Episode 12: Molly Shannon
Molly Shannon is an American actress and comedian who was a cast member on Saturday Night Live from 1995 to 2001. Her recent television roles include Enlightened (2013), Divorce (2016-19), The White Lotus (2021), and I Love That For You (2022). Her voice can be heard in the animated films Igor (2008) and the Hotel Transylvania film series (2012–2022).
In 2017, she won the Film Independent Spirit Award for Best Supporting Actress for her role in Other People. Her best-selling memoir, Hello, Molly!, was published in April 2022, and she is author of a children's book, Tilly the Trickster. Shannon is renowned for comedy that is both fearless and empathetic.
PA System [00:00:02] This is West 8th Street, New York University.
Announcer [00:00:14] From New York University, you're listening to Conversations hosted by President Andy Hamilton. In each episode, Andy talks insight, inquiry and imagination with a leading mind from the NYU community.
President Hamilton [00:00:33] Hello, everyone. Today, we welcome Molly Shannon to the podcast. Now, you may know her as the performer behind some of the most memorable Saturday Night Live characters ever created. And you have likely seen her in one of dozens of TV and film roles for which she has received a Film Independent Spirit Award, as well as three primetime Emmy Award nominations. Molly, a Tisch drama graduate, is also a bestselling author with her recent memoir, Hello Molly, and her children's book, Tilly the Trickster. And we are delighted to have her join us today. Welcome, Molly.
Molly Shannon [00:01:20] Thank you, President Hamilton. I'm so honored and I'm so excited to be here talking to you.
President Hamilton [00:01:25] Well, Molly, I'd like to begin, you know, perhaps where many conversations with you begin on the nature of comedy and your career is so diverse and so marvelous and successful. But there's one quality, it seems to me, that is at the heart of your work, whether it's the awkward, hilarious characters you created on Saturday Night Live or even your recent memoir, Hello, Molly. But that quality is fearless, no holds barred exposure. And in some respects, that's one of the reasons that you're so beloved. I wanted to ask you, how did you learn to put yourself out there in such an open and sometimes vulnerable way? And were there comedians that you looked up to as models for that style of comedy?
Molly Shannon [00:02:20] Well, that's a great question. And I really when I was a drama student at Tisch School of the Arts, I really learned that as far as performance goes in Alan Langdon's acting class, when I was a student, we did this big exercise and I tell the story in my book. We had, we were studying the Arlecchino and the Italian Arlecchino that comes on to entertain. He's the comedy portion of the show. And many of the students were renting out warehouse spaces to practice their Arlecchino; you know, we had to do I think it was maybe like a five minute performance of the Arlecchino and do what's called the Lazzi, which is the performance. And it had to have beats of three, three jokes like if you're trying to come through a door, you would try once, tried twice and fail. And then the third time you get through. But anyhow, I, I did not rent a warehouse and I started getting nervous hearing about these students renting warehouses to practice for their Arlecchino And I was like, Oh my God, I haven't practiced at all. What am I gonna do? I'm so nervous. And so the stakes were high. But then deep down in my heart as a performer, I knew that it couldn't be too planned. It had to be kind of spontaneous. That's the Arlecchino and you know, I knew what it was. So it was that exercise that changed things for me. I didn't practice at all. I we, we had to we had to sew a fake penis with the sock...all the girls, you know, everybody would have that as part of the costume because they would use their body as part of the performance. And so that part I did do. And then it came the day for my performance and I remember standing outside the door thinking, I have not practiced at all, but I knew the rules that we had to do a couple of beats of three. And I went in and I did it and I just went crazy performing the heck out of it, doing the jokes and taking chances. And I just jumped into it and I ended up getting a standing ovation. The class went crazy, and it was that moment where I realized I took a chance. I was great, my heart was pounding and I continued to bring that spirit to Saturday Night Live. Same thing, kind of knowing the basic rules, the basic format, and then letting yourself kind of go. And it is brave because it was I was scared, you know. Yeah.
