Cecily Strong leaves SNL after 11 seasons

The last Saturday Night Live of 2022 will also be the last episode with Cecily Strong in the cast.

The show announced the comedian’s departure after 11 seasons, just hours before she would take the stage at Studio 8H for the final time for the Austin Butler-hosted episode starring musical guest Lizzo.

“Tonight we’re sending one of the best that’s ever done it. We’ll miss you, Cecily!’ an Instagram caption next to a photo of a cue card that says “We’ll miss you, Cecily,” a photo of her playing the girl you wish you hadn’t struck up a conversation with at a party next to anchor Michael Che, and a video of her iconic Season 46 performance with “My Way” as Judge Jeanine Pirro in a giant box of wine, which itself felt like a swan song of sorts.

EW has learned that Strong always planned to only return for the first half of season 48, after she missed the first few episodes of the season while setting up her one-woman show, a revival of The search for signs of intelligent life in the universein Los Angeles.

Strong first joined the cast of the NBC sketch comedy troupe at the beginning of Season 38 in 2012, which was also Aidy Bryant’s first episode. She became one of the show’s longest-serving cast members, tying Kate McKinnon as the longest-serving female cast member after 11 seasons.

After a brief stint co-anchoring Weekend Update, first with Seth Meyers and then Colin Jost before Che was hired, Strong found her way as a go-to sketch player, often showcasing her musical chops in recent seasons. She regularly returned to the Update desk with memorable characters such as the aforementioned Girl at the Party and Pirro; as well as Cathy Anne, Che’s very opinionated neighbor; Heather, aka the one-dimensional female character of a male-driven comedy; and her most powerful performance as Goober the Clown, in which she discussed her real life experience with an abortion in her early twenties.

Other recurring characters for which Strong will be remembered include one of a few porn stars turned models selling elegant items (with Vanessa Bayer); Kyra, co-host of The Girlfriends Talk Show (with Bryant); Gemma, an aspiring British singer who is often on dates; Lonnie, one of the two not-so-bright kids in the Science Room sketches (with Mikey Day); Gracelynn Chisholm, co-host of the morning show Right Side of the Bed with husband Cory (Taran Killam); and a supporting player in the Close Encounters sketches featuring stories of Miss Rafferty’s (McKinnon) alien abduction.

Her dozens of political and celebrity impressions over the years include Melania Trump, Dianne Feinstein, Majorie Taylor Greene, Tulsi Gabbard, Alanis Morissette, Sofia Vergara, and Lin-Manuel Miranda.

SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE --

SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE — “Elizabeth Banks” Episode 1688 — Pictured: Cecily Strong at the cold open on November 14, 2015 — (Photo by: Dana Edelson/NBCU Photo Bank/NBCUniversal via Getty Images via Getty Images)

Dana Edelson/NBCU Photo Bank/NBCUniversal via Getty Cecily Strong on ‘Saturday Night Live’

Her departure comes after fellow longtime cast members Kate McKinnon, Aidy Bryant, Kyle Mooney and Pete Davidson left the show at the end of last season. Strong’s departure himself seemed to be on the horizon in recent years after being absent from the show several times while working on other projects or dealing with the grief of losing a close family member to cancer during quarantine. Shortly after the season 46 finale in 2021, she shared Entertainment tonight on her potential to return to the show, “I’ll be very happy if I go back; I’ll be very happy if that was my last show.”

Next up for Strong in her now post-Saturday Night Live career stars in Season 2 of AppleTV+ Schmigadoon!executive produced by SNL creator Lorne Michaels.

Saturday Night Live airs live at 11:30 PM ET / 8:30 PM PT on NBC and Peacock.

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