Anna Gasteyer, Molly Shannon, Amy Poehler, Tina Fey, Maya Rudolph, Kristen Wiig, and Rachel Dratch. I’m not slagging off Jane Curtain here, she’s ace, I’m just saying this was the best moment in history for women as a WHOLE on the program.
Here’s a rare thing, a woman getting more than one recurring character to play. Dratch was given (and gave us) some serious gifts. She was Debbie Downer, Virginia Klarvin, The Boston Teen, and the Deformed Siamese Twin, amongst other regular celebrity impressions. Here’s that Siamese twin sketch. What sucks is that I can only find it on Hulu. This means that if you’re out of The States, you can’t view this, except by proxy (maybe). Hulu is supposed to be finalizing international viewing rights. (Hurry up!)
Another favorite moment was the Abe Scheinwald sketch (wherein Dratch played an absolutely bonkers head of a movie production company). Though this character became a recurring one, the first appearance, I believe was in the 2003 Alec Baldwin-hosted episode. (Missy Elliott was the musical guest…what a show!) I highly recommend a viewing if you can catch it ever. Sadly, it exists absolutely nowhere online that I can find. Maybe we’ll have to wait until they release a best of Rachel Dratch DVD?
Finally, here’s something everyone can view. It’s Dratch playing Barbara Walters on 30 Rock. She’s perfect. Embedding forbidden but if you click it, it should take you there anyway.
Dratch is nothing but completely able in any comedy role that she’s given.
Anyway, my point is, and perhaps the reason why she’s so underappreciated nowadays, is that beyond 30 Rock and SNL, there aren’t many opportunities for women to play weird, eccentric, or just plain funny characters. Sure, there’s plenty of quirky out there (think anything from Will and Grace to every role that Jenna Elfman ever plays), but there’s not much else out there. And if there is, Amy Sedaris has already owned it.
What’s horrible but hardly surprising is that when researching what’s upcoming for Rachel, I’ve run into so many message boards that can only talk about how pretty she is or isn’t. I’m not even going to comment on this beyond these statements: If she were a dude, this wouldn’t be an issue (hello 95% of highly paid male comic actors). In fact, I’m gonna go out there and say that it’s ALMOST a pre-requisite that male comic actors not be overly attractive as they need to be identifiably goofy everymen. Also, funny shouldn’t HAVE to be pretty. It’s one of the only ways that we average looking people have to get a leg up in this world.
I’ve been a fan of Rachel’s ever since I saw her two-woman sketch comedy show at the Upright Citizen’s Brigade theatre in NYC. This was right around the time that Tina Fey got her writing gig on SNL. I’d heard that she (Fey) was putting up a show with a long-time comedy partner (Dratch), and I thought “gee, I’m interested in comedy and in ladies, I should check this out”. And I did. It was one of the top sketch shows I’ve seen if not THE BEST. I actually saw it twice. The second time around, my friend Kim actually got to touch Tina Fey’s boobs. (It was part of a bit of audience interaction during a sketch…not some awesome seduction on Kim’s part). I had the postcard from that show, “Dratch and Fey” on my ‘inspiration wall’ for ages–right up there with a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle pic (I have weird goals).
I’ve dug up a couple of excellent little videos that highlight not only Dratch and Fey’s Second City years but also their sketch show (which was born out of improv). There ain’t much that beats quality improv when it comes to audience euphoria–maybe the rare occasion of when a film successfully adapts a comic book but without some kind of graph to accurately capture my feelings, I can’t be sure.
The interviewer is slightly annoying in this clip, but it’s still chocka with cool backstage treats:
This one has stuff that looks even older:
I hope this miniature campaign to get Dratch back on 30 Rock works. Or, at the very least, I hope I see her popping up in more television and film. Did you know she plays the cello? Not only is that super-sexy, but you could totally write a character around that skill. You know, something like: Person on the subway who takes up too much room with her cello.
OK, I’ll leave it to the professionals.