President Hamilton [00:04:48] But but in that in that spontaneity, presumably you have a sense of of of where you're going to go, of how far you're going to go. Although from that story you've just told, it sounds like I was going to ask you whether that was a sketch or a character that you knew was very funny, but you actually didn't go that far. You didn't perform because you just it was too far out there.
Molly Shannon [00:05:21] Too far out there. I don't really know that. But I but I want to say again, also, I learned that, too, also at NYU, I really the basis for all of my future career in show business all started at New York University. That's why training is so important. But it was the same thing when I was a student at NYU. I did work full time at a health club. I worked about 40 hours a week at Park Avenue Squash and Fitness, and then I thought, Oh, I'm not taking advantage of NYU enough, I should be doing the plays, you know? So I auditioned the very last year I was there for the show called The Follies and Madeleine Olnek and Michael Sayers and David Weincek were the producers. And basically it was a show where we made fun of the teachers and it was a it was a midnight show, raucous in the black box theater. And I'm forgetting somebody's name who was also in it. But I'll throw his name in later. I never like to leave anybody out, but... Dan Chase was also h's a big producer. He was he was the producer of that show, too. And they were really excellent writers and producers. So I created Mary Catherine Gallagher for that show in an improv rehearsal because we had to make up characters for the show. And Madeline Olnek the director, said, Let's just make up characters. So one day we did an exercise where you come through the door and just introduce yourself. And she said, Don't overthink it, just be in the moment and I'm going to play this naughty director. And your job is to come in the door and make up the character and try to impress me, try to get the job. Because I'm a big director and I and Mary Katherine Gallagher came and said, Hi, I'm Mary Catherine Gallagher. They ended up loving the character, putting the character in the show, and then the character became the center of the whole show. So it was in that show that I learned wow I think I'm good at comedy. You know, I was a very serious actress. So it was again exploring that at NYU as a drama student. I never, I feel like I never would have done that had I not worked.
President Hamilton [00:07:17] You're very much focusing on on taking risks and, you know, in your art and in your performance. And was there at Tisch a particular approach, a particular a style of mentoring from your teachers that that really propelled you or encouraged you in the most effective way to to push beyond where you might have gone in in a in a comfort sense.
Molly Shannon [00:07:48] Yes, I remember that we had to do a lot of scene work in classes. And I studied also with Terry Hayden, Jacqueline Brooks, and then we did emotional work where you would recall emotional moments from your childhood. And I had never been in therapy or anything, but I remember we had to do some exercise where you would recall a kind of sad experience from your childhood, maybe your grandmother's funeral or and you would sit in front of the class and it was kind of like therapy. You know, she would say, okay, close your eyes and go back there. And, you know, what do you smell? Do you feel the carpet, you know, all the senses. And then you could go do be ready to do the scene when you were kind of in that emotional place. And I remember thinking, you know, she's talking about her grandmother's funeral. I had lost my mom when I was little when I was four years old. So I was like, I have I have dark stuff I can go into it. But I remember she said, I did do my emotional exercise and I think I went back. I don't remember specifically the memory that I went back to, but she was like, Oh my darling, if you can use that in your work that you can access that it will be so wonderful and deepen your work. So that again was all in my youth, this training that I got at NYU. And then we also did scene study classes. And in the scene study I realized I really like doing characters. It was something about if I did a character, I didn't feel as self-conscious as if I just played myself. If I played like a Southern character, like we're going to get new dresses, I suddenly didn't feel self-conscious. So it was a great lesson in not thinking about myself. And I learned that through you have to study, you know, study acting. It was important that I would not have been ready had I not had that training at NYU.
President Hamilton [00:09:40] Yeah. That that that risk taking that obviously is, you say, developed in your time at NYU, you know that clearly in your career and its trajectory, you've shown its impact on on your your art and your performances. In other parts of your life, I'm thinking particularly you've also chosen very particular moments to leave roles. You know, you left Saturday Night Live at a time when your career was at its height and most successful. And I wondered just the degree to which you you think that that development of risk taking skills in performance, the degree to which that then allows you or helps you take risks in other parts of your life.
