Mary Katherine Gallagher

Mary Katherine Gallagher is a fictional character invented and portrayed by Saturday Night Live cast member Molly Shannon from 1995 to 2001. She was considered the first breakout character from the new 1995 cast, and a significant marker of the increased influence of women writers on the show in the 1990s.[1][2][3][4] Shannon portrayed the character in a 1999 film, Superstar, and she also reprised the role when she hosted Saturday Night Live in 2007. Shannon first created an early version of the character when she was in school at NYU, during a comedy show directed by Madeleine Olnek.[5]

Mary Katherine Gallagher
First appearanceSaturday Night Live
Created byMolly Shannon
Portrayed byMolly Shannon
In-universe information
OccupationCatholic schoolgirl


Mary Katherine Gallagher is portrayed by Molly Shannon (pictured in 2008).

Mary Katherine is a sardonic caricature of an unpopular, teenage Catholic school girl. She is prone to comically severe mood swings, alternately hyperactive and ponderous. She suffered from stage fright, but was also hyper-competitive (she once engaged in a sing-off with Whitney Houston) and egomaniacal, believing she was a "superstar".

Lacking in proper social skills, her most famous trademark was that, when nervous, she would put her hands under her armpits and then sniff them. She would demonstrate this habit to most new people she meets. She also had a habit of flashing her underwear either accidentally or on purpose.

The sketches would usually begin with a school-related dramatic arts function, such as choir practice or school play rehearsals. Mary Katherine would run on stage and introduce herself, and then attempt to participate, monopolizing the spotlight until she would lose her cool and do something socially inappropriate.

At some point, she would usually announce that her feelings would be best expressed by reciting a monologue, sometimes from a film such as West Side Story but more often than not from an obscure TV movie such as The Betty Broderick Story starring Meredith Baxter-Birney. While reciting the monologue, she would usually become overly dramatic and intensely emotional, to the extent to where others around would have to intervene and stop her.

Ultimately, the sketch would usually end with her losing control of herself, such as falling over, crashing into a wall or destroying something. She would then jump up, compose herself, and extend her hands in the air, proclaiming "Superstar!".

Bob Mackey of Cracked described her character as "a clumsy Catholic school nerd" whose "sketches were mostly her smelling her fingers and crashing into pieces of furniture".[6]


In 1999, a feature-length film, entitled Superstar, was released, starring Shannon as Gallagher.[7] Several of her SNL cast mates, including Will Ferrell and Mark McKinney, also appeared in the film.[7]

In the film, Mary Katherine lives with her disabled grandmother (often referred to in the SNL skits but never shown), who believed Mary Katherine bore a very striking resemblance to a young Elizabeth Taylor. Wanting to attract the attentions of Sky, the most attractive boy in school (played by Will Ferrell), Mary Katherine decides to enter the school talent competition, so that she can make him notice her. Her grandmother, however, prevents her from pursuing her dreams and forbids her to compete (the reason is later revealed to be that Mary Katherine's parents were stomped to death while taking part in a dance competition).

Episodes featuring Mary Katherine GallagherEdit

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Joe Dziemianowicz, "Uniformity", Entertainment Weekly, May 2, 1997.
  2. ^ Tom Gliatto, "Geek Goddess", People, June 16, 1997.
  3. ^ Gail Shister, "Women take over 'Saturday Night', Knight-Ridder-Tribune News Service in Wilmington Morning Star, August 9, 1997.
  4. ^ Yael Koen, We Killed: The Rise of Women in American Comedy (Macmillan Publishing, 2012), ISBN 978-0374287238, pp. 243ff. Excerpts available at Google Books.
  5. ^ 2018 Outfest Film Festival Q&A's - Wild Nights With Emily (video). Outfest. 26 March 2018. Event occurs at 1:12. Retrieved 31 January 2019.
  6. ^
  7. ^ a b Gates, Anita (October 8, 1999). "Superstar (1999) FILM REVIEW; The Things She'll Do For Fame and a Date". The New York Times.