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Julia Sweeney Opens Up at CSICon

October 19, 2019

The last presentation of Saturday at CSICon 2019 came in the form of a monologue from the delightful Julia Sweeney, the beloved actor and comedian who recently joined the board of the Center for Inquiry. It was only the first half or so of the complete production, time limitations being what they are, but it was exactly what was called for at the moment: funny, warm, and uplifting. 

I should say that I sat with Sweeney…I mean Julia…for a few of the previous sessions, my first time meeting her, and we had a lovely chat about her show, what she had decided to cut for the conference, and how I liked taking notes with an iPad. You can only imagine how that further endeared her to me. 

Photo by Susan Chapelle

Anyway, while this show of hers, Julia Sweeney: Older and Wider, was not “an atheist show,” there were some moments of relevance to our spunky community, so I thought I’d at least share some.

She talked about how she got actor Don Novello to officiate her wedding, saying he fit the bill of being both secular and plausibly religious-ish for her Catholic family. This is particularly funny because Novella is the guy who played Father Guido Sarducci on old-school Saturday Night Live. If you’re not familiar with this character, do become so. She referred to Novello here as “the wolf in shepherd’s clothing,” which I found hilarious.

She speculated that perhaps went into the desert for 40 days and nights because he started out as morbidly obese, and didn’t want to be crucified, and thereby memorialized, before he shed the pounds with this crash fasting diet.

She talked about how as a teenager she thought she might become a nun, and now when she indicates her religious affiliation on a form, she says to herself, “Well, Julia, looks like you became a NONE after all!” It’s funnier when she does it.

Photo by Susan Chapelle

Particularly interesting to me was how she revealed her own conflicting feelings about her androgynous Pat character from her SNL days. Her intention had always been to make fun of the people around Pat who twist themselves into knots by needing so badly to know whether Pat was a man or a woman, but as her own daughter pointed out to her, it often looked like the show was just making fun of Pat. Initially very defensive about it, Julia had the shocking thought, “Was I the Al Jolson of androgyny?”

Oh yes, and she expressed a great deal of pride in having found out that she was 93 percent “more Neanderthal” than her husband, and boasted that her ancestors were obviously more open to interspecies relationships. 

It’s going to be fun having her on the CFI board, don’t you think?