I first learned of this book earlier in the CBR season. While I didn’t find it as funny as I had anticipated, I found it pretty heartfelt and touching.
I picked this up because I was in the mood for a light read, and this certainly fits into that category. It was a very quick read, and while I mostly enjoyed it, it also started dragging a bit towards the last half or end for me. Rachel Dratch’s career followed a similar trajectory to Tina Fey’s and Amy Poehler’s – sketch comedy with Second City to SNL except since her stint at SNL she has mostly had small roles or guest appearances while the aforementioned women have developed their own shows.
I see two fellow Cannonballers have reviewed this book so far; their reviews actually reminded me that I wanted to pick up this book. Once again I chose the audio book route (at the end of the year I should put together a post comparing all the female-written and -read memoirs I’ve listened to this year) and am really happy I did.
As the other reviewers have pointed out, the focus of the book isn’t so much a behind-the-scenes SNL expose; yes that gets coverage as it is part of her life but it’s only part of her story. It’s interesting, it’s well-told, and it provides some insight into that world, but it was only about seven years of her life, so it makes sense to not spend the entire book on that time period.
Ms. Dratch strikes me as pretty laid back, cool lady. She’s funny, entertaining, and can write really well. She also strikes me as one of the most self-aware humans on the planet. Pretty close to the beginning of the book, she starts talking about the 30 rock ‘incident.’ I could hear the exhaustion in her voice, and I don’t blame her. I cannot imagine how frustrating and annoying (not to mention hurtful at times) it must be to be responsible for some hilarious roles and yet have her still most talked about role be ‘getting fired’ from 30 rock.
And to be clear – she’s really not hung up on it. She talks about it because we’re interested in it. But because the implication, the suggestion in hushed (and not so hushed) tones in the celebrity media, is that she lost out because she is not as attractive as Jane Krakowski, it’s repeatedly mentioned when Ms. Dratch’s name comes up. Can you imagine that something that was a bummer for you (losing a job because of a decision to have a different type of character in that position) becomes some giant (celebrity) news story about how you aren’t pretty enough? Ugh. She’s gracious in telling the story, and while others might be skeptical, I believe that she’s made her peace with it and really wishes the rest of us would just move on.
Some of the best parts of this memoir are her discussions about the types of work she is now offered and about her relationship with her son’s father John. Seriously, the entire final third of the book, while not really talking much at all about SNL or 30 Rock, is some of the best writing and the most interesting. I had dinner plans Monday night and was pretty annoyed that my friend showed up just as Ms. Dratch narrated that she’d just checked the pregnancy test and there were two stripes. I knew what was going to happen next (I mean, I knew she had a kid so assumed this was the start of that story), but the writing and the delivery of the words was so compelling I really did not want to turn it off.
I’d definitely recommend this book to others. It’s not particularly long (5 1/2 hours on audio; most of the books I’ve listened to have been between 6 and 8 hours) but it’s interesting, clever and sweet.
Let’s just get this out of the way: Rachel Dratch is hilarious. She should be more famous. She should be known for more than Debbie Downer and “that SNL lady who got kicked off of 30 Rock.” Remember when she played that baby with the arm on its head? COME ON.
Girl Walks Into a Bar is Rachel Dratch’s memoir and, in it, she addresses the whole 30 Rock kerfuffle, her career post-SNL (or lackthereof, as it mainly consists of her playing lesbian roommates and undesirable dates in terrible comedies), and her late-in-life pregnancy, all with candor, humility, and OBVIOUSLY a great sense of humor.
For those who are not familiar with 30 Rock, the facts are these: Rachel Dratch was cast as Jenna Maroney, she shot the pilot, and then they (they as in NBC suits, I guess?) decided to “go in a different direction,” and so they recast her with Jane Krakowski. The decision was made, according to THE MAN, because the character didn’t test well, and Rachel (I call her Rachel because we’re friends now) was out.
I very vaguely remember this being a thing, and people saying that it was because she’s not as hot as Jane Krakowski or whatever, but Rachel says it’s the kind of thing that happens all the time and we shouldn’t be bitter on her behalf. I think she’s just being a good person. I mean, she doesn’t sound bitter at all about this, whereas most people would have burned NBC to the ground (see also: Conan O’Brien), and, yeah, maybe she was pretty pissed when it happened but now she sounds very well-adjusted about it.
Still. It seems unfair that Rachel Dratch isn’t as famous as Tina Fey and Amy Poehler. All three were on SNL together, the three are friends (as much as I can tell from the internet and this book), and yet it’s Amy and Tina who are the power comedy couple. Rachel is the Cinderella to their wicked step-sisters, except not really because they don’t seem wicked, they seem AWESOME and really I just want to hang out with all three of them, is that too much to ask?
For those who might read Girl Walks Into a Bar hoping for a backstage tell-all of SNL, with tales of drugs and sex and backstabbing, this is not the book for you (for some of that, check out this article on Pajiba). Rachel talks about her time on SNL, of course, and how she ended up there and what happened to her afterward, but she has nothing but nice things to say about her fellow cast members and she doesn’t spend any time dishing any dirt on anyone. If that’s what you’re looking for, I don’t know, go become friends with Bill Murray or something. (But if you do that, please let me know how because I would also like to be friends with Bill Murray.)
Anyway, things turned out OK for Rachel. Don’t feel bad for her or anything. She has a lasting legend thanks to Debbie Downer and her time on SNL, her baby is adorable, she seems happy with where she is in life, plus she made some awesome appearances on Billy On the Street. SHE DOESN’T NEED YOUR PITY, OK.
Many know about the casting switch involving Dratch on 30 Rock (For those that don’t: She played Jenna in the original taping of the pilot, only to be replaced by Jane Krakowski before the show even aired). If you’re looking for a bitter and gossipy tell-all, you will not get it from her. She discusses the situation with grace but more so to placate the curiosity of the reader (and random people who ask her on the street), trying to shrug it off quickly as, “That’s show business!”
In fact, her entire history from grade school, through college, her sketch comedy beginnings, and up to her end with her good friend’s sitcom takes up roughly one-quarter of the book. This is not a memoir about her career; this is a memoir about what was happening while that…wasn’t. Continue reading