‘SNL’ Alum Rachel Dratch Just Brought Back Her Most Famous Character

This season, Saturday Night Live celebrates 45 years on the air. And even though sketch comedy can often be hit and miss, the iconic series never hesitates to tap into its archives when an opportunity presents itself. After all, with so many alumni in its past, SNL has created an endless amount of popular characters and launched so many successful careers.

Take, for instance, Eddie Murphy’s long-awaited return to the show in December 2019. After 35 years away from SNL, Murphy and the show seized the chance to revisit several of his most beloved characters. Now during Daniel Craig’s latest hosting gig, Rachel Dratch revived her signature character for a cutting commentary of our current national crisis.

Melissa Villaseñor, Aidy Bryant, host Daniel Craig, Rachel Dratch, and Kenan Thompson
Melissa Villaseñor, Aidy Bryant, host Daniel Craig, Rachel Dratch, and Kenan Thompson | Will Heath/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images

Rachel Dratch joined ‘Saturday Night Live’ in 1999

After joining in 1999 as a featured player, Dratch was ultimately bumped up to part of the main SNL cast in 2001. Before long, she became an integral part of the ensemble. And Dratch eventually landed one of the show’s most popular recurring characters of the 2000s: Debbie Downer.

As her name suggests, Debbie has a talent for deflating the mood in any situation. Her off-putting comments often skew toward negative, cynical, or downright depressing. And hilariously, they’re always met with an appropriately downbeat sound effect.

Appearing in more than a half-dozen sketches from 2004 to 2006, Debbie even has her own theme song. In addition to her many TV and movie roles over the years, Dratch also briefly returned as Debbie in 2010 during an episode hosted by Betty White. But the character has been missing from the show for the past decade.

She’s been appearing regularly this season on ‘SNL’

That changed on the March 7, 2020 episode of SNL. Initially wearing a mask to protect from coronavirus, Dratch revived the character for a sketch set at a wedding reception. Of course, it’s not the only time the actress had appeared on SNL recently.

Although Dratch left the show in 2006, she has made several appearances over the years, including cameos each year since 2017. Thanks to the upcoming 2020 presidential race, Dratch has been recurring as former presidential hopeful Amy Klobuchar.

With Klobuchar now out of the running though, Dratch was able to participate in the episode anyway in the most crowd-pleasing way. SNL has never shied away from tapping into its epic well of past talent. And Debbie’s return actually felt perhaps more timely than even SNL‘s writers realized.

The return of Debbie Downer feels appropriate

After all, the news has been extremely bleak these days. Political unrest continues to pervade both sides of the aisle. And the current coronovirus epidemic is only whipping up more anxiety, fear, and misinformation. In that respect, Debbie Downer embodies the worry and uncertainty many American citizens — and SNL viewers — are grappling with right now.

In times of strife, comedy is one of the most palpable coping mechanisms. Poking fun at those issues that concern us helps to put things into perspective, for better or worse. In the case of Debbie Downer’s shocking return, there’s something therapeutic about a character literally unable to see past what ails her.

With such an exaggeratedly negative view on life, Debbie asks viewers to counter-balance her response. So as we scramble to see what happens next, Dratch’s Debbie Downer presents an unexpected bit of catharsis. Things could be a whole lot better, as Debbie so readily points out. But then again, that doesn’t mean life is devoid of hope or positivity. Welcome back, Debbie.