Actor Stories: Molly Shannon’s 10-Year-Struggle to Beat the Odds in Hollywood

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  • Actor Stories:
    Molly Shannon’s 10-Year-Struggle to Beat the Odds in Hollywood

    How many years are you willing to dedicate to your dream of becoming a professional, working actor?

    (arranged by Carmichael Phillips)


    (Molly Shannon on SNL)

    How many years are you willing to dedicate to your dream of becoming a professional, working actor before throwing in the towel? One year? Two years? Five years?

  • What if I told you that some of the most successful actors and actresses in Hollywood were successful because they never put a time limit on success? They simply followed their dream ‘til the end, no matter where it would lead, no matter how long it would take.


    It took me ten years to get on SNL. I walked around and no one knew who I was. Then I got on SNL and it all changed overnight.

    (Molly Shannon)


    This story was originally shared by actress, Jenna Fischer (The Office, Splitting Up Together), from her 2017 book, The Actor’s Life. Fischer tells the story, as told to her by Molly Shannon, of Shannon’s struggle and ultimate triumph in Hollywood…after 10 years of struggle!

    You probably know Molly Shannon as Mary Katherine Gallagher, the socially awkward yet adorable character she played on Saturday Night Live, along with her memorable appearances in films like A Night at the Roxbury (1998), Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby (2006) and Other People (2016).

    According to Fischer, back when she was an aspiring actress, she pretended to be sick so she could skip out on her day job to attend a Saturday Night Live party, following a Television Critics Association press event. While there, she met SNL’s Molly Shannon.

  • As Fischer recalls:

    “I stood and waited, nodding along as Molly answered questions. But after waiting a few minutes, I became so desperate to have her notice me that I started cracking jokes. Awful jokes,” recalled Fischer.


    Don’t give up. Whatever you do. Just don’t give up, okay?
    (Molly Shannon)


    “I vaguely remember a joke about traffic and one about boobs. It was seriously so horrible and cringy and awkward, I can barely think about it without getting hives. It didn’t take long before I started getting the evil eye from the reporters. So, I finally shut up and listened politely.”

    But Fischer didn’t let her embarrassment drive her away. She lingered long enough to get some positive encouragement from Molly.

    “Eventually the press walked away, and I seized my chance to have Molly all to myself. I said, “Hi, I’m not really supposed to be here. I’m an aspiring actress, new to LA, and I just wanted to say that I really love what you do.”

    (Molly Shannon)

    “Now, Molly could have just been polite and said, “Thanks, nice to meet you.”

    “Or she could have blown me off. After all, I was the weirdo party crasher telling boob jokes! But she didn’t.”

    “She turned to face me, looked me in the eyes, and said, “Don’t give up. Whatever you do. Just don’t give up, okay? It took me ten years to get on SNL. I walked around and no one knew who I was. Then I got on SNL and it all changed overnight. You just never know. So, don’t give up. Ten years. Ten years. It’s hard, okay? Good luck. You can do it.”

    Ten years! Is it in you to be that patient and that persistent? Ten years or more?

    That’s how long it took Molly Shannon to go from restaurant hostess and supermarket demo girl to developing and performing one of the most memorable characters on Saturday Night Live.

    That’s how long it took her to build a résumé that now includes a laundry list of hit television show appearances, including stints on Sex and the City, Will and Grace, Seinfeld, 30 Rock, The New Adventures of Old Christine and Glee.

    So, back to the original question: How many years are you willing to dedicate to your dream of becoming a professional, working actor?


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