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Julia Sweeney left Saturday Night Live in 1994 to make films with Rotten Tomatoes scores ranging from zero percent (It’s Pat) to 94 percent (Pulp Fiction); the Quentin Tarantino-produced Broadway show, film, and Grammy-nominated album God Said Ha!, about her family’s bouts with cancer; several well-reviewed books; and dozens of other movies and stage and TV shows. Ten years ago, after getting married to her husband, Michael, by SNL’s Don Novello in character as Father Guido Sarducci (in real life an ordained minister), she quit Hollywood to be a full-time mom in Illinois.
And now, at 59, she’s back at work, playing SNL’s Aidy Bryant’s mother and the caregiver for an ailing spouse in the new hit Hulu show Shrill, as well as a crazy lady on 9-1-1. She's also packing sold-out theaters with her new monologue show, Older & Wider. Its Los Angeles Times review was headlined, “Julia Sweeney Is ‘Older & Wider’ and Really, Really (Really) Funny.” “The stage show is about me trying to get back into show business after 10 years off,” Sweeney says. “Amazon Prime and Netflix are coming to see it, and if they don’t want to film it, I may.”
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An even bigger break for Sweeney is Shrill, starring Bryant as a Portland alternative weekly reporter triumphing over fat-shamers, rotten boyfriends, and her infuriating yet well-meaning mom. “I told my husband this would be the best time to be hit by a bus because I’ve just reached peak happiness. I love Aidy Bryant — she’s so lovable and funny, and not uncomfortable being sexy. And she’s not filled up with shame, as I am. I guess Lorne Michaels [SNL boss and Shrill executive producer] had mentioned me from the start to play her mom. I think we look a little bit alike. I feel like I’m back in the family — and I mean that in the mob sense. I keep trying to get out, but they keep sucking me back in!” she jokes.
“It is shocking just to be older in Hollywood. People try to be nice to you in that way, like you're an ‘elder.’
“My character is in some ways the villain, because I’m always trying to get her on a diet and exercise, and the show is all about accepting yourself without trying to change yourself. I can’t help but try to be a help, ordering prepackaged diet food to be delivered to her apartment, which is a bad idea. But the character is so compassionate and understandable and sweet. I think it’s how Aidy’s character would be handling it if she were me.”