When Melissa McCarthy followed her sitcom success Mike and Molly with a role of stage thief in Bridesmaids, there were headlines about the comedy star “having a moment”.
That moment has now lasted for over a decade.
A decade that saw her become one of the highest paid stars on the planet, an influential producer and, according to The New York Times – one of the “greatest players of the 21st century”. (I mean, can you name someone else who earned an Oscar nomination for a role that involves having severe diarrhea in a bathroom sink?)
But still, McCarthy can’t help but feel like she got away with it.
It all started with boredom.
Melissa McCarthy grew up on a corn and soybean farm in the US state of Illinois. Her father worked for a railway company, her mother as a secretary.
Isolated education fueled McCarthy’s imagination.
“I didn’t have any neighbors, I didn’t have kids to play with. So I would run around the barn pretending I was a detective or something,” she said. The Howard Stern Show.
McCarthy attended a Catholic school where she was on the student council, played tennis, and had lots of friends. But she also flirted with a gothic phase – think dyed black hair, Kabuki makeup, and capes paired with her checkered uniform. McCarthy insisted it wasn’t a symptom of teenage anxiety or small town rebellion. Again, she was just bored.
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But despite all the disguises and fantasies of his youth, McCarthy didn’t head straight to Hollywood after graduating from college. She dreamed of being in fashion.
She began studying textiles at the University of Illinois, but dropped out. Then, at the age of 20, with no money, she followed her friend, shoe designer Brian Atwood, to New York.
It was there, on her second night on the town, that Atwood suggested she try stand-up comedy.
McCarthy began feasting audiences with “long stories of self-involvement” at open mic parties, before taking acting classes and eventually joining Groundlings – the school of improv and comedy drama that has alumni including Jennifer Coolidge, Kristen Wiig, Will Ferrell and Lisa Kudrow.