Molly Shannon [00:10:31] That's so true. I loved Saturday Night Live so much that I wanted to leave, when I was at a good point when I loved it and felt good and because I lost my mom so suddenly when I was four years old in a car accident, I really appreciate the value of a great ending because I didn't have that with her and I just think it makes the transition after leaving so much easier. When you feel you did it with grace feeling great, you're not staying too long. There's something so peaceful about that nice with your post life after. So I left when I loved it. I didn't want to phone it in, stay too long. And I'm still very close to Lorne Michaels. We're very good friends and and I respect Lorne so much. And he gave me the biggest break of my life. So I just wanted a good ending because it was like the biggest break of my life. So I, I wanted. I wanted to leeave when I felt great. It's funny you ask about that, President Hamilton, because I think about that like the kind of I think it's sad when somebody is pushed out or when it's like, Oh God, they stayed too long. And then I think, Oh my God. Like, I feel grateful for good endings.
President Hamilton [00:11:42] Don't worry., university presidents know that feeling well. But let me...You know, I listened to a conversation that you had with Anderson Cooper and you told a story. And I I'm going to ask you whether, you know, that risk taking has ever got you into trouble. And I'm thinking particularly of a story about sneaking on an airplane.
Molly Shannon [00:12:05] Well, yes. My friend and I were dared by my father, who was very wild. He was like, boy, that would be the greatest stunt of all if you were to stowaway on an airplane.
President Hamilton [00:12:17] How old were you at that point?
Molly Shannon [00:12:18] We were maybe 12 and 13. Yeah. So he just thought that would get you on the cover of the paper. He was just kind of a daredevil and wild, my dad had that spirit, he liked fun and mischief and he was a rule breaker, but also a very good person and tried to do good. He was a little bit of both. He had a wild streak, but then he was also a very like a sweetheart and kind and great. But so we we decided we would help a plane to New York City. We were little preteens from Cleveland, Ohio.
President Hamilton [00:12:49] Without a ticket.
Molly Shannon [00:12:50] Without a ticket. It was just a boring summer day. And we thought, well, let's go try to hop on a plane. And if that doesn't work, then we'll go back and take a ballet class in Cleveland. So we were in our ballet outfits and we told my dad, we're going to go try to hop on a plane. And he was like, okay. And we told my friend Ann Pountney's brother, and he was like, You'll never get away with that. We took the rapid transit out to the airport. We saw a flight to San Francisco, a flight to New York. And I took the reins that let's go to New York. And this was in the 1970s. And there were no, you know, it was before 9/11. So you could go right up to the gate.
President Hamilton [00:13:27] I remember.
Molly Shannon [00:13:27] Yeah, it was so much easier. And we just asked the stewardess, we were in our sweet little ballet outfits with our hair pulled back and buns and pink. We looked like prima ballerinas. I said sweetly, Oh could we go say goodbye to my sister? And she said, Sure, go ahead. She let us on. And it was an empty flight from Cleveland to New York City. And we just ducked in the back. And then we and then we were really nervous. And then the plane backed up and took off and we couldn't believe it. We said Hail Mary's. And then that stewardess came around to ask us if we wanted a Coca-Cola and she looked like she was going to pass out. She she was so scared.
President Hamilton [00:14:08] So she realized what you'd done.
Molly Shannon [00:14:11] And she was like Oh no, I'm going to get in so much trouble. I mean, maybe she would get fired or she's in big trouble. But so we thought we were going to get in trouble on our own when we landed. So we walked down the aisle and we saw her and we were very scared and she just said, Bye, ladies, have a nice trip.
President Hamilton [00:14:34] How on earth did you get back to Cleveland? How did you.
