was an androgynous fictional character created and performed by Julia Sweeney for the American sketch comedy show Saturday Night Live
, and later featured in the film It's Pat
. The central aspect of sketches featuring Pat was the inability of others to determine the character's sex.
Pat (whose full name was revealed on an episode of Saturday Night Live
as Pat O'Neil Riley) was a somewhat overweight character with short, curly black hair who wore glasses and a blue western-style shirt with tan slacks. The character spoke in a nasally voice that sometimes squeaked. Pat apparently suffered from very sweaty palms, and constantly wiped them on his/her clothing while making a strange whimpering sound, further adding to the character's unappealing quality. Sweeney wore no face makeup, but colored her lips beige and overdid her eyebrows to hide any sex identity clues. Sweeney has said that Pat originated when she tried to play a male character in a sketch, but looked unconvincing.
The sketches always involved the celebrity guest hosts of the show playing everyday people who encounter Pat and then go to great lengths to discover Pat's true gender without being so rude as to actually ask (since Pat can be short for either "Patrick", a traditionally male name, or "Patricia", a traditionally female name). Pat remained completely oblivious, endlessly frustrating the questioners with answers that leave the character's sex vague. The character often made statements that seemed to reveal a sex, only to then immediately confuse things again. (A typical example might be, "Sorry if I'm a little grumpy, I have really bad cramps... I rode my bike over here, and my calf muscles are KILLING me!") In another sketch, Pat tells Kevin Nealon that his/her name is Pat Riley, same as the coach of the Lakers, "except there's a big difference between him and me. I'm not the coach of a professional basketball team." Other gags included Pat's attempts at humor, which served to confuse everyone further, such as when asked what Pat is short for, the character would reply, Pat is short for "P-a-a-a-a-a-t!", or when asked in an application for sex, Pat responded "Please!". Another joke was when Pat was asked the full name, to which the character responded that Pat almost never referred to the character's self by the middle name, as it was embarrassing, to which an eager audience was filled in that it was "O'Neill", again continuing the joke.
The character was popular enough to spawn a feature length 1994 film called It's Pat
(from the lyrics of the character's theme song on Saturday Night Live
). In the film, Pat meets Chris, another sexually ambiguous character played by Dave Foley. (On SNL, Chris had been played by Dana Carvey.) They quickly fall in love and propose to each other at the exact same time. Before the wedding, however, Chris breaks up with Pat on account of Pat's arrogance and the fact that Pat cannot decide on a direction in life. Meanwhile, Pat has become an object of obsession of a neighbor (Charles Rocket), who is so determined to discover Pat's sex that he goes insane. Pat also has a brief rock music career in the film and plays with the band Ween. After the band hired Pat for a cameo appearance, he/she built it up and started looking at it from an unrealistic point of view (in which Pat thought he/she was going to become an overnight celebrity), which had a hand in the breaking up of Pat and Chris. The film was a critical and commercial bomb.
Sweeney also helped co-author a book to coincide with the film's release, entitled "It's Pat!: My Life Exposed". Pat makes it through the entire 96 page book without revealing his/her true sex.