2022 seems to be the year of scammer stories. We’ve got the girl boss scam in The Dropout, Anna Delvey’s high-society conning in Inventing Anna, and a dating app scheme on The Tinder Swindler. Yet, there’s another story we’d like to pitch to the streamers: Molly Shannon’s early career hustle that landed her a small role on David Lynch’s Twin Peaks.
Before she became a part of Saturday Night Live, Shannon joined forces with her friend Eugene Pack to run the “Mamet Scam,” according to IndieWire. Using the fake name Liz Stockwell, Shannon would pretend to be playwright David Mamet’s “right-hand girl” and call casting agents for available jobs.
“We were trying to figure out how we were going to get in the door as actors,” said Shannon in her upcoming memoir, Hello Molly. “How were we gonna bust in? It was too hard to just slip your picture under an agent’s door. A random headshot? No one was ever gonna call. Then we hit on an idea. Eugene had studied with David Mamet. He was (and is) this giant, hugely successful guy, very respected—a big-time playwright and screenwriter—but Eugene knew that he wasn’t a guy who was in Hollywood much. He just liked staying in Vermont and New York.”
With the idea of the scam forming in their heads, Shannon and Pack made like Danny Ocean and carefully plotted out the details of their plan—including the name.
“We went to the American Film Institute library and looked up managers and agents that we thought would be good for us in this big, thick agency book,” Shannon continued. “We also looked up actors who we thought were like us, found out who managed them, and decided to go after these people and try to get them to sign us by pretending to be representing Mamet. I called it the Mamet Scam.”
After meeting with a plethora of agents, Shannon mentioned to her co-conspirator that she wanted to be on one of her favorite series, Twin Peaks. Enacting the “Mamet Scam” with precision, Pack got her through to the show’s casting director, Johanna Ray.
Nabbing her first tv role, Shannon appeared on the second season of Twin Peaks as the minor role of Judy Swain, a social worker. A few years later, Shannon would become known as one of best players on SNL, known for her chaotic schoolgirl Mary Katherine Gallagher and high-kicking Sally O’Malley.
She and Pack kept up the “Mamet Scam” for a few more months after getting Twin Peaks. But not everyone was easily duped by the scam they were running: 1980s Brat Pack member Molly Ringwald comes up in the book as one of those who saw through Shannon and Pack’s con.
“We ran the Mamet Scam on her and set up a meeting,” Shannon recalled. “When I sat down for my appointment, she glared at me and said, ‘I just wanted to see what a liar looked like in person.’”
Yikes. At least that doesn’t seem to have affected her future roles, as Shannon went on to have a full career in television and film, with her currently playing the hilarious momager on The Other Two and co-starring on the upcoming Showtime comedy I Love That For You. If you want to read more of Shannon’s stories, Hello Molly will be available April 12 from HarperCollins.