Molly Shannon [00:14:38] Well, my dad was like, oh, my gosh, I can't believe you're there. And maybe I'll drive to New York and visit you if you could just find a hotel to stay in. But then there was no hotel that would take two minors without a credit card. So my dad said, All right, you got to come home, but I'm not paying for it, so you got to chop on one back. So it was like so we tried to hop on a couple on the way back and it didn't work. Yeah. So I, so I'm, I'm coming to realize that my dad definitely had the spirit of, go for it and kind of wild, you know.
President Hamilton [00:15:08] Clearly at that early stage, the pull of New York City, NYU and Saturday Night Live was already acting its magnetism.
Molly Shannon [00:15:18] Exactly. And you know what's so funny, President Hamilton, we didn't know anything, I only knew about New York City, really, from television shows. So when we got to New York, we just asked strangers, how did you get to Rockefeller Center, which is where I ended up working. That's where we wanted to go, Rockefeller Center, you know. So that's where we where we where the subway took us. And we walked from JFK out on the streets to the subway. It was like a 30 minute walk. And we had we had a great fun day in New York City and then came back and my dad did pay for it eventually.
President Hamilton [00:15:51] He did, and probably should have done that if he was the person who encouraged that. Molly, can I just get a little serious. You've mentioned your father and you mention that that terrible tragedy that happened early in your life. And it so often occurs that that comedy and tragedy intersect in different ways. And you've spoken very movingly about that tragic moment in your life. I think you were you were four years old when your mother, your sister and a cousin were killed in a car crash. In a car being driven by your father. And I wanted to talk to you about forgiveness, because you've also spoken very warmly about your father yet there must have been a sense on his part of of immense guilt, but also yours at that stage of not understanding but also even blame. And and it's you know, it's a rather serious question, and in a fun conversation, but I think it's an important one for our students to hear as well in a in a life of of of ups, but also of downs, how you how you found yourself able to forgive your father and also then to to to take that experience and to to grow from it, particularly into the spectacularly successful actress and comedian that you've become.
Molly Shannon [00:17:32] Oh, thank you so much. I think that night was confusing, and I wanted to really make that clear in the book because my dad, it was like an all day graduation party. So there had been drinking. It started in the morning, it was in Mansfield and there was drinking. But then my my dad took a nap and that was much later when they left. I in no way want to act like I'm letting him off the hook. But it was a confusing thing where usually my mom would drive and my cousin also went home with us too. And my dad, my dad would... So I never we never fully knew if he fell asleep at the wheel after a long day with three children tired, or if it was there was never a blood alcohol report. There was never definitive. So it was complicated. And also my mom was very experienced with him. She'd been with him for a long time. Her father was an alcoholic. So she would have driven you know, we knew people who knew who she would have, why she didn't drive or why my cousin didn't drive, who was 25, is confusing. You know, he would always say, I asked them to drive and they said, no, you're fine, you can drive. And then a whole group of people let him into the car. So it was complicated. But again, this was the seventies. I don't I'm in no way want to bail him out. But we never were sure really knew, was it that he was that he fell asleep because he was tired because he drove for 90 miles. It wasn't like an instant. So, yeah, I mean, I didn't. So what a sad, tragic thing that was. But it was it was confusing. So I tried to lay that out in the book because why they didn't drive and I chose to believe my father. He always said I asked and I believed him. I love my father, so I didn't want to, just like, you know, I chose to believe him. So I don't think. But it was funny in writing a memoir, President Hamilton, you have to go back into all that stuff. And that was the really big question from the memoir Did you blame him? And I was like, Wait, I asked my childhood friends and did it seem like I blame my father. And they said, no, no, no. And they never got that attitude I didn't like that he drank too much. That was a struggle for me, and I don't think everybody who drinks is an alcoholic or anything. I don't think that. But my dad would drink too much. He was an alcoholic. So I think that I think that I more had maybe I would more talk about that than the accident. So and also I did confront him when I was older. I went through a breakup with a boy when I was in my thirties and I was really heartbroken. And this boy canceled the trip we were supposed to go to Palm Beach, this young man and my dad came instead. And at that hotel we got in an argument and I finally did confront about the accident. I was in, I was in my mid thirties and I said, you know, you talk about that you lost your wife, we lost our mom. Do you ever think about that? We lost mommy and he was like, Molly, there isn't a day that goes by that I don't think about the accident, you know? And it was a very human moment, this makes me emotional. I felt such compassion for him and I didn't know that. I didn't know that he thinks about it every day and the guilt that he lived with and the guilt that must have hovered over the household. And I just felt like, of course, he didn't mean to do that. So, you know, I looked at it as that, as an accident, if that makes sense. You know.
