by Rachel Dratch

Gotham Books


248pp/$26.00/May 2012

Girl Walks into a Bar...
Cover by Patrick Kang

Reviewed by Steven H Silver

Growing up in Chicago , Second City was a natural part of life and I began going with some regularity while in high school and, again, after I was married and moved back to the city.  Occasionally, there would be someone on stage who stood out and it is where I first saw Richard Kind and Bonnie Hunt.  In the mid-nineties, there was an actress on the stage who my wife and I both through was fantastic.  After a few shows, she moved off and soon began appearing on Saturday Night Live.  However, we both have a strong fondness for Rachel Dratch from those times we saw her at Second City and have always wished that she could have more success than she found after leaving Chicago . Dratch herself addresses this issue in her memoir Girls Walks into a Bar, which is less about her life as a comedian and actress, and more about trying to find her way in the world when the universe doesn’t respond in the way she would have hoped.

Although best known as a comedian, Dratch gets that part of her life out of the way in the first chapters of the book.  She tells of her life growing up in Massachusetts , her decision to attend Dartmouth , trying to break into improve in Chicago , and her eventual stint on Saturday Night Live and experiences with 30 Rock.  However, none of that really is the point of the book.  Dratch almost seems to be writing about it because she knows that those are the questions that other people have, even if they are not of interest to her.

Instead, the focus of the book, which is written in an amusing, if dry, manner, is on Dratch’s attempts to come to terms with her life as she turns (and has turned) forty.  As she looks around herself and sees what some of her friends have, she doesn’t come across as yearning for their lives, but instead tries to understand why she is where she is and has what she has.  Throughout the book, this exploration takes her to a variety of friends, a few attempts at the dating scene, and several mystics, although Dratch repeatedly explains that she is not one of those “airy fairy” types.  She instead comes across as someone who is seeking acceptance of their life.

Much of the latter part of the book looks at Dratch’s surprise when she discovered that she is pregnant at age 44.  The father is a man with whom Dratch has been building up a relationship for the previous six months, but who lived on the other side of the country, Dratch in New York , John in Sacramento .  Dratch chooses to keep the child, who would eventually be named Eli, and John decides to move to New York to be closer to his son and help raise him.

At the end of the book, Dratch and John are trying to figure out what their lives together will be as they raise Eli.  Dratch has hinted at some issues that they are having, but they are issues that any couple, married or not, would have, and they are compounded by the fact that both individuals want to understand their relationship and make it work, and not just for the sake of their son.  The reader comes out of the book hoping that they succeed and can both find happiness in whatever decisions they eventually make.  And that Hollywood and television will once again discover the talent that Dratch has and put it to good use.

A reader who is looking for a show business memoir, a celebrity tell-all, or a collection of witticisms will be disappointed in Dratch’s book.  As already noted, the show business part is relatively brief and provide background.  Dratch demonstrates an admirable discretion when talking about her colleagues, from Tina Fey to Lorne Michaels.  And while Dratch includes clever comments and asides, they are organic in their context and demonstrate who she is and how she thinks rather than being an overt attempt to get a laugh, all of which makes her memoirs more poignant.

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