(Audio)Book Talk: GIRL WALKS INTO A BAR…, by Rachel Dratch

GIRL WALKS INTO A BAR by Rachel Dratch
Girl Walks into a Bar . . .: Comedy Calamities, Dating Disasters, and a Midlife Miracle
Rachel Dratch (Twitter)
Gotham (February 2013), Paperback (ISBN 1592407579 / 9781592407576)
Nonfiction/memoir, 272 pages
Source: Purchased audiobook (Penguin Audio, 2012; Audible ASIN B007R6B0AY)
Reason for reading: Personal

Opening lines:
“‘Hey, I know you!’ said the stranger.
“I was on Third Avenue in New York, emerging from the Starbucks.
“The stranger turned to his friend and nudged him. ‘Do you know who that is? SNL! SNL, man!’
“The friend gave a vague, fake nod of recognition. The stranger tried to convince his friend to be more excited.
“‘She’s funny!’ He turned back to me. ‘What’s your name again?'”

Book description, from the publisher’s website:
Anyone who saw an episode of Saturday Night Live between 1999 and 2006 knows Rachel Dratch. She was hilarious! So what happened to her? After a misbegotten part as Jenna on the pilot of 30 Rock, Dratch was only getting offered roles as “Lesbians. Secretaries. Sometimes secretaries who are lesbians.”  

Her career as a female comedian at a low point, she suddenly had time for yoga, dog-sitting, learning Spanish—and dating. Dratch reveals the joys and terrors of putting herself out there in a quest to find love and then becoming a mother in an undreamed-of way. With riotous humor, she recounts breaking the news to her bewildered parents, the awe of her single friends, and romance and coparenting with her baby-daddy, John.

Filled with behind-the-scenes anecdotes from Dratch’s time on SNL, Girl Walks into a Bar . . . is a funny book with a refreshing version of the happily-ever-after story, full of sensitivity, candor, and plenty of comic relief.

Comments: True confession: Not having been a regular viewer of Saturday Night Live in decades, most of what I knew about Rachel Dratch before reading her memoir Girl Walks into a Bar . . . came via her friend and colleague Tina Fey, who had cast her as one of the leads in the pilot of 30 Rock …and was infamously forced by NBC to re-cast the role. (Now that 30 Rock is TV history, I don’t think even Rachel Dratch would argue with that decision, but I digress.) I even shied away from Dratch’s book for awhile, fearful that the connection might make it seem like a poor imitation of Fey’s beloved (by me, at least) Bossypants. However, Dratch’s book covers its own territory, in its own unique voice.

Rachel Dratch: RISK! at 92YTribeca
Rachel Dratch: RISK! at 92YTribeca (Photo credit: 92YTribeca)

Opening by addressing the elephant-in-the-room question, Rachel Dratch assures us that she has worked since she left SNL and lost the 30 Rock gig–just not necessarily in roles that many of us might have seen. And unless you run into her somewhere on the streets of Manhattan, you’re unlikely to see her at all in her latest role, although it’s one she’s sure to keep for years.

Finding herself without steady employment for the first time in nearly two decades, and approaching 40 with the realization that she had no plan to realize her life-long plans for marriage and children, Dratch decides that it might just be the right time to have a personal life. She has no shortage of good friends, but hasn’t been in a relationship for a while, and she’s really never dated. (And once she makes a few attempts at it, she understands why.) Then, one night, she meets a guy in a bar. John lives in Northern California and is visiting New York City on business, but they hit it off well enough to embark on a bicoastal relationship that neither is in a hurry to define. Six months down the road, however, life defines it for them: parents-to-be. Rachel and John discover that unplanned pregnancies, and the life upheavals that accompany them, aren’t just for teenagers.

I didn’t find Girl Walks into a Bar . . . non-stop laugh-provoking, but I was pleasantly surprised by how engaged I was by Dratch’s story, and I really enjoyed listening to her tell it. Dratch’s acting and comedy background is in improvisational theater. Improv is driven by the principle of “yes, and…,” in which the actors work without a script to develop a scene from cues and props at hand. It strikes me that she’s applied that principle to the last several years of her life as well as to her work, and I find that very inspiring. As someone whose life went through some unexpected reconfigurations after 40, I’m trying to embrace a little more of that “yes, and…” ethos myself.

Rating: Book 3.75/5, Audio 4/5
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