President Hamilton [00:21:14] Of course. And thank you. And as your life then unfolded and your career, to what extent do you think growing up without your mother and that life with, as you said, a loving but a wild father did that that that fed into the the personality that you became and that you then projected on stage.
Molly Shannon [00:21:41] Yes. That really fed into that. He was a very loving father. He always listened to me and he was he could be wild. And sometimes, you know, yeah, like normal relationship. We could get in disagreements, so we would always work it out, you know? And I wanted to write about a real father daughter relationship in my book. You know, people people can judge away and go, well, that's oh, what a crazy. But, you know, it's real. And I truly loved him. And what was great about him is we could always resolve it. We could always work it out. Even up until he was dead. I remember telling my therapist, I was like, I feel like I need him or we were fighting or something. She was like, I'm sure that makes him feel alive. And he did because I was like, I need you. I want you to understand this. And he loved it. You know, he right up to the end, you know.
President Hamilton [00:22:27] Did you laugh with him a lot? Did you did you, you know, practice your routines on him? Was that the kind of relationship?
Molly Shannon [00:22:37] Yeah, not really practicing my routines, but he was very silly. So when we were growing up in the house, he would say, we... I called it the Jim Shannon School of Acting because when when I was little like 11, 12, he would be like, you want the acting really real. So he loved movies. He loved Elizabeth Taylor and Easter Parade and Judy Garland. And, you know, he was always reading memoirs about Truman Capote and he liked the great actresses. So he would do we would do acting exercises in the house where he would say, pretend to take a phone call and you have to make it very real. Like, tricks. And then if it didn't seem real, he would say, Cut that seemed fake. But we got so good at the fake phone calls that we could trick our friends and pretend like, Hello? Oh, you want to talk to Allison? Oh, she's right here. And we would make it so real that we could really trick people. And I definitely use that in my acting. But to answer your question about, yeah. So my dad was silly. Everything was a game. If you went into a candy store, he would, he would. It was, he was silly. Silly. He liked to have fun. So he liked to play a lot of games and to just he was he was fun. Very fun, I would say. Yeah.
President Hamilton [00:23:52] Yeah. And the role that comedy played in your life is is clear. And now as we as we go through perhaps some of the darker times as a as a country, as a as a world at the moment, with war in Europe and political polarization in the country, and what role do you think comedy can and should play in the lives of our our students and the lives of of all of us and helping us get through what can be quite difficult and hard to to navigate times?
Molly Shannon [00:24:31] Yeah, I think ultimately it is and I do remind myself of this as a performer and working professionally in show business, it is an extension of yourself. It's not about me. If ever I get lost, I try to put myself back on a good spiritual track of it's generous. It's giving people to immerse themselves in stories where they can forget their troubles for a minute and they get immersed in the character and they understand themselves maybe through the character, and it's relaxing and they can cry or laugh and and it's it's a healing, the storytelling. So ultimately, it's it's giving. And I know for stand up comedians, certainly it's a complicated time because I think I'm not a standup, but I'm sure they feel like they can't say. And it's hard. But that's also a very interesting conversation, obviously. But I'm an actress, so I do other the writing of other people. So it's different.
