“Saturday Night Live” was lucky to have had Cecily Strong for as long as it did. Since joining the show in 2012, she has contributed memorable recurring characters, like The Girl You Wish You Hadn’t Started a Conversation With at a Party, and an array of celebrity and political impersonations, including Marjorie Taylor Greene, Kyrsten Sinema and Jeanine Pirro. She performed at the White House Correspondents’ Association dinner and was a co-anchor of the Weekend Update desk.
There was a moment, at the end of the 2020-21 season, when Strong appeared to be saying goodbye to “S.N.L.” — singing “My Way” as she doused herself in a tank that was supposed to be filled with wine — but she nonetheless returned the following year.
And while she was not part of the exodus of cast members that preceded the start of its current 48th season, she did not appear in the first three live episodes — instead, she was performing a one-woman show, “The Search for Signs of Intelligent Life in the Universe,” in Los Angeles. And now her time on “S.N.L.” has indeed come to an end.
The announcement of Strong’s departure was made online just a couple of hours before the start of this weekend’s broadcast, hosted by Austin Butler and featuring Lizzo as its musical guest.
Strong herself got to bid farewell to “S.N.L.” in a Weekend Update segment in which she played her recurring character Cathy Anne, a disheveled woman who is always yelling outside Michael Che’s window.
In her Cathy Anne guise, Strong said that she was wearing a Santa hat because “it’s covering up a giant open wound — I got a little bit scalped.” (She explained further that this had happened because she “fell asleep on the escalator.”)
Strong went onto say that she was “a little emo tonight, because, truth is, I’m here to say goodbye.” She explained that she was going to prison because all of the crimes she had confessed in her various appearances had finally caught up with her: “You know, drug use, trespassing, destruction of property, crack, impersonating a police horse, meth and crack.”
But, she said, she hoped prison would give her “much needed stability, and I’m not too scared ‘cause I got friends on the inside — they seem to be doing OK.” (Here, the screen showed a graphic of the “S.N.L.” alumnae Kate McKinnon and Aidy Bryant, wearing orange jumpsuits and prison tattoos.)
Strong gradually slipped out of character as she addressed the audience, saying: “Everybody has to go to jail at some point, right? It’s just my time now. 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 that I love so much.”
The tears came later, at the end of the episode, when Butler, who played Elvis Presley in the recent film “Elvis,” joined Strong, Kenan Thompson and several other “S.N.L.” cast members to sing a sentimental cover of “Blue Christmas.”
But at the end of her Weekend Update segment, Strong told everyone not to be sad because, as she sang once again to the tune of “My Way”: “I did it high, Che.”
Cold open of the week
Former President Donald Trump pretty much handed “S.N.L.” a script for its opening sketch when he announced on Thursday that he would begin selling a set of digital trading cards depicting him as various fantastical characters.
James Austin Johnson brought his studied nonchalance to his recurring role as Trump, pitching the $99 offer — “seems like a lot, seems like a scam, and in many ways it is,” he said — while also mocking the larger concept of NFTs: “You can also get them for free by just going online and just looking at them, maybe, I don’t know, maybe taking a screenshot.”
“But we’d really prefer it,” he added, “if you sent the $99.”
Celebrity impersonation of the week
It has been less than a week since HBO aired the season finale of “The White Lotus.” But if you already find yourself missing its star and muse Jennifer Coolidge, then Chloe Fineman has you covered in this holiday-theme segment where she captures Coolidge’s breathless amazement at everyday occurrences.
In “Jennifer Coolidge Is Impressed by Christmas Stuff,” Fineman oohs and ahhs about Christmas lights. (“One year I got the blinking ones,” she explains; “I left my Christmas tree on all night and learned my cat was epileptic.”) And she blithely asks a pianist, played by Michael Longfellow, if he was the composer of the tune he just played — that tune being “Jingle Bells.”
(Fun fact: the real Coolidge auditioned for “S.N.L.” in the 1990s, along with the future cast members Will Ferrell, Chris Kattan and Cheri Oteri, but she didn’t get the gig. She has yet to host the show, wink wink!)
Questionable holiday treat of the week
Perhaps on some Christmas past, you had the misfortune of being served some dry, brittle candy made out of marzipan and formed into some improbable shape like a cash register or a bunch of bananas. (And if not, consider yourself lucky.)
But clearly someone in the “S.N.L.” writing staff had a score to settle with marzipan and channeled it into this exceptionally silly sketch in which Thompson and a group of excitable British children (played by Butler and the cast) fail to make it sound appealing, even when they try to sing marzipan’s praises.
As Thompson explains, “Just remember, don’t eat it within 12 hours of going to sleep, or after 12 hours of waking up.”
Weekend Update jokes of the week
Over at the Weekend Update desk, the anchors Colin Jost and Michael Che continued to riff on Trump’s entry into the NFT market and the arrest of Sam Bankman-Fried, the founder of the collapsed cryptocurrency exchange FTX:
Insiders are saying that the House Jan. 6 committee will refer at least three criminal charges against Donald Trump, but after this week, I think he’s pretty much locked down that insanity plea. [His screen shows a trading-card image depicting Trump as a comic-book hero with lasers coming from his eyes.] Semiretired maniac Donald Trump has launched a collection of digital NFT trading cards depicting him in various costumes, including cowboy, superhero and, most unbelievable of all, guy who didn’t dodge the draft.
As the screen beside him showed an image of Trump wearing a fighter pilot suit, Jost continued:
I’m honestly just relieved that he’s wearing an American military uniform. It’s such a funny move to get into NFTs after the whole market just crashed. It’s like getting into Kanye now. Which Trump also kind of did.
Che picked up the thread:
Sam Bankman-Fried, the former C.E.O. of the cryptocurrency company FTX, was arrested on fraud charges in the Bahamas — I’m going to guess while swimming in a T-shirt. Prosecutors allege that Bankman-Fried took funds from FTX customers to make large political donations. That money will now be used to make sure the cameras outside his jail cell aren’t working.