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Cecily Strong leaves "Saturday Night Live" in her 11th season

Cecily Strong gave her final performance on “Saturday Night Live” this weekend — as part of the main cast, at least — following what has become an ongoing trend of departures from the popular sketch comedy show.

Strong, 38, originally joined the “SNL” roster in 2012 and over the next decade became one of its longest-tenured female cast members. For her work, she received two Emmy nominations for outstanding supporting actress in a comedy series in 2020 and 2021, as well as a Critics’ Choice Television Award nomination for best supporting actress.

Strong’s exit from “Saturday Night Live” after 11 seasons came as a surprise to the program’s fans. Just hours before airing its latest episode, which featured “Elvis” star Austin Butler and Lizzo as the musical guest, on Saturday evening, NBC announced the news in an understated message shared on Twitter.

“Tonight we send off one of the best ever to do it,” read a tweet from the show’s official account. “We’ll miss you, Cecily!”

The post included a photo of Strong and her now-former costar, Michael Che, posing for a selfie while seated at the “Weekend Update” desk, and a GIF recapturing one of her memorable moments on stage.

Tonight we send off one of the best to ever do it. We’ll miss you, Cecily!

— Saturday Night Live – SNL (@nbcsnl) December 18, 2022

Although Strong has not publicly acknowledged her “SNL” departure on social media, she did perform a handful of sketches during Saturday’s taping that alluded to her real-life bid goodbye. She appeared on “Weekend Update” as a recurring character, Cathy Anne, who shared a few meaningful parting words before going to “prison.”

“Everybody has to go to jail at some point, and it’s just my time now,” Strong said, as Cathy Anne. “But I feel really lucky that I got to spend so many of the best moments of my life with these people that I love so much.”

The heartfelt — and silly — nod to Strong’s exit was reminiscent of how the show handled former mainstay Kate McKinnon’s departure in the spring, when she gave a surprisingly moving closing monologue before boarding an alien space ship. McKinnon’s exit coincided with those of other former “SNL” stars like Aidy Bryant, Kyle Mooney, Pete Davidson, Alex Moffat, Chris Redd and Melissa Villaseñor, all of whom left ahead of the show’s current season.

In her very last appearance of the night, Strong played an employee on her final shift at Radio Shack in a sketch opposite Kenan Thompson. Butler entered the scene performing a rendition of Elvis Presley’s “Blue Christmas,” which became a duet as Strong began to sing. The full “SNL” cast ultimately joined in, surrounding Strong on stage as she gave out hugs throughout the number.

Outside of “Saturday Night Live,” Strong produces and stars in the scripted musical comedy series “Schmigadoon!” alongside fellow comedian Keegan-Michael Key. It has been renewed for a second season on Apple TV+.

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