No Pat Answer

updated 01/27/1992 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 01/27/1992 AT 01:00 AM EST

SOMEDAY, AFTER SCIENTISTS HAVE finally sat down to brunch with Bigfoot, someone may get around to solving the newest of Nature's Unsolved Mysteries: Pat's Gender. Pat is Pat Riley, the androgynous accountant who waddled onto Saturday Night Live last year—and who has been hilariously concealing her maleness (or femaleness) ever since. Asked, for instance, whether "Pat" is short for something—Patrick? Patricia?—Pat responds, "Paaaaaaaaaaat."

Two-season SNL player Julia Sweeney, herself a former accountant, says she knows what it's like to be odd man/woman out. When she was earning an economics degree at the University of Washington in the early '80s, "I was my most Pat-like," she says. "I had short hair in an unflattering cut. I was such a misfit."

Now 30, Sweeney grew up in Spokane, the oldest of five Irish-Catholic children in a "very funny" family headed by her father, Bob, a lawyer, and her mother, Jeri, a housewife. Sometimes, Julia and her siblings would play Mass in the backyard. "Once in a while, I would get to be the priest," she says.

Sweeney ended up praying to St. Commedia—learning the ropes with L.A.'s Groundlings comedy troupe—after she got tired of her 9-to-5 life as an accountant at Columbia Pictures. Her coworkers, though, had inspired the creation of Pat. "They were just really odd," says Sweeney, recalling that one constantly drooled. Sweeney, who now lives in Manhattan, developed her character with the help of then Groundling Steve Hibbert, her husband since 1987 and a cartoon writer for the TV series Tiny Toon Adventures.

Branching out, Sweeney is helping develop Pat products—a calendar, a mug, a T-shirt and maybe even a drooling Pat doll. One thing's sure: It won't be anatomically correct.

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