This year’s Christmas episode of “Saturday Night Live” doubled as an emotional farewell to cast member Cecily Strong, who revealed she will not return when the show comes back in January.
Hosted by Austin Butler with musical guest Lizzo, Saturday’s show included multiple moments dedicated to Strong, who said her goodbyes in the middle of her 11th season. Strong announced her imminent exit during a “Weekend Update” segment, in character as the chaotic Cathy Anne.
“Actually, I’m a little emo tonight because truth is, I’m here to say goodbye,” Strong’s Cathy Anne told “Weekend Update” co-host Michael Che.
Asked where she’s going, Strong joked, “Turns out, prison! All the drugs I confessed to you here for the past seven years finally caught up to me.”
As the segment progressed, Strong started to break character and fight back tears while reminiscing about her time on the sketch comedy series.
“Listen, everybody has to go to jail at some point, right? It’s just my time now,” she continued. “But I had a lot of fun here. And I feel really lucky that I got to have so many of the best moments of my life in this place with these people.
… Another great drug addict once said, ‘There’s no place like home.’ And there’s no home like the place where I’ve gotten to yell outside Michael Che’s window. Don’t be sad because, remember, ‘I did it high, Che!’”
Later in the show, longtime cast member Kenan Thompson played a RadioShack store manager giving a heartfelt sendoff to an employee named Cecily.
“As some of you know, this is Cecily’s last day working at RadioShack after eight incredible years,” Thompson said at the top of the sketch, which clearly wasn’t about RadioShack.
“I’ve been here 11,” Strong said — to which Thompson jokingly replied, “I know. And eight of them were incredible.”
In a more sincere tone, Thompson continued, “Honestly, I don’t think that RadioShack could have survived this long without Cecily. Every time she came to work, she had a new character or a new accent or a new impression that would just blow you away. She’d have a power and a joy to her performance that made you remember why you loved working at RadioShack in the first place. I know I’m not supposed to say this as your boss, but I love you Cecily.”
“I love you too, Mr. Frank Lasagna,” a tearful Strong quipped.
After delivering his personal tribute, Thompson revealed that RadioShack had booked a “special guest” for its Christmas party. Enter “Elvis” star Butler as “casual Elvis,” who led a cast singalong of “Blue Christmas” dedicated to Strong on the Studio 8H stage.
During her “SNL” tenure, Strong portrayed several fan-favorite “Weekend Update” characters — from Cathy Anne to Girl You Wish You Hadn’t Started a Conversation With at a Party — and performed memorable impressions of Judge Jeanine Pirro, Sen. Dianne Feinstein, former First Lady Melania Trump and other prominent figures.
The comedian from Oak Park, Ill. — who received back-to-back Emmy nominations for her work on “SNL” in 2020 and 2021 — also co-hosted “Weekend Update” opposite Seth Meyers and Colin Jost.
Strong was also known for her ability to deftly tackle heavy topics through humor on national TV. Last year, for example, the comedy star made a powerful statement about abortion rights in character as Goober the Clown on “Weekend Update.” The standout segment has amassed 1.6 million views on YouTube.
“Here’s my truth,” Strong said during the segment.
“I wouldn’t be a clown on TV here today if it weren’t for the abortion I had the day before my 23rd birthday. Clowns have been helping each other end their pregnancies since the caves. It’s gonna happen. So it ought to be safe, legal and accessible. We will not go back to the alley. I mean, the last thing anyone wants is a bunch of dead clowns in a dark alley.”
Strong is the latest cast member to leave “SNL” following the major departures of Pete Davidson, Kate McKinnon, Chris Redd, Aidy Bryant, Melissa Villaseñor and more.