×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

‘SNL’s’ Cecily Strong Promises Hard Laughs at White House Correspondents Dinner

Cecily Strong of “Saturday Night Live” will be this year’s featured entertainment at the April 25 White House Correspondents Assn. dinner, but the gig may be one of the tougher comic assignments.

“For the past couple of months I was truly terrified, and then it’s like, ‘Well, now it’s public so I can’t back out,'” she told Variety. “But now that it’s closer I think I’m having less time to be scared because more and more time I have to be working on it.”

The room of roughly 2,600 people is full of journalists, media executives, celebrities and powerful D.C. figures — the majority of whom don’t shrink from expressing their opinions — and it is broadcast live on C-SPAN and cable news channels. The cavernous ballroom of the Washington Hilton has pretty poor acoustics. And as is tradition, she will be following the president, not coming on before him.

“He’s known as an amazingly funny guy,” she said. “He’s maybe our funniest president. You know, his timing is great. He had that moment at the State of the Union where he said [in a comeback to GOP detractors], ‘Well I should know because I won two of them.’ I’ve never said anything that cool on the spot. That’s one of the things you think of after like, ‘Oh, I should have said that.’ And so, it’s tough to follow that guy.'”

One of Obama’s writers, she said, has reached out to her and she met him. “Hopefully — they’ll send me their jokes, we’ll make sure we’re not wearing the same thing” — and they don’t repeat the same material. To prepare, she has been watching clips of past gigs, plans to consult with Seth Meyers (who was the featured entertainer in 2011) and has been working with his writer.

She said that it “felt like the right year” to do the dinner as President Obama also has Chicago-area roots. “It was really sort of like, ‘Well, it’s now or never,'” she says of taking the gig.

Strong, 31, grew up in Oak Park, Ill. Her father is a former journalist who is now in public relations, and her brother actually ran the confetti cannon at Barack Obama’s 2004 victory celebration when he won his Senate seat. Her family will be there, and get a chance to meet Obama. “I think that’ll be a fun little moment,” she said. She also plans to visit the White House the day before the dinner and, with her father and stepmother, visit Arlington Cemetery, where her grandparents are buried.

She has not been to the dinner before, but counts that year that Stephen Colbert entertained, 2006, as “the coolest thing I have ever seen done.” Colbert, in character, skewered President George W. Bush, who was sitting right next to him. “I loved that, and thought it was so powerful and just incredible,” she said. It also created some controversy — and then next year the WHCA selected a much less biting figure, Rich Little.

She also was a big fan of Meyers’ gig. “Seth can get away with being a little more biting because he’s such a friendly, fun guy,” Strong said.

Strong also will be one of only a handful of women who have performed comedy at the dinner — Paula Poundstone and Wanda Sykes among them — and she also is younger than most entertainers who’ve done the event.

“A lot of these people were so great, but I don’t think I will be like a lot of them,” she said. “It helps and hopefully doesn’t hurt too much that I’ll already be so different just being a 31-year-old woman up there.”

She also noted that both she and Meyers come from sketch and improv comedy backgrounds, not standup.

“I know I definitely want some great, hard jokes,” she said. “There are definitely certain issues I’d love to hit and spend a little more time on. I think I’m kind of a silly person, so I hope it’s a little more silly than truly biting, if that makes sense. Really, I just hope that some of it is funny to some people — that would be the goal. I want to break even. That is what I keep saying because all I keep hearing is how tough a room it is, so it would really feel like a win if I break even.”

She adds, “I don’t want to jinx anything. I’m a knocker-on-wood kind of person, so let’s just hope I don’t fall. I don’t want any of that to be the news.”

More Biz

  • Former movie producer Harvey Weinstein (L)

    Some Weinstein Accusers Balk at $30 Million Settlement

    Updated: Some of Harvey Weinstein’s accusers are not satisfied with a proposed $30 million settlement of their harassment claims, and may not agree to the deal, Variety has learned. Attorneys in the Weinstein Co. bankruptcy case told Judge Mary Walrath on Thursday that they are close to a global resolution of the civil litigation. The [...]

  • Director Dean DeBlois and online game

    'Dragon' Director Dean DeBlois and PUBG's CH Kim to Keynote 2019 VIEW Conference

    Dean DeBlois, director and executive producer of DreamWorks Animation’s “How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World,” and PUBG Corporation CEO CH Kim are the first keynote speakers announced for the 2019 VIEW Conference in Turin, Italy, in October. Since it began 12 years ago, VIEW, which stands for Virtual Interactive Emerging World, has continually [...]

  • Harvey Weinstein

    Harvey Weinstein Accusers Near Settlement in Bankruptcy Case

    Attorneys in the Weinstein Co. bankruptcy case say they are getting close to reaching a settlement that would compensate Harvey Weinstein’s sexual misconduct accusers. The company went bankrupt last year, as it faced hundreds of millions of dollars in debt and numerous civil suits on behalf of Weinstein’s alleged victims. The company sold to Lantern [...]

  • Ari Emanuel Endeavor

    Endeavor IPO Filing Offers Details of Company's Financials, Leadership Pay Packages

    Endeavor’s IPO filing Thursday offers a hard look at the company’s financial performance during the past three years during a period of rapid growth for the company that’s home to UFC, WME, Professional Bull Riders and a clutch of other assets. Endeavor is generating solid free cash flow from operations and healthy adjusted earnings for [...]

  • Pamela Anderson

    Pamela Anderson Fears Julian Assange 'Won't Survive' Extradition to U.S.

    After previously speaking out in support of her friend and WikiLeaks founder, Julian Assange, Pamela Anderson doesn’t think he would survive an extradition from the U.K. to the U.S. “I hope he gets out of there, but I don’t think he’ll survive extradition. It can’t happen. It’s not even an option. We can’t have him [...]

  • Jane Austin SAG AFTRA

    SAG-AFTRA Secretary-Treasurer Jane Austin Running for President

    Jane Austin, the National Secretary-Treasurer of SAG-AFTRA, has become the third candidