October 21, 2010

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Celebrity returns
Rachel Dratch among the readers of Autobiography

Adam Coughlin acoughlin@hippopress.com.

Next time you’re at the grocery store, scan the magazine rack. People. US Weekly. OK!. In Touch Weekly. Entertainment Weekly. Americans sure love their celebrities. But while stars get coffee and pick their kids up from school just like us, what do we really know about these famous people? Not much. What better way to find out than to hear their lives in their own words?

Celebrity Autobiography, a mocking of celebrity autobiographies, will be performed on Saturday, Oct. 23, at 8 p.m. at the Capitol Center for the Arts, 44 South Main St., Concord. During the show, several comics will read excerpts from autobiographies, which include such classic literature as the poetry of Suzanne Somers and romantic tips by none other than Tommy Lee of Pamela Anderson and Mötley Crüe fame.

Here’s where it gets ironic. What is better than reading about famous people? How about having famous people reading about famous people? That is why some popular faces, if not necessarily household names, will be performing in Concord. There will be Celebrity Autobiography co-creator Eugene Pack, Broadway star Annie Golden, Maggie Wheeler, who played Janice on Friends, Michael McGlone of Geico commercial fame (did the little piggy go wee-wee-wee all the way home?) and Emmy award winner Bruce Vilanch.

Perhaps the most famous of these comedic performers is also the one with the deepest New Hampshire roots. For years, Rachel Dratch has cracked up audiences as Debbie Downer and other characters on Saturday Night Live and she appeared recently on 30 Rock, but Dratch’s career began a long way from the dazzling lights of Broadway.

Dratch was born in Lexington, Mass., in 1996. She didn’t expect to become a television star.

“It seemed a long way away,” Dratch said over the telephone from her New York City apartment. “I had fun doing plays and loved watching Saturday Night Live as a little kid. But I never had it as a goal. It seemed too elusive.”

On her road to stardom, Dratch stopped several times in New Hampshire. She honed her comedic skills at the North Country Community Theatre in Lincoln.

“I love New Hampshire,” Dratch said. “It is so pretty up there. I used to do a lot of skiing at Loon. I get up there whenever I need my nature fix.”

She got more than a fix in the late 1980s, when she attended Dartmouth College, majoring in drama and psychology. As an undergrad she also joined the improv group Said and Done. Bitten by the performance bug, Dratch moved to Chicago, where she tried for a long time to become a member of the famed comedy group Second City.

“I wanted to give it a shot,” Dratch said, as sirens blared in the New York background. “It took a while but eventually I made it.”

With Second City, Dratch worked side by side with a who’s who of comedy. She became close friends and writing partners with Tina Fey. Both Stephen Colbert and Steve Carrell were there. Not to mention Adam McKay, who went on to be a lead writer for SNL.

“You just get used to seeing these people blow up,” Dratch said. “You could always see the talent.”

Dratch too would join Saturday Night Live — she was a cast member from 1999 to 2006.

“There were so many firsts,” Dratch said. “When you get the phone call that you got the job. The first day. The first time your sketch appears on the show. When I walked into that studio I had to pinch myself.”

On Saturday Night Live, Dratch joined a list of alumni that boasts some of the greatest names in comedy. She also joins a list of funny former New Hampshire residents, SNL alums Adam Sandler, Seth Meyers and Sarah Silverman and Mike O’Malley (not on SNL but hilarious nonetheless). It seems there’s something funny in the New Hampshire water.

“I don’t know what it is,” Dratch said. “My dad is really funny. My group of girlfriends was really funny too.”

Some of these friends inspired Dratch’s characters. Other times inspiration just struck. Sometimes a casting director called and offered her a gig, which is the case with her role in Celebrity Autobiography. She is looking forward to reading the words of other celebrities when she returns to New Hampshire on the Oct. 23. But this time there will be no skiing or reunions in Hanover.

“I just had a baby,” Dratch said. “So I’ll just have to pop in and out.”

But she’ll be here long enough to poke fun at everybody from Sylvester Stallone to Vanna White.


Celebrity Autobiography
When: Saturday, Oct. 23, at 8 p.m.
Where: Capitol Center for the Arts, 44 South Main St., Concord, 225-1111, www.ccanh.com.
Tickets: Tickets cost $25-$45.

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