President Hamilton [00:25:28] Yeah yeah you know it's not it's not escaped our notice that your signature characters Mary Katherine Gallagher, Sally O'Malley. You know your own name Molly Shannon. They all have a very strong Irish connection and NYU, in addition to being home of the greatest school of the arts in the world, Tisch, is also the home of one of the truly great centers of Irish study, the Glucksmann Ireland House. Irish culture, language, history, music. And so I'd love to hear the way in which your Irish heritage influenced you and your comedic sensibilities?
Molly Shannon [00:26:30] Well, it was a very big influence. My grandmother, Mary Madden, was from PuckMoore, and she and Achill, Achill Island, the wild western coast on the water, They were farmers, very poor, and they came over here with no money. They came to Cleveland and my grandmother worked as a maid and so they hoped for a better life. So I really think understanding what they did to be able to come to this country and make a better life for themselves makes me think about my own life and being a homeowner now and how how long, how my ancestors fought so hard for that. You know, it gives me a real perspective on my life. And I believe in epigenetics. I believe sometimes you might not consciously know that something's affecting you, but it could be in your body, you know, from your genes. I do believe that. So I guess I always named the characters Irish names because it felt close to me and my home and where I come from and that type of thing.
President Hamilton [00:27:39] And in Ireland that's a strong, you know, thread of comedy and a natural sense of humor that that that shines through so often.
Molly Shannon [00:27:51] Yeah, it's so true. Conan O'Brien, who's another fellow Irish.
President Hamilton [00:27:55] Irish, of course.
Molly Shannon [00:27:56] SNL. He believes that comedy is like music. He feels like with comedy writing. It's like he feels like most comedians are usually good musicians. And that there's a rhythm to the.
President Hamilton [00:28:08] Rhythm, to the language, to the words and the timing of. Yeah.
Molly Shannon [00:28:13] Exactly. Isn't that interesting?
President Hamilton [00:28:15] Fascinating.
Molly Shannon [00:28:16] Yeah. And speaking of bravery, too, I do President Hamilton, try to force myself to do stuff that I'm uncomfortable. Like, for example, I, I, I'll push myself. I got asked to, to host Steve Martin has a new book, a graphic memoir that's actually great. And he asked me to interview him for his book release, but I felt a little shy because I actually think the art of asking questions and doing what you're doing is really hard. I feel more comfortable being a guest, but I did it just to push myself. So I try to do stuff like that in my life. Just if I'm scared, I just make myself do it.
President Hamilton [00:28:57] Yeah, well, fortunately, I've got a day job, so...
Molly Shannon [00:29:00] Exactly (laughs)
President Hamilton [00:29:01] At least for the moment. Now I want to talk. I want to talk about your other job, your second job, which is being a writer. And I know you've you've written a children's book. You published a children's book in 2011, Tilly the Trickster. And then, of course, more recently, you've had your bestselling memoir. And I just you know, I'm fascinated to to to get an understanding of how you switch from one role to the others, from Molly Shannon, the actress and comedian, to Molly Shannon, the author, and particularly in then finding a different voice to talk to children, but also finding an even further different voice in a in a very open and expressive memoir. And, you know, how do you how do you turn those different voices on and off in in your in your mind?
Molly Shannon [00:30:02] That is really hard. But I have to say, I got to a point in my life where I kind of like the quiet of a book. I think with show biz sometimes people go into the career because they don't...some maybe. You know, maybe they need that attention or they're trying to resolve something in their childhood or they feel like they're not enough. That feeling of not measuring up can certainly give you a drive in trying to make it in show business because there is so much rejection that you keep at it. But then when I got there, when I got Saturday Night Live, I was like, Oh, this doesn't bring my mother back. This doesn't fix anything. So I think when I got to that place, I could be healthier. With what... With what it all means. It's not like fame fixes anything. It doesn't, you know, that type of thing. So I think right in writing the book, I was at more of a place of peace where I don't mind if somebody doesn't know me or somebody doesn't recognize me or I feel like I'm enough. And I worked hard on that in my personal life. That didn't come easy. But I like the quiet of a book. And I think if you're going to write a memoir, a memoir, you have to go deep. Otherwise, what's the point? Because it's really hard and I think it's very hard to finish a memoir. You never feel like you're done. It's very hard to let it go because it's your life story and you never really feel done. And they have to go. The publishers are like give it to us! You got to stop because it can... It's really hard.
