From Heartbreak to Hilarity: The Molly Shannon Story on Forgiving Her Father After Learning He Was Gay

Written by | The Lens

Being gay is synonymous with being happy, right?


Oh, and comedians’ lives are all sunshine and cotton candy, correct?

Nope, wrong again.

Superstar Molly Shannon dispels myths and reveals a fascinating past in her new memoir entitled Hello, Molly!

After tragically losing her mother and sister in a car crash at age 4, Molly was raised by her father, James Shannon, a bruised soul who wrestled with substance abuse throughout his life. The Saturday Night Live alum describes her childhood in deliriously warped anecdotes.

For example, her dad once encouraged Molly to stow away on a plane from Ohio to New York City. She was only 12 years old… and she succeeded.

Fast forward to adulthood, when Ms. Shannon returned triumphantly to the Big Apple. James wanted to celebrate her final appearance on SNL, but the comedic milestone was suddenly fraught with drama.

As Molly recounts to NPR, “He had cancer but wasn’t telling anyone. And so he had been sober for a while. He was a recovering alcoholic, but he slipped that time coming into New York. And he flew into New York and stopped at the bar at the Grand Central and got drunk, and then he showed up to my apartment. And I was so disappointed in him because I was – this is my last week of the show. And I was like, ‘You’re drunk.’ And then I kicked my dad out of my apartment and made him stay in a hotel.”

But tough love soon yielded to the ultimate father-daughter bonding session. Molly asked her dad point blank if he was gay and James replied, “Most definitely.”

“My dad and I ended up making up the next day. Because I had this new information, all the pieces of the puzzle from my childhood of, like, the anger and, you know, some of the acting out came together. And I felt compassion. I was like, ‘Oh, my God, he’s gay. Oh, my God. Oh, my God.’ It felt like a flooding in of understanding, compassion. This new information blew my mind. I couldn’t believe it.”

Unfortunately, the reconciliation was short-lived.

“I was happy for him. And it was such an honor that he came out to me. And I think it was a relief for him to be able to tell me. And he died six – like, six months later.”

Closure is a tricky phenomenon, especially in the sketch/variety world. Some skits feel like they drag on forever while others barely register before dissolving to a commercial break. But the queen of comedy managed to write the perfect ending for herself and James Shannon just in time.

Bravo, Molly. We somehow love you even more now.


Molly Shannon

Last modified: April 20, 2022