Home Television “Saturday Night Live” Sources: Insiders Knew Cecily Strong was Leaving, But Exit...

EXCLUSIVE It was certainly a surprise last night when “Saturday Night Live” posted a goodbye to Cecily Strong just as the dress rehearsal began at 9pm.

Strong had signed up for a new season even though she missed the first couple of episodes. She hadn’t even filmed a spot of the show’s opening credits and people feared she wasn’t coming back. There was never any mention of her returning just for a handful of episodes.

Sources close to the show say her exit was known internally, but no one knows why it wasn’t declared when it was decided. But by the time the cast got together for the table read-through, it was finally announced.

The “SNL” after party was held at Buddakan in Chelsea on Seventh Avenue. Sources say Strong and executive producer Lorne Michaels were among the last to leave the celebration. “The party was still going strong at 4:30,” says a guest. “Cecily and Lorne were in a deep conversation by themselves for at least 45 minutes. It looked like a very warm talk. They were laughing and smiling.”

Strong has no big projects listed on her imdb page except “Shmicago,” the follow up to “Shmigadoon,” which this column announced earlier in the year. If something new has popped up which pushed her to leave “SNL” it’s unknown. It could be exhaustion, or money, or both.

“SNL” has lost a slew of cast members this year. The last holdovers are Kenan Thompson (20 years) and Mikey Day (6 years as a performer). The rest of the cast is newish, although they’re all doing pretty well. Heidi Gardner looks like she’s the biggest beneficiary of Strong’s exit.

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