President Hamilton [00:31:32] It's only halfway through. So you clearly have a second volume in the years ahead.
Molly Shannon [00:31:39] Exactly! My editor, Dan Halpern, described it as he's like, you know, you've got the bones and then you just slap on and keep adding flesh a little more flesh. And then you... But I will. I'm very proud of myself because I felt embarrassed writing a book. I thought, nobody's going to care about this, this is so dumb and who cares? And I had to push through my embarrassment. And I'm really happy that I did it. I just I really was hard on myself. And the other hardest thing is getting your voice on the page. That's the hardest thing. But once you can get your voice on the page, that's then you're kind of moving along. But I feel again, I challenged myself and I'm really proud of myself that I did it. It was really one of the hardest things I've ever done.
President Hamilton [00:32:23] Is there another Tilly book in in in the future, or was that, you know, it was that very much connected to your own children and their ages at the time that Tilly, the Trickster, was published.
Molly Shannon [00:32:36] That was when my kids were little and I wrote a book that was easy to read for parents because I would read all these books to my to my children when they were little, and some of them were too...i was like I'm Out of breath. So I wrote a book that wouldn't get a parent too out of breath. Easy to read.
President Hamilton [00:32:53] Parents are already out of breath before they sit to read.
Molly Shannon [00:32:57] Yeah. So I wrote it really as a performer, like that it was fun to read. You didn't feel out of breath. You could read it again and again, and it didn't tire the parent out. And I wrote stuff that I knew my children loved. I definitely use them as like test market research. Like, Do you like this story? And what about that? You like that photo? And I really tested it on them and kids loved the book, but I think I was really afraid to write a memoir. So I dipped in by writing a children's book first, but deep down I knew I wanted to go deeper. And another interesting thing, President Hamilton, is, you know, it's hard when you go on talk shows, Jimmy Fallon or this or that. I love Jimmy Fallon. He's my friend. But I'm saying when you do these talk shows, you have to tell funny anecdotes. And my publicist said, oh, well, for your book, it's going to be very serious. And that might be exhausting. And I don't find it exhausting at all. I'm just in a place in my life where I find telling funny little quick bits harder than actually being really serious. Yeah, yeah.
President Hamilton [00:33:54] Yeah. Did it take a different kind of discipline or were you able to take the same know skills that you would learn in learning your lines and in rehearsing your your your sketches or performances? Was that same kind of discipline applicable to writing as well, or was it more spontaneous?
Molly Shannon [00:34:14] That's really interesting. Yes. The same kind of discipline because you have to put in the time and yeah, I didn't work too hard at it. I would just do I worked with my collaborator, Sean Wilsey, who's a memoirist. He wrote a great book called Oh The Glory of It All. It's excellent. And I didn't want to just write a traditional celebrity memoir. I wanted to write a book and I wanted to go deeper. And so I really liked Sean. And so we collaborated. We would just send stuff back and forth and but it's very hard because you get lost in it and you have to keep rereading it. And it's a big manuscript, honestly. Now, when I see anybody who's published a book, I'm so impressed because it is really hard.
President Hamilton [00:35:02] Molly, let me ask let me ask a final question. And in our conversation, we've we've gone from your professional transitions that you've gone through in your in your successful career and your artistic switching from being a comedian, being an actor to being a a writer. We've talked about some of the personal transitions that you've gone through in life. Students we have every year we send out into the world magnificent graduates of NYU, of Tisch School of the Arts, who themselves are beginning a path, a journey in life that will take them through many transitions. And I wondered what advice that you would have for them in helping manage those different challenges and transitions that they'll have in their life. And I want to add a personal touch. This president will be going through his own transition as stepping down from the presidency in about seven months time. And and you know with the experiences you've had the advice that you would have for both students and an aging president to the next step and how to get themselves ready for it?
Molly Shannon [00:36:24] I think, President Hamilton, it's so important to with your transition that you're going through, you have had such an unbelievably fantastic run. And I think in life it's so important to celebrate that. Otherwise, what's the point? So I always have that philosophy of like, you know, dust your shoulders off and to really embrace that. I think is so important. I think I just think it's like I just feel the older that I get, the more I realize that you have to work on that self, on happiness and joy and letting that in and soaking it in and that it's so important. I just, I feel as the older I get, the more I'm like, I don't want to live that way where I'm like always feeling like I'm not enough or it wasn't enough. I just don't believe that it feels it makes me happy when I can take in the good. So does that help at all? Is that a good?
President Hamilton [00:37:22] It does. Let's celebrate.
Molly Shannon [00:37:24] Yeah, celebrate! You have that infectious energy already about you. And I feel like you always had that in your work. It comes through. And I just want to say about you hearing you speak to being also a part of the NYU community, you're so charismatic and real and you're a father and you work and you're a leader. You understand all aspects of it and you seem very happy with your work and it shines brightly.
President Hamilton [00:37:55] Molly Thank you. And...
Molly Shannon [00:37:57] I really mean that.
President Hamilton [00:37:58] Thank you. And this, this podcast is about you and the celebration of you. (laughs)
Molly Shannon [00:38:03] And what I would say to kids is I think it's really important to just take... I worked a lot of I said this in my graduation speech. I worked tons of little jobs. And, you know, I would work at coffee shops and I worked as a waitress and I worked as a hostess and did telemarketing. And my dad was very good. He was like, that teaches you the value of a buck, you know, and do it, you know, even if you have to, you're busing tables or he really taught me that. And I always had a very positive attitude, even though it was hard and I would... But I think it's so important and I think you have to be realistic. You're not going to get get to this. You know, you might not do be able to do your your chosen profession right away. You're going to have to do these jobs and maybe a minimum wage job and appreciate it, learn from it. It's really important. And I did that for years and years and years. Some people get breaks sooner, but I didn't, I struggled for a long time. But I treasured those experiences. And I really and I liked learning about, you know, a bank account and making money in these restaurant jobs. And now I understand I feel like I understand that more. And I'm really glad I struggled. And what I say to people is also... I felt I was brave enough to go after what I wanted. And that alone, as many people are not, they don't do that. Like I had some people who just moved back home and they gave up on their dreams. And I thought, Well, at least I'm trying for what I want. I'm going for acting. And maybe I'm not here yet, but I'm, I'm I'm pursuing what I love. So this alone is good. It's meaningful. So I always had that type of attitude. So I think that's helpful.
President Hamilton [00:39:47] I had very similar experience. I worked as a busboy for many summers, many during high school, during college. And I still don't think I have ever worked as intensely and as hard as I did clearing tables in a restaurant between eight and 10 p.m. on a Saturday night. You know, the intensity of that of that moment and everything going on around you and the demands on you reminds that it sets us all up and prepares us for for life and the challenges ahead.
Molly Shannon [00:40:25] It really does. That's so important. I sometimes think I still have dreams that I drive around looking at help wanted signs, and I've actually thought if ever, if ever I got to a place where I felt unhappy or something, I would go I would actually go back to that because I think it's important to it to I don't know. I just I think it's very important to do to do that to.
President Hamilton [00:40:45] Breadth of experience.
Molly Shannon [00:40:47] Yeah. Yes, yes, yes.
President Hamilton [00:40:48] Molly, Molly, thank you so much. Molly Shannon, it's been an absolute delight to have you as our podcast guest today. Thank you for being here.
Molly Shannon [00:40:59] Thank you. President Hamilton, I really enjoyed talking to you.