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Humanist profile: Julia Sweeney: (1961-Present): comedian and 2006 Humanist Pioneer.

"Thank goodness there is a Humanist organization so that we can identify ourselves as part of a group. Because, it's true, we're group-seeking animals ... we need groups and we need names for our groups, and it's a really efficient way for telling people what we stand for."

--Julia Sweeney, upon accepting the Humanist Pioneer Award from the American Humanist Association.

Actress and Comedian Julia Sweeney was born and raised in Spokane, Washington, as the oldest of five children. In that upbringing she honed her talent for character acting and imitating voices. After studying economics at the University of Washington she headed to Los Angeles to work as an accountant for Columbia Pictures. While performing in L.A. with an improv acting troupe, where she realized her desire to become an actress, she developed her well-known characters such as "Mea" of Mea's Big Apology and the androgynous "Pat" of Saturday Night Live. It was during one improv performance that she was discovered by SNL and spent four seasons on the show (1990-1994), first as a featured player and then as a regular cast member. In 1994 her cult comedy film, It's Pat, was released.

Within a year after returning to Los Angeles from New York City, Julia Sweeney and her brother Michael were both diagnosed with cancer. Though Michael didn't survive lymphatic cancer, Julia survived cervical cancer. Her experiences of having her parents move in while caring for her brother and overcoming her own cancer led her to write and perform the one-woman monologue, God Said, Ha! which played on Broadway in 1996 to critical acclaim. The recorded CD version received a Grammy nomination for best comedy album. Though a tragic and difficult experience, her story is recounted in the monologue with humor and insight. The show has since been released on video and DVD and published as a book. Sweeney's stage work also includes the one-woman show, In the Family Way, that opened in early 2003 and chronicles the adoption of her daughter from China.

Her most recent one-woman show, Letting Go of God, chronicles her journey from Catholic faith to philosophical naturalism in a comical and thought-provoking yet inoffensive manner. She has also written a forthcoming book on the same subject entitled My Beautiful Loss of Faith Story: A Memoir. In addition to her SNL performances and her one-woman shows, Sweeney has also appeared in films such as Pulp Fiction and Stuart Little, guest starred on television shows such as 3rd Rock from the Sun, Mad About You, and Frasier, and consulted for the final three seasons of the HBO series Sex and the City.

On May 13, 2006, Julia Sweeney received the Humanist Pioneer Award from the American Humanist Association for her courage in challenging religion and her willingness to publicly express a forthright secular and humanistic outlook in her performances and public life.
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Article Details
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Publication:The Humanist
Article Type:Biography
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jul 1, 2006
Words:476
Previous Article:Worth noting.
Next Article:Great divides.
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