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Molly Shannon shares how her style of comedy changed since motherhood

The "White Lotus" star joined other funny ladies for a frank roundtable conversation that also involved sharing the growing pains of working In Hollywood.
/ Source: TODAY

Molly Shannon has had some literal ups and downs during her long career as one of Hollywood's funniest. But while she built her brand early on as a "Saturday Night Live" player who'd do anything for a laugh (her Catholic schoolgirl character Mary Katherine Gallagher had more than her share of pratfalls), that changed once she became a mom.

"It was before I had children that I did that crazy, physical comedy where I would throw myself into chairs and do more dangerous stuff, and now that I’m a mother I just don’t want to do that," she says in a new roundtable interview from The Hollywood Reporter. "I feel different in my life (now) and I don’t want to hurt my body like that anymore."

The roundtable featured Shannon, along with fellow Hollywood funny women Selena Gomez, Amy Schumer, Tracee Ellis Ross and Quinta Bruson.

Shannon has been married to Fritz Chestnut since 2004, and they have two children: Stella, 18, and Nolan, 17.

She added that all of this physical comedy would leave her bruised and bleeding. "I kind of liked the way it felt because it felt like I worked really hard and my muscles would ache and I felt like I really threw myself into the performance," she added.

These days, Shannon appears in more subtle comedy roles, generally speaking. She co-starred in HBO's "The White Lotus" and appears in Showtime's "I Love That For You."

Molly Shannon in "The White Lotus."
Molly Shannon in "The White Lotus."Mario Perez / HBO

'Why are you so ugly?'

Schumer noted that she'd grown up watching Shannon along with shows like "Laverne and Shirley" or "Kate and Allie," and admired their female stars. "They weren't women looking for permission," she said.

That reminded Shannon of one of the other kind of down moments she had in the business over the years: A friend had gotten some color headshots, and Shannon — who was waiting tables and not doing well financially at the time — decided to invest in them "so I can stand out," she said.

Shannon on "Watch What Happens Live With Andy Cohen" in April.
Shannon on "Watch What Happens Live With Andy Cohen" in April.Charles Sykes / Bravo / Getty Images

The fee for the shots included hair and makeup, so there was Shannon, "sitting in the chair, feeling like a million bucks and the photographer got behind the lens and was like — and I felt so beautiful, there was a fan on me and I felt like, 'Hollywood, look out!' And he was like, 'Why are you so ugly?'"

"What gives people permission to say these kinds of things?" said Ross, dumbfounded.

Shannon on "Saturday Night Live" as Mary Katherine Gallagher, with Will Ferrell, Elle MacPherson, and Cheri Oteri in 1996.
Shannon on "Saturday Night Live" as Mary Katherine Gallagher, with Will Ferrell, Elle MacPherson, and Cheri Oteri in 1996.Al Levine / NBC / Getty Images

Shannon admitted that she doesn't like to see herself while filming a role. "I want to be natural; I want to age, so I don't want that to affect my performance," she said. "We did a photo shoot (before the roundtable) and I caught a little glance and I thought, 'I look old.' I had a quick thought of like, 'Wow I'm looking older and that's hard.'"

But at 57, Shannon also has the life experience to roll with the punches, even if they're ones she throws at herself. "I'm just like, 'That's OK, honey.' but I've had to work at that; I'm not going to kid you. Somebody once said that people want you to freeze at the age where you first became famous. Aging is an interesting thing as a woman, so I try to be gentle with myself."