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Would you like to talk, for a minute, about the rigors of age? Picture Cranky sitting in a Paramount Pictures conference room with Molly Shannon, who's just a wee bit younger than I, and a dozen kidlets barely topping twenty years old. We're all talking about Superstar, the movie based on Shannon's Saturday Night Live character, Mary Katherine Gallagher. Shannon herself has just about the same amount of nervous mary katherine gallagherkinetic energy that MKG does, with spoken trains of thought cutting every which way but loose. We tried to get trés serious to calm her down, but failed miserably.

CrankyCritic:  Not a lot of female Saturday Night Live characters get this kind of a big screen shot.
Molly Shannon: Yeah. When Lorne Michaels came to me and asked me to do this movie I was really excited. But then I got really scared because I don't think that every character that does well on SNL should be in a movie. I called my friend, Steve Koren, who's written a lot of the sketches with me. I thought if we could come up with a good story, this could work. I never doubted that the character had enough dimension to sustain and deserve a whole feature length story. In my head, I knew she was more than a character that sniffs her armpits and falls down and does that all that wackiness.

CrankyCritic: OK, the hands under the armpit thing. Where did that come from?
Molly Shannon: The truth is that, when I got Saturday Night Live, I had done Mary Catherine in a stage show, which I had VHS'd. So I popped the tape in and looked to see which jokes got laughs during the improv in my show. That one did. I think they thought it was sort of gross at SNL, but it got a big laugh.

frenching the treeCrankyCritic: And in the movie, you french kiss a tree...
Molly Shannon: It was a real tree, too. Real bark. That was the day that I thought bruce mccollough gets this and we have the same sense of humor. This is really the emphasis of the character. You have to have a director that gets that sense of humor. She fantasizes a lot in her head. She's always alone with her thoughts. She's suffered from people and, once we got that on film, I thought "good" now we can work around this.

CrankyCritic: But did the tree ever call you back?
Molly Shannon: No no... <sighs>

CrankyCritic: Two weeks back, at the 25th anniversary show, Chris Rock called the SNL movies some of the worst movies ever.
Molly Shannon: Yes, he did. I was sitting next to him for most of that show. And it was funny!
I don't think too much about SNL movies. Just as a woman, to have Lorne Michaels come up to me and say "Do you want to do your own movie?" I was so grateful to have that opportunity. I feel really lucky. I think men get those breaks more than women.
CrankyCritic: Other women castmembers have complained that SNL is a real boy's club.
Molly Shannon:
 
It's not a boys club at all. I haven't had that experience. It is a tough place for men or women, if you don't write. If it's funny, they'll put you on. If you don't have your own characters, they'll eat you alive. They don't care if you're a man or a woman. I will defend that til the day I die. If you're a woman who doesn't know how to write, you're going to cry every night. But if you do, no problem.

CrankyCritic: So where does Mary come from?
Molly Shannon: It's a lot based on my own experience. I'm from an Irish Catholic family. My dad was really wild when we were growing up do it's a lot based on me but a lot fictionalized, too. When I was little I definitely was sad a lot and I used to dream. I used to get these obsessive crushes on non-available guys. Not any more, but that was my life for a long time. I liked this boy in high school for 3 years and he wouldn't look at me and I longed for him. I thought it would be funny to have a story about that.

CrankyCritic: Who would Mary Katherine grow up to be?
Molly Shannon: Growth, for her, would be to get out of her head. That's sort of what the end is supposed to be about; She does get the guy but there's still a part of her that likes to fantasize 'cuz its fun. It's how she escapes her pain. It's why she retreats into movies. Maybe she would find a nice therapist to help her. A nice Jewish doctor... [laughs]

CrankyCritic: When was the moment when you knew you wanted to be an actor?
Molly Shannon: We would have these teachers come to my grade school when I went to St. Dominick's. They were two sister choreographers, Miss Patty and Miss Jackie. Each grade used to put on a St. Patrick's Day show. You would sing an Irish song and the parent's would come and each class would do their song and dance. I would wait all year for Miss Patty and Miss Jackie. I couldn't wait to learn the routine and the song. I lived for St. Patrick's Day for eight years.

CrankyCritic: Is there something about playing little girls that's just funny? You play Betty Lou Who in Ron Howard's The Grinch Who Stole Christmas and she's, like what, eight?
Molly Shannon: 
No. No. No, Betty Lou is the mother. Cindy Lou is the little girl. I'm shooting that now. Ron Howard is amazing. I feel so excited to work with him. That's more an ensemble piece: Jim Carrey, Christine Baranski, Jeffrey Tambor, Bill Irwin plays my husband. It's going to be amazing. It's like doing the Wizard of Oz.
CrankyCritic:
 Which Dr. Seuss book was Mary Katherine's favorite?
Molly Shannon: The Cat in the Hat. She loves the machine that cleans the house.

CrankyCritic: One thing I noticed about these kidlets... Who made the decision to cast adults as kidlets?
Molly Shannon: I just turned 35 so, because of my age, we had to have people who looked my real age. That was a big concern of mine and I said so to Lorne. He said "No. Think Grease. Let's make the movie! Don't worry." They put a real nice little film on the lense to make your skin look real nice. [laughs] They have a lot of tricks like that.

CrankyCritic: Do you feel like a Superstar?
Molly Shannon: [laughs] Sometimes I do. It's weird. Sometimes the kids come up screaming. Sometimes I feel Wow! I'm on television . . . but I'm not a star.
CrankyCritic: Can you go out of your house?
Molly Shannon: Oh, there's no problem like that. You go to Starbucks and "it's on the house" [laughs] and that's cool. Free coffee! Sometimes free clothing. Nice little perks.
CrankyCritic: You don't sound all that jaded about it.
Molly Shannon: I never stop appreciating it. Like, on Saturday Night Live when Don Pardo says the names; Every single time I look at the screen and try to remember the first time and what that felt like. I try not to get jaded. It's like any job, you have to constantly go back in and re-appreciate it. I am so lucky making money doing what I wanted to do.

CrankyCritic: Any advice for teens?
Molly Shannon: I think there's too much emphasis on beauty. I find it so limiting. I think just be yourself. Be who you are. I feel like there's so much stuff that's hip, slick and cool and on MTV, y'know, so fakey? When I was auditioning in LA I couldn't even get cast as "the best friend." There were prettier girls who were better looking best friends. I remember going on an audition for some pilot and blow drying my hair to get it straight, trying to look like a quirky pretty best friend. And I thought, "This is sick!" It became all about my hair.
CrankyCritic: So let's forget about the hair. Or the glasses. Or the armpits. What's it about to you?
Molly Shannon: 
What I'm passionate about is telling stories. I didn't want to be a model or be only about looking good. So I'd say to teens, "Find yourself. Be who you are." Self acceptance is the sexiest thing to me. At the end of Superstar, when Mary Katherine gets kissed by the guy, I felt very strongly that it wouldn't be like she takes her glasses off and has a lottle blush on and looks a little prettier and get a kiss. Uh uh. She stays the same because she is changing from within. I love it.

CrankyCritic: Will Ferrell is a big star from the SNL cast. Mark McKinney is a big name from The Kids in the Hall. So, let me ask as one of the ancient and cranky old guys here, "How is it you can do an entire movie with Glynis Johns and not sneak in one Mary Poppins joke???"
Molly Shannon: Oh my God, that's right! We should have, I know. She was cast after it was written but we could have popped on in there.

CrankyCritic: Lorne Michaels has already said that SNL 2000 will have major cast changes because most of the cast's contracts are up (excepting Tim Meadows who signed a 30 year deal, he says). Is it time to leave SNL?
Molly Shannon: Maybe. I'm really enjoying it now so I'm trying to take it season by season. I get offers for movies or TV, but I prefer Saturday Night Live. To me SNL is so much cooler than that.

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