Terry Sweeney Biography
Sun Sign: Aries
Born Country: United States
Born in: Queens, New York, United States
Famous as: Artist
father: Terrence Sweeney
mother: Lenore Sweeney
Partner: Lanier Laney (1981–)
U.S. State: New Yorkers
education: Middlebury College (1973)
Terry Sweeney is a writer, actor, and comedian who is regarded as the first (and still the only) openly gay cast member of the iconic late-night comedy show 'Saturday Night Live.' He also holds the credit of being the first “out” actor with a regular role, ever on television. On ‘SNL,’ Terry vehemently and graciously talked about his homosexuality, even though he had faced several hardships while on the show, because of his sexual orientation. He had impersonated several personalities on ‘SNL,’ but Nancy Reagan will always be a cult-favorite. Terry has always been unapologetic about his sexual orientation, which has also affected his career. He was brusquely fired from the show. Terry chose not to work again. It was tough, but he survived because of his passion for writing and the love of his life, Lanier Laney. The two are not only life partners but professional partners as well. Terry and Laney have written a few movies, and television shows that got them through that difficult time. In addition to acting and writing, Terry has authored two books as well.
- Terry was born Terrence Sweeney, on March 23, 1951, in Queens, New York, and grew up in Massapequa Park, New York, to Terrence, who worked as a butcher, and his wife, Lenore Sweeney.
- In 1969, Terry graduated from 'Farmingdale High School' and then attended 'Middlebury College' to study Spanish and Italian. He received his Bachelor of Arts degree in 1973. He was a member of his college’s 'Gay Speakers Bureau.'
- Growing up, Terry was often bullied; he consoled himself with reading, watching movie musicals, and performing in his self-created ‘Broadway’ plays. He slowly developed interest in the performing arts, which eventually made him a star of his high school talent show. He had also performed as various drag characters at multiple New York City venues.
- Terry worked in several jobs after his college education. He worked as a counselor in a drug rehabilitation center, worked in a restaurant, and also wrote scripts. He also served as a script analyst at 'Paramount' in New York.
- Terry got to know from one of his friends that 'Saturday Night Live' was looking for writers. He wrote a bunch of sketches overnight and the following day he went to the SNL office only to find out heavy security there. He then bought a few sandwiches and potato salad and pretended to be a delivery boy to enter the office and drop his sketches to producer Jean Doumanian.
- Terry was certain that Jean would not read his sketches, but to his surprise, he received a call a week later and was hired.
- Terry joined 'Saturday Night Live' in 1981 as a sketch writer and was later introduced as a regular cast member during the 1985–86 season. That season, Terry impersonated former U.S. Senator ‘Ted Kennedy’ in a November 1985 episode hosted by Madonna. It was the only male character that Terry had impersonated in his entire run on the show.
- Terry was an openly gay male cast member not only in ‘SNL’ but also in the history of the network television. He had opened about his sexual orientation before he joined the show. On SNL, Terry’s roles were confined only to gay stereotypes and exaggerated female impersonations of celebrities such as Diana Ross, Joan Rivers, Patti LaBelle, Barbara Howar, Joan Collins, Brooke Shields's mother Teri Shields; and the then-First Lady, ‘Nancy Reagan,’ which is regarded as his career-best.
- Terry met Lanier Laney, who later became his longtime writing partner and collaborator. In a 1986 interview to 'People,' Laney revealed that he instantly fell in love with Terry after he saw his performance as ‘Angie Dickinson’ from 'Police Woman.' The two wrote three film scripts after they had moved to Los Angeles in 1983.
- In 1985, Lorne Michaels came back to ‘SNL’ as producer and hired Terry and Laney as writers for a hodgepodge cast, including Robert Downey, Jr., Joan Cusack, and Randy Quaid. Terry also doubled as a repertory player. The project was a huge failure, though.
- Unfortunately, at the end of the season, Lorne fired all the cast members except a few. Terry and Laney then left to co-write the 1989 cult comedy classic 'Shag.'
- Terry and Laney have written a few sketches shows such as 'MADtv' ('Fox') and 'Hype' ('The WB') that he co-created as well. They also wrote seven episodes of the 'Syfy' adult CGI science fiction 'Tripping the Rift.'
- Terry made guest appearances in a few TV shows such as 'Seinfeld,' 'Family Matters,' 'Sabrina, the Teenage Witch,' and 'Baby Daddy.' In 2000, he performed a stand-up routine for the special 'Coming Out Party.'
- In 2018, Terry was seen as David Gallo in two episodes of the 'FX' 'Emmy Award'-winning true crime anthology 'The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story.' Around the same time, Terry went behind the camera and did live theater.
- Terry has authored two books. He published 'Nancy Reagan: It's Still My Turn,' in 1990. The book served as a performance art piece at Highways in Santa Monica, but was later transferred to New York's 'Actor's Playhouse' Off-Broadway. His second book, 'Irritable Bowels and the People Who Give You Them,’ released in 2015; it is a collection of autobiographical comic essays that chronicles incidents from his professional and personal life.
- Terry’s mother was an eccentric worrier; he was raised in an overprotected environment. He was not even allowed to leave their building’s block alone until he turned 12.
- Terry and Laney got married in April 2012 and currently live in Beaufort, South Carolina.
- The wedding and reception took place at the roof garden of the New York apartment of Marianne and Steve Harrison. Judge Ned Tupper officiated at the ceremony. Terry and Laney’s female friends from Beaufort gifted them a honeymoon suite at the luxurious 'Surrey Hotel.'
- Terry and Laney first met when they were the members of a sketch comedy troupe, known as the 'Bess Truman Players.’
- Even though Terry had known his sexual orientation since fourth grade, the fear of rejection kept him from opening up about it. He was even engaged to a girl by his sophomore year. Terry discussed about his sexual orientation with his father two years after his mother’s death.
- American comedian, media personality, and author Al Franken was the first to acknowledge Terry’s resemblance to Ron Reagan Jr. Hence, he suggested him to portray Nancy Reagan in a skit, and the rest is history.
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