Dratch '88 brings humor to Moore

by Meredith Fraser | 5/23/07 10:50pm

Female professor: Shouldn't we go upstairs, love-ah?

Male professor: No, right here, love-ah.

No, this exchange was not overheard between a pair of two Dartmouth professors over Green Key. Rachel Dratch '88 and Will Ferrell created the now-famous "Love-ah" professors for a recurring "Saturday Night Live" skit -- but could the horny professors be based on two real-life profs-by-day, hottub-love-ahs-by-night?

Evidently, there will be no academics fretting over their true love-ah identities this afternoon in the Moore Theater, as Dratch hosts the Celebration of the Arts Ceremony. But that doesn't mean that the true inspiration for the SNL skit didn't originate from a piece of spring break advice (to the effect of "take it easy, take a bath, eat a bon-bon, and spend time with your love-ah") from a real -- now retired -- Dartmouth English professor.

As one of the College's most accomplished graduates in the entertainment industry, Dratch's visit to Hanover marks a special chance for students to get a few laughs from one of Dartmouth improv's most cherished alumni. In addition to majoring in theater and psychology, Dratch helped catapult the College's first improv group, Said and Done (not the Dog Day Players, as it is often rumored), into the forefront of the campus entertainment scene.

It's no wonder that the comedy group would proudly proclaim Dratch as a past member -- she's stomach-crampingly hilarious. During her unprecedented-in-length seven-year stint on SNL, she introduced a slew of memorable, side-splitting characters into our cultural encyclopedia. Many are sturdily referenced within the pop culture world, such as "Debbie Downer" (a party-pooper who deadpans pessimistic one-liners like "It's official; I can't have children" in otherwise cheerful situations), and Boston teenager Denise "Zazu" McDonough (who made it seem natural to live in a world where everything could be described with the adjective "wicked!" while sloppily making out with Jimmy Fallon). Her comedic talents combined with her genuine modesty and giggly, pleasant nature make Dratch the sort of success story that makes the entertainment industry seem dependent less on luck and more on true talent.

"I didn't get any roles during my first two terms [at Dartmouth] at all... I didn't even get [a part] in the Freshmen Cabaret," she recalled with a self-deprecating chuckle. "I just really went through a time of 'Why am I here?'"

Around that time Dratch witnessed one of improv group Said and Done's first shows. "I thought, 'I can do this...'," she said.

Getting involved in improv provided Dratch an opportunity to finally "find her peeps" on the College's mid-'80s uber-conservative campus. She admits to not "really loving Dartmouth" while she was here (as she's often quoted), but maintains that feeling out of the mainstream allowed her to cultivate a lot of performing experience.

Between Said and Done and many hours spent in the Bentley Theater, Dratch felt prepared to throw herself into a career in the arts after graduation. She graced the stage of the famed Chicago Second City comedy club for years before SNL called. "Being on the show ... there's nothing like it. It's a thrill [because the show reaches such a large audience], and there's just this really good vibe on the set and in rehearsals," she said. "The cast and the writers, that's what I really miss."

Dratch lamented the lack of a "steady gig" now that her seven years on SNL have come to an end, but she enjoys hilarious cameos on friend and partner-in-comedic-crime Tiny Fey's NBC sitcom "30 Rock." A feature-length film, "Spring Breakdown," has also kept Dratch busy writing and acting. Loosely based on Dratch's experience at Dartmouth,her character and two friends try to experience the typical college spring break 15 years after graduating. For characters that felt as though they suffered through college on the fringes, Dratch had personal -- and undoubtedly hysterical -- insight to contribute. Friends Parker Posey and fellow SNL alumna Amy Poehler also star in the upcoming movie (which Dratch helped write).

The Celebration of Arts Ceremony will start Thursday at 4:30 p.m., and admission is free. While her success as a comedienne may seem daunting, Dratch's down-to-earth personality is infused with such humor and modesty that one cannot help but wish she'd hop off the stage and come chill on the Green. But then again, that would tear her away from the show -- a ceremony that will likely both inspire love-ahs for the arts and cause the Moore's chairs to shake with laughter.