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Saturday Night Live 2000 rewind: Molly Shannon

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Molly Shannon’s record-setting run at Saturday Night Live ended in season 26

Molly Shannon’s Saturday Night Live resume can be put up against any other performer in the show’s 45-year history. From original characters to celebrity impressions, there was nothing Shannon couldn’t do.

Shannon’s talents were clear from the moment she started at Saturday Night Live through her final season in 2000-2001. She left the show as the longest-tenured female cast member in show history, surpassing Victoria Jackson. That record would later be broken by Amy Poehler but Shannon’s impact on SNL remains undeniable.

Shannon joined SNL midway through season 20 in 1995. She was one of only five cast members who returned for season 21 as the show went through one of the biggest overhauls in its history. Shannon was joined by Norm MacDonald, Mark McKinney, Tim Meadows, and David Spade. The group was bolstered by the additions of Will Ferrell, Cheri Oteri, Darrell Hammond, Nancy Walls, David Koechner, and Jim Breuer. Chris Kattan and Colin Quinn would be added later.

Season 26 would be Shannon’s last, leaving after the Feb. 17, 2001 episode. With it came the end for fan-favorite characters like Mary Catherine Gallagher, NPR host Teri Rialto, and Sally O’Malley as well as her impressions of celebrities like Courtney Love and Monica Lewinsky.

Shannon’s Saturday Night Live career saw her start as a repertory player on a cast that included Spade, Chris Farley, Adam Sandler, Ellen Cleghorne, Mike Meyers, and Al Franken. She ended her run as a featured player alongside Jimmy Fallon, Tracy Morgan, and newcomers Tina Fey, Maya Rudolph, and Rachel Dratch.

She would return to Saturday Night Live two months after leaving for a surprise appearance in a sketch featuring Renee Zellweger. She played Molly Shannon across from Will Ferrell’s eccentric, offensive, and insane doctor.

As mentioned, Shannon finished SNL as the record holder for the longest-tenured female cast member with 116 credited episodes. She also earned a Primetime Emmy Award nomination for Outstanding Individual Performance in a Variety or Music Program in 2000. And she entered rarified air when her original character Mary Catherine Gallagher got a feature film with 1999’s Superstar. Like we said, a resume that can go toe-to-toe with anyone else in SNL history.

Where is Molly Shannon 20 years later?

Molly Shannon returned to host Saturday Night Live in 2007. She’s also gone on to appear in a number of film and television projects featuring fellow SNL alumni. Her television credits include appearances in 30 RockThe New Adventures of Old Christine, and Mulaney. On the film side, she’s been in Talladega NightsHotel Transylvania, and Casa de Mi Padre.

Outside of working with SNL friends, Shannon has earned critical praise for her work in the 2016 film Other People as well as the television series Will & Grace and Enlightened. Most recently she co-starred in the 2020 Netflix movie Horse Girl.

Shannon’s ability to just about everything in comedy and do it exceptionally well has ensured that she will never be off the screen or stage for long. Her impressive run at Saturday Night Live laid the foundation for a career that continues going strong.

She helped usher in an era of Saturday Night Live where women got more opportunities and became, for lack of a better term, superstars on the show. Her work followed by Tina Fey’s run as the head writer changed SNL’s course for the better and helped it become the silly, sharp, and unique show that it was during the start of the 21st century.

What is your favorite Molly Shannon sketch? Where does she rank on your list of all-time Saturday Night Live greats? Share your thoughts in the comment section.

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