Cecily Strong leaves SNL after 11 seasons

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

The show announced the comedian’s exit after 11 seasons just hours before she was set to take the stage at Studio 8H one last time for the Austin Butler-hosted episode featuring musical guest Lizzo.

“Tonight we send off one of the best to ever do it. We’ll miss you, Cecily!” an Instagram caption read alongside a photo of a cue card reading “We’ll miss you, Cecily,” a shot of her in character as the Girl You Wish You Hadn’t Started a Conversation With at a Party next to anchor Michael Che, and a video of her iconic season 46 performance belting “My Way” as Judge Jeanine Pirro inside a giant box of wine, which felt like something of a swan song itself.

EW has learned Strong always intended to return for only the first half of season 48, after missing the first few episodes of the season while putting on 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 institution at the start of season 38 in 2012, which was also Aidy Bryant’s first episode. She went on to become one of the longest-tenured cast members on the show, tying Kate McKinnon as the longest-serving female cast member at 11 seasons.

After a short stint co-anchoring Weekend Update, first with Seth Meyers and then Colin Jost before Che’s hiring, Strong went on to find her footing as a go-to sketch player, often putting her musical chops on display in recent seasons. She regularly returned to the Update desk with memorable characters like the previously mentioned Girl at the Party and Pirro; as well as Cathy Anne, Che’s very opinionated neighbor; Heather, aka the One-Dimensional Female Character From a Male-Driven Comedy; and her most powerful appearance as Goober the Clown, discussing her real-life experience having an abortion in her early 20s.

Other recurring characters Strong will be remembered for include one of a pair of porn stars-turned-models hawking elegant items (with Vanessa Bayer); Kyra, co-host of The Girlfriends Talk Show (with Bryant); Gemma, an aspiring British singer often on a date; Lonnie, one of two not-so-bright children 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 tales of Miss Rafferty’s (McKinnon) alien abduction.

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

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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 own exit had seemed on the horizon for the past few years after several absences from the show 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 told Entertainment Tonight of her potential to return to the show: “I’ll be thrilled if I go back; I’ll be thrilled if that was my last show.”

Next up for Strong in her now post-Saturday Night Live career is starring on season 2 of AppleTV+’s Schmigadoon!which is 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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