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Molly Shannon rose to fame in the ’90s as a comedian on Saturday Night Live. Since then, she has continued to make people laugh with various roles in TV shows and movies.

Perhaps Shannon’s career won’t come as a surprise to those who knew her as a child. The now-58-year-old once found herself in what could almost be a sitcom plot when she snuck on a plane at age 12.

Molly Shannon speaks onstage during the 2022 New Yorker Festival in an orange floral dress
Saturday Night Live alum Molly Shannon onstage during the 2022 New Yorker Festival | Bennett Raglin/Getty Images for The New Yorker

Molly Shannon experienced something tragic in her childhood

Shannon’s childhood was not always bright and happy. The actor experienced tragedy when she lost her mother and sister at age four due to her father’s drunk driving.

“I was very heartbroken and very sad and just trying to hold it all together as a kid,” she told the LA Times in 2021. “There’s no way that you could feel that type of deep pain about your mother and your sister being dead, so you just hold it all in, and it comes up later in life.”

Speaking to NY Post in 2008, Shannon also said, “It pulls the rug from under you. But it also gives you compassion for other people and a deeper understanding of loss, suffering, and abandonment.”

The Cleveland native found healing in acting and comedy. She participated in theater as a child and enjoyed the love she received from her fellow thespians.

On Saturday Night Live, Shannon often acted as the character Mary Katherine Gallagher, an unpopular and awkward student at a Catholic school. The character, which Shannon created while she was a student at New York University, was based on her own teenage self.

“[She] was really based on me, how I felt after the accident — really nervous, accident-prone, wanting to please, f*** up but full of hope,” Shannon told LA Times. “I just exaggerated everything I felt as a little girl and turned it into a character.”

Molly Shannon once snuck onto a flight as a child

In the ’70s, when Shannon was 12, she and a friend decided to sneak onto a flight. Her dad did not stop her. Shannon explained, “He looked at this like an adventure — like, ‘See if you can get away with it.’”

The two girls went to the gates dressed in leotards, and they managed to take a flight to New York City. “It was just truly the greatest day of my life,” she recalled.

What Molly Shannon is doing now


‘SNL’ Star Molly Shannon Used to Scam Talent Agents Into Getting Her Acting Gigs

Since leaving SNL in 2001, Shannon has appeared in various movies and TV shows. Since 2019, she has been playing Pat Dubek, the matriarch of the Dubek family on HBO Max’s comedy series The Other Two.

In 2021, she appeared on the first season of The White Lotus. She excellently played Kitty Patton, the overbearing mother of Jake Lacy’s character, Shane Patton.

In 2022, Shannon had a leading role as Jackie Stilton in the series I Love That For You. She acted alongside fellow SNL alum Vanessa Bayer. Additionally, fans can read about Shannon’s life in her 2022 memoir, Hello, Molly!