Cecily Strong, the former Chicagoan who was in the “Saturday Night Live” cast longer than any other woman, bid the show farewell this weekend with not one but two grand sendoffs.
In the first, Strong reprised the character of Cathy Anne, a rambling street addict in a pink windbreaker. Unlit cigarette in hand, the incorrigible lawbreaker Cathy Anne told Weekend Update anchor Michael Che that this was her final appearance because she had agreed to a lifetime prison sentence.
But she had friends on the inside who were doing OK, she said, flashing a photo of recently departed castmates Aidy Bryant and Kate McKinnon in penitentiary garb.
“I feel real lucky that I got to have so many of the best moments of my life with these people I love so much,” Strong said in Cathy Anne’s husky voice.
She closed with a line from “My Way” rewritten as, “I did it high, Che!”
A later scene began with Radio Shack boss Kenan Thompson paying tribute to a departing employee named Cecily. “She’d have a power and a joy to her performance that made you remember why you enjoy working ... at Radio Shack ... in the first place.”
As the store backdrop slid away, taking the tortured metaphor with it, host Austin Butler (of this year’s “Elvis” biopic) stepped out to duet with Strong on a rewritten “Blue Christmas.” The full cast joined in as snowflakes fell.
(This was in addition to the “My Way” musical number Strong performed in the 2021 season finale as one of her favorite impression subjects, Judge Jeanine Pirro. It played like a farewell for Strong but ultimately wasn’t.)
The valedictory moments weren’t a surprise; two hours before the live show began, “SNL” posted on its Instagram account, “Tonight we send off one of the best to ever do it. We’ll miss you, Cecily!”
Strong stayed with “SNL” just over 10 years, slightly longer than McKinnon’s run that ended in May, and won two Emmy nominations for her work.
In addition to Cathy Anne, Strong’s characters had included the Weekend Update commentator Girl You Wish You Hadn’t Started a Conversation With at a Party, the “Girlfriends Talk Show” co-host Kyra and the “Science Show” participant Lonnie.
She also appeared as famous figures including Pirro, Rep. Liz Cheney and Melania Trump.
Strong’s fans got a scare at the beginning of the season when her name disappeared from the “SNL” opening credits. It turned out she was taking a leave of absence to star in a play in Los Angeles, and she was back for the season’s fourth episode.
Her permanent exit follows the departure of eight cast members — McKinnon, Aidy Bryant, Pete Davidson, Kyle Mooney, Alex Moffat, Chris Redd, Melissa Villaseñor and Aristotle Athari — in spring at the end of Season 47.
Like many “SNL” veterans, Strong has been diversifying her resume with work outside of 30 Rock. In addition to the Los Angeles play — “The Search for Signs of Intelligent Life in the Universe,” a one-woman show she also did in New York — she stars with Keegan-Michael Key in the Apple TV+ series “Schmigadoon,” which aired its first season in 2021 and recently completed shooting Season 2.
Strong grew up in Oak Park and spent several years in Chicago performing in plays as well as sketch and improv shows at Second City and iO.