Julia Sweeney took a break from Hollywood to raise her daughter in the Chicago suburbs.
Years later, the actress and comedian returned to Los Angeles with several stories to tell, ready to launch back into show business.
Sweeney’s new show “Older and Wider” will run at the Geffen Playhouse from Tuesday to Feb. 17. The show puts a comedic spin on parenting, religion, feminism, cancer and her experience playing Pat on “Saturday Night Live,” she said. The Daily Bruin’s Jordan Holman spoke to Sweeney about the transition in her career and how she integrated humor into life’s serious stages.
Daily Bruin: What is the premise of “Older and Wider”?
Julia Sweeney: It’s really a comedy show about my life over the last 10 years where I left show business to become a homemaker in a suburb in Chicago, and then moved back to LA. It’s about all the things that happened to me while I was there. It’s about getting older, and launching a kid to college.
DB: What did you experience during your 10-year hiatus from show business?
JS: I adopted my daughter on my own and then I married my husband when she was 8. He had a business in Chicago, and so we decided that my daughter and I would go to Chicago and live there until she graduated high school, and then come back to LA.
DB: How are you able to make religion, cancer and feminism comedic?
JS: I think the darker topics are right for comedy because they’re so complex and because it’s so difficult to hit the right note. My first show was about cancer, another one was about religion – I was able to find humor in those situations. What made me laugh made others laugh. I figured out a narrative and pulled pieces of my life together.
DB: How did you weave all these diverse life experiences together?
JS: The show is all about what it’s like to give up your career and move to a suburb, and all the trials and tribulations that come with that. I talk about what it’s like to not really interact with show business very much at all. The show is about what I thought was funny – being married, teaching my kid to drive, her first boyfriend, trying to get her to go to this church that I wanted her to go but she didn’t want to go to, working here and there because I did stand-up at certain places. It’s about everything I did there, and how I made my way back.
DB: Why did you decide that now was the time to lean back into comedy?
JS: I was moving back to Los Angeles and wanted to work again. I wanted to act again. I was tired of writing for other people. I started helping out with (The) Second City in Chicago. I had a friend teaching history of comedy and film there, so I started helping out with the class and got very involved in the film program. I got to know the people working there, and I knew they had a theater so I asked for it for Sunday nights and started developing a show. I knew that in June or July I’d be back in LA and I wanted to come back with a show. So that’s what I did.