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How a determined comic from Salford conquered a life-threatening illness to return to the stage

Witness Molly McGuinness's triumphant return to the stage as she brings her inspiring and hilarious comedy to the Creatures Comedy Festival in Greater Manchester.
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Molly McGuiness

Known for her unabashedly honest and hilarious takes on life, Molly McGuinness’ career has been marked by her ability to draw humour from even the most trying circumstances.

The comic, from Salford, opens up about her journey back to the stage after a severe health scare during the last Christmas season.

Molly McGuinness – stand-up comic

Molly’s love for comedy began early, rooted in her passion for screenwriting and a desire to emulate her biggest inspiration, Caroline Aherne.

Having pursued a degree in creative writing followed by a master’s in screenwriting, McGuiness initially envisioned herself as a screenwriter.

Driven by Aherne’s example, she decided to try her hand at stand-up comedy.

Getting started in stand up

On a whim, encouraged by a friend who ran a local gig, she took to the stage—and despite a rocky start, she found herself falling in love with the art form.

“I worked in Ann Summers, and a guy who worked in a stall across the road told me he did stand-up and ran a gig,” Molly explained.

“I turned up and gave it a go.

“I reckon I was about 26. I was pissed out of my head and didn’t have a set, I just did a story. It wasn’t a great set, but the audience was really nice. And I just kind of fell in love with it from there.”

It was the city, and the people, and performing that drew Molly in to the art of stand up.

She describes the city’s comedy scene as both challenging and rewarding.

“It’s very hit and miss like wherever you are,” she says.

“I prefer gigging in Manchester more than any other place. Don’t get me wrong, I can still have some horrendous gigs anywhere, but it’s the most fun place to gig.

“That’s why I’m still here; I love performing here.”

“It’s different like when you go to pubs in London compared to pubs in Manchester.

“I feel like people in Manchester are a bit more up for it, but Manchester is changing all the time.

“It is becoming more like a mini-London. Generally, people in the north are entertaining and just want to be entertained. Sometimes, in other places, people might be like ‘make me laugh’ with their arms folded.”

After a successful breakthrough on the scene, Molly has hit some hurdles on the way.

Hurdles along the way

During last Christmas, she contracted a rare disease called Lemierre’s syndrome, leading to sepsis and necessitating a medically induced coma for nine days.

Her condition was life-threatening and required intensive care for a month.

Coming out of this ordeal, Molly faced the daunting prospect of potentially never performing again.

“When I woke up in intensive care, I had a tracheostomy, which is when they cut a hole into your throat so you can breathe. I couldn’t speak at all,” she says.

“I wasn’t sure If I’d ever get up on the stage again.

Despite these challenges, McGuiness’s spirit and passion for comedy saw her through.

If you were under any doubts about how popular a comedian she is, a crowdfunding effort, initially aiming for £500, raised a staggering £7,000.

“It was unreal,” she says, tearing up at the memory.

“It was the comedy community that did that—they posted about it, gave to the GoFundMe. It was unbelievable.

“It was unbelievable to receive such support from the comedy community. It meant the world to me.

“The people I’ve met, posting and giving, made it all possible. It was unreal. I get emotional talking about it because the support showed me how much people care, and it uplifted me during a bleak time.

“Before getting ill, I had anxieties about whether people liked me or if I had many people in my life. Seeing that love and support was enormous.”

Her return to the stage has been nothing short of remarkable.

‘Slob’

While her show ‘Slob’ was originally about embracing one’s inner laziness and failures, it has since taken on a new meaning following her illness.

“It’s funny because the show that I’ve been working on, which I’ll be doing at the festival, it’s called ‘Slob.’

“When I got poorly after I’d been thinking about the show, I was actually like, what is more slob than being in a coma, really?” she mused.

“I’ve had to slow my life down even more.

“I’d my comedy is mainly stories about my life. I’m not even sure if I do jokes sometimes. It’s just mad stories that happen, maybe slightly observational. But mostly, it’s laughing at my own life.”

As she continues to recover, Molly finds deeper humour and pathos in her material, drawing from her experiences to connect with her audience on a more profound level.

Best comics in the North West?

When asked who the comedians from Manchester and the North West she enjoys the most, she suggested Dan Tiernan, Karl Porter, Dan Silver and Justina Seselskaitė were a few that sprung to mind.

Molly was quick to shout out what an amazing group of people the comics across Greater Manchester and the Northwest are.

“I’m really glad I gave it a go,” she reflects.

“Being able to talk about medical trauma in a funny way—because that’s the only way you can deal with these things—it’s amazing. It makes you feel out of this world.”

An uncertain return

Molly wasn’t always sure she would return to the stage following surgery.

She elaborated: “It’s amazing. I thought I wouldn’t be able to perform again.

“When I woke up in intensive care after the coma, I had a tracheostomy.

“I couldn’t speak at all, no sound would come out.

“After a few weeks and several tests, I was able to remove it.

“Speaking and performing again seemed so far away while lying in that bed.

“But here we are, and I can’t wait to get back out and perform.”

Tickets to see Molly McGuinness

You can catch Molly McGuinness performing at the Creatures Comedy Festival which takes place at Creatures Comedy Club in the basement of Corner Boy (21 Hilton St) in the Northern Quarter from 19th to 28th July 2024 by clicking here

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