• Interviews

Molly Shannon at “An Evening With…”: “Fame doesn’t fix anything”

One expects it to be fun when Film Independent Presents hosts An Evening With… Molly Shannon. And that is exactly what it is. The room is full of laughter and cheers from enthusiastic fans, as the former Saturday Night Live (SNL) comedian entertains the room with stories form her real life. Especially the “David Mamet scam story,” when early on in her career she pretended to be way closer to the accomplished writer than she really was, and the story about the time she was at the EMMYs and ended up topless without realizing it.


The stories are not always lighthearted. The actor speaks about losing her mother at the age of four, growing up without the love of a mother and how she thought that her mother would somehow miraculously appear when she became a successful actor at SNL.

“Fame doesn’t fix anything,” she told her former colleague at SNL, Vanessa Bayer, who moderated the event at the Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts on May 2nd. The Hollywood Foreign Press Association is the lead sponsor of the event.

Shannon’s mother died in a car crash, along with Shannon’s 3-year-old sister and a cousin, when her father drove into a pole. Her father, who had a drinking problem and had been drinking at the time, survived the crash. So did Shannon.

Throughout her adult life, Shannon felt that the memory of her mother had propelled her forward in her career; but when she finally made it, she realized it would not change the fact that her mother was gone. This is something she wrote about in her book, “Hello, Molly! A Memoir” from 2022.

“I remember feeling this empty feeling and that someone was missing,” she says. “My dad was so supportive, but I felt that I just wanted my mom. I had been driven, driven, driven and I was so depressed at the peak of SNL, and I was like: ‘I thought that would bring her back.’ I truly did.  I thought: ‘If I get famous enough, she will come back and be so proud of me.’”

She adds that realizing that her mother would never come back, although bittersweet, was also a kind of a relief because it led to a new realization and put fame into a different perspective for her:

“It was kind of like a relief: Now, I can just focus on being creative. It does not matter whether I am the best or not.”

Today, Shannon, who is 58, is happily married to the artist Fritz Chesnut, with whom she has two children.

“Being a parent to my children is very healing,” she says about her children, 19-year old Stella and 18-year old Nolan Shannon Chestnut. “So being able to give them stuff that I did not get from my mother was great.”

The actor, who was with SNL from 1995 to 2001, and has co-starred in the comedy series The Other Two, The White Lotus and I Love That for You, had a lot of support from her father, who single-parented her.

“My dad would say, “You just walk into those agencies and say, ‘You hold the phone, I have got the talent,’ and use your singing work,’” Shannon recalls. “He believed that if you had the positive attitude you would make it.”

When her dad came out as gay later on in his life, their relationship only deepened. He was 72 at the time, and just six months later he would die of cancer.

“We went on ride to Ojai, California, and we talked about everything,” she says. “He said: ‘Molly, I knew when I was in 8th grade. I would go on double dates and I would just have a crush on the boy.’”

This was a special experience in her life.

“It was very beautiful,” she concludes.