Molly Shannon opened The Hollywood Reporter’s annual Women in Entertainment gala, presented by Lifetime, on Wednesday by celebrating the women who have created “a sea change” in the entertainment industry.
After welcoming the audience at the Fairmont Century Plaza in Los Angeles, Shannon took time to address the event’s honorees, including Sherry Lansing Leadership Award recipient Jennifer Aniston. She said Aniston “changed” her life when she was working as a hostess at the Los Angeles restaurant Cravings.
The White Lotus actress recalled The Morning Show star visiting the restaurant during her shift, where Aniston took her managers and agents out to lunch. Aniston made sure the meeting was “just right,” was nice to her guests and paid for the entire meal, Shannon recalled.
Witnessing Aniston’s lunch meeting taught her how to be “a strong woman in this business,” Shannon said before joking that she stole the sweater Aniston “lost” at the restaurant.
The Saturday Night Live alum joked that keynote speaker Nikole Hannah-Jones’ work inspired her to write her “own series of essays for The [New York] Times on the history of sexism.” She added that the collection will detail “when the first caveman decided to ‘mansplain’ how fire works to the woman who actually built the fire.”
Shannon’s speech continued with her praising the women in the room for recently creating a “sea change” in the industry. However, she noted that men also have a “point of view that deserves to be heard.”
“Men have their own stories to tell. Men also deserve a seat at the table, too. So I’m calling on every female director and casting person out there to open your minds. Give men a chance! Men can play the same roles that women can,” she joked. Shannon said men “can wear a bikini and wash a car” and “can hold up a card with a number on it between rounds at a boxing match.”
After sharing she was “moved by” Jennifer Siebel Newsom’s documentary Miss Representation, Shannon revealed how she has “tried to give voice to uniquely female characters.” She explained, “On Saturday Night Live I created Mary Katharine Gallagher. And I’m proud to say that it was a female-studio executive, Sherry Lansing, that gave us the greenlight to give Mary her own movie.”
Shannon continued, “People often comment on how strong the women of SNL are, and one of the reasons is that we often create our own content and characters,” she continued. “We are given the room to express our perspective.”
She also praised the work of other female creators, specifically Issa Rae, Michaela Coel, Emerald Fennell and Mindy Kaling.
“I want to widen this address not only to celebrate the incredible achievements of women in this room but to include women outside of it, who struggle to work independently, pushing the envelope and creating new forms,” Shannon said. “We need you. We want to support you all: sensational, fantastic, resplendent women with one-of-a-kind stories!”
Shannon concluded, “As Emily Dickinson said, ‘I dwell in possibility.’ The women in this room, and beyond, can make that possibility a reality.”
Women in Entertainment is sponsored by Cadillac, FIJI Water, Amazon Ads, SAG-AFTRA and eOne, in partnership with Chapman University and Loyola Marymount University. This event was held in compliance with local health and safety guidelines.