When Rachel Dratch’s seven-year "Saturday Night Live" contract was up in 2006, she was cast in a sitcom created by her pal Tina Fey, "30 Rock," to play a character named Jenna. But things didn't go exactly as planned -- now a running theme for the comedienne.
After filming the "30 Rock" pilot, she received a call from her agent, who told her the role was recast and Jane Krakowski would be taking over her part.
The next few years were difficult career-wise for Dratch, but then something completely unexpected and shocking happened. At nearly 44 years old, she found herself pregnant with her first child. She had been dating a man named John, who lived in Northern California, but their relationship was hardly serious. They had barely discussed exclusivity, let alone children.
Dratch's story is recounted in a sharply written, wry and deeply moving book, "Girl Walks Into a Bar..."
After "30 Rock," the parts you got offered were pretty awful.
The "30 Rock" thing didn’t really blow me over as much as afterward. I just thought, "Oh, something else will come up." What I found was that I just kept getting offered parts for people that were morbidly obese or 65 years old or I was always getting offered lesbian parts. In the book, I make it very clear that I know that lesbians come in all varieties of hotness, but I was getting offered the more manly lesbian roles. I was not getting offered the lipstick lesbian roles.
It must have been disheartening.
Yeah, it was. I was like, "Oh my God, do I have reverse dysmorphia, where I think I’m better looking than I am?" Because it was just this sort of pounding on me. Every time I’d open a script, it was almost a joke. I’m not exaggerating when I say that was really all that was coming my way.
So you were in your early 40s and single. Did you feel like you had missed the boat in your personal life?
I knew I didn’t want to have a baby on my own and I didn’t have a partner so 40, 41, 42 passes by, and then I was having to let go of the idea of having a child. It caused me anxiety but I was trying to work through it.
Then you met this guy in a bar...
I know people who meet and they're like, "Oh my God, I met my soul mate." It wasn’t like that, but we were talking every day on the phone and texting a lot. He lived in California and we would meet up about once a month. It was kind of like a fun, we’re-in-our-early-40s relationship. It was still in the kind of "getting to know you" stage. We hadn’t even had a "Let’s go steady" talk. There was a bond there, but it wasn’t super serious.
Your method of birth control, "pulling out," could be a PSA on "16 and Pregnant."
I felt weird about including it in the book because it’s so personal, but I figured I had to because that’s the question women always ask me: "Were you on birth control?" So I felt if I glossed it over, I’d be asked a million times about it anyway. So yes, I was using high school birth control methods.
When you found out you were expecting, what percentage of you was thrilled versus freaked out?
At the beginning, I was so freaked out -- well, more in shock. I didn’t believe it was real. When I saw I was pregnant I wasn’t jumping up and down screaming, "Woo hoo!" I was like, "What?" It was so indelible in my mind what my future was and it was like this big rug pulled out from under me. I was like, "Wait, will I even be a good mother? Do I really want this? Will I be good at this?" I was kind of flooded with all these fears, like now I got what I was wishing for. What am I going to do with that?
How did you break the news to John?
I told him that he could be as involved as he wanted. When I was five or six months pregnant, he announced to me that he was going to move to New York because he said he couldn’t imagine going through a day knowing he had a kid on the other side of the country, which I thought was really cool in terms of manning up. When I found out I was having a boy, I think I freaked out a little more. I was thinking, "I don’t know how to play football," which is kind of a dumb cliche.
So he moved two buildings down for several reasons. One being we weren’t sure what we were and on a practical level, I have a small apartment and that would be great for the romantic comedy version, but in real life it seemed a little much. But yeah, we’re together and involved. We’re still kind of evolving. I know we’re going to be together for life in terms of Eli [their son, 19 months]. I don’t know if we’re going to be together, together. I’m not quite sure where we’re going to end up.
So are all the sappy cliches about parenthood true?
Yes! It makes all that Hollywood stuff not even matter at all. I think because I wasn’t around babies much, I sort of imagined that they’re crying all the time. I pictured that stereotype of the baby having a tantrum in the grocery store.
But they do.
Yeah, but I pictured that 24/7. Eli appeared as very chilled, smiley and in control. I don’t know, he’s just a lot of fun. I didn’t anticipate the fun factor.
How great that your "SNL" character Debbie Downer became such a pop culture icon.
It was mainly because of how we cracked up in the first sketch. But later it became this term. People come up to me, "Oh my God, my boss or my sister is a total Debbie Downer." When you create a character you want people to go, "Oh yeah, I know this kind of person."