God Said, “Ha!”

God Said, “Ha!” written, directed and performed by Julia Sweeney,
formerly the androgynous “Pat” on “Saturday Night Live,” is a one-woman show
consisting of the author’s personal account of a difficult year in her life when
her younger brother was dying of lymphatic cancer, she herself was being treated
for cervical cancer, she was out of work and her parents and brother both moved
in with her. She stands on a generic living-room set, rather like that of a TV
talk show, and performs her stage show while the camera switches from one side
of her to the other (occasionally slipping in and out of focus), except
occasionally when a steadicam is used to circle her for no apparent reason. It
is as if the cameras just happened to wander into the theatre to catch her act.
An appreciative (and easily amused) live audience supplies her with a laugh
track, and Quentin Tarantino (producer) gets up to present her with a bouquet
when she finishes.

At least the budget can’t have been too high.

The movie hits several cultural hot-buttons with its combination of gently
(and hardly) humorous stories of a “dysfunctional” (just kidding!— “Of course,
we all love each other very much”) family from Spokane and the pathos of her
brother’s death. Mom and Dad are lovably old-fashioned for calling pasta with
marinara sauce “noodles with red topping” and their presence in the house forces
Julia and her new boyfriend to sneak around like high school kids. She finds
herself saying things like: “My parents are so weird; let’s go make out in the
garage.” This is a real turn-on. As is the fact, interestingly, that the
boyfriend, Carl, is a keen bow-hunter and she is a member of PETA. Since she is
a pessimist who assumes civilization will end in some “apocalyptic nightmare,”
she reflects that afterwards, “Carl would be a good choice as a mate.”

It will not have escaped the reader’s notice that the theme of the child who
will not grow up is a common one in contemporary American humor, the foundation
of TV shows like “Friends” and “Seinfeld” as well as a lot of stand-up comedy.
Julia at 35, once again living with her parents, found herself thinking about
independence to come when she goes away to college. “But wait a minute! I
already went to college!” she says. Oh dear! But the advantage of having her
parents in her house is that it gives her another excuse to delay the onset of
adulthood. So, when she contracts ovarian cancer and has to have a hysterectomy,
she says she had thought of her reproductive organs as “like a bright shiny bike
in the garage I was totally going to ride some day. Just not yet.” Now somebody
stole the bike.

It’s a significant comparison and one that lots of other adolescents in their
thirties will doubtless “relate to,” but Miss Sweeney seems to have derived no
useful lesson from it, or from the reminder of mortality which produced it. When
the doctor tells her they can save some eggs before the removal of the uterus
and fallopian tubes, so she can have children by in vitro fertilization with the
help of a surrogate mother, she remarks: “Great. Now I have to meet a guy
and a girl.” It’s the one line in the picture that I laughed at—perhaps
because of the irony of her name’s being known to the world from the character
of the sexless Pat. Pat, like grownup children and other freaks of nature, was
always something to laugh at. But not too hard.

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