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Close up on Julia Sweeney

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That long-running boys’ club, Saturday Night Live, recently brought in its first new female cast member in four years: Julia Sweeney, who also happens to be the first accountant since Bob Newhart to make it big as a TV comic. Sweeney, 29, says that in 1985, while she was breaking in with the Groundlings, the fertile L.A. acting troupe that produced Laraine Newman, Jon Lovitz, and Pee-wee Herman, ”I worked in accounting at Columbia Pictures. I also helped figure out profit participation on Rain Man, so people would say, ‘Oh, you’re in the creative end of the business.”’ Comedy kept her from losing her button-down mind, and her day job fed her art. When Paul Simon hosted SNL, she wrote them a skit lampooning office-party adultery; her most notorious role is Pat, a boss of weirdly indeterminate sex who perfectly embodies the surrealism of the corporate world. The role closest to Sweeney’s heart, however, is Mea Culpa, the ultimate Catholic-school refugee. Meticulous, deferential, it’s a persona not unlike Newhart’s, and it has come close to inspiring a feature film and a TV pilot of its own. ”I love comedy, and I feel so welcome [on SNL] it’s almost scary,” Sweeney says, ”but on a day-to-day level, it’s more satisfying to be an accountant.”

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