Hello Molly!

A memoir by Molly Shannon.

I fully expected Molly Shannon’s memoir to Hello Molly! to be funny, and it is, but it doesn’t start out that way. A tragic drunk driving accident leaves Molly without a mother, younger sister and a cousin and it quickly ramps up as Molly navigates a broken family, weight issues and a world that just doesn’t quite understand her – yet. 

Molly Shannon: taken shorty after her mother died. The photographer used a feather to tickle her face to get her to smile At the time this was image was taken she was in a deep grieving, and disbelieving, phase.

While Molly struggles to find her place in the world she, and her best friend Ann, find themselves in all sorts of wild, if not dangerous, situations. Egged on by her now disabled father, Molly and Ann sneak onto a plane for a twenty-four hour New York City exploration. Being very young, and virtually penniless, doesn’t stop the bad-girl duo, in fact it just creates all the more reason to dip in and out of trouble.

While based on true events, Molly doesn’t hide the fact that her early childhood is driven by the excitement of shoplifting and seeking out ways to earn money, without actually getting a real kids-type job, like mowing lawns or delivering newspapers. Instead Molly and Ann embark on holiday carolling scams and making prank phone calls, the later being just for fun and marking the beginning of her acting career.

Molly’s first official acting gig was in what she thought was going to be an audition for The Mickey Mouse Club but turns out to be a low budget touring version of The New Little Rascals.

Molly has based many of her Saturday Night Live (SNL) characters on people she’s encountered growing up, which gives her adult life as a funny-woman some additional context. Her fascination with being bad, as well her admiration for bad boys and girls, starts out at a very young age and carries on through early adolescence. Her follies during college at NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts left me in stitches and reminded me of my own college days, requiring both government financial aid and near full-time employment as a waiter in order to make ends meet.

Top image: Molly Shannon and 1997-98 cast of SNL. Bottom image: Rolling Stone cover photo of Molly and some of the SNL troupe.

Perhaps one of the most interesting chapters comes when Molly expands on the birth of her SNL character Mary Katherine Gallagher and her meet up with Gary Colman from the then hit TV show Diff’rent Strokes. If you read anything in this book, go to this chapter, it has such an amusing backstory and is followed by a collection of personal photos from her childhood to recent day SNL which happened in tandem with her exploding movie career.

By the time Molly gets to her days working on SNL, I was already fully invested in her as a comedian and character actor. Her stories about how SNL works behind the scenes is as fascinating as her drive to get her material on air. Turns out being on SNL is not an easy gig, it requires late hours and a total and utter dedication to the craft, regularly writing with fellow SNL cast until the wee hours of 6 AM.

Molly Shannon in NYC. Photo by John MacInnis.

The last few chapters in the book are dedicated to her SNL antics, her feature film Superstar, directed by Kid’s In The Hall legend Bruce McCulloch, and her fiery return to the world of dating, finishing with an unexpected and moving twist.

I highly recommend this book, it’s light reading about sometimes dark topic matter and if you can’t afford the $25 for the softcover, do what Molly does and just steal it! •

Raymond Helkio writes reviews for The Reading Salon and is a theatre artist, writer and poet living on the edge of insanity. Get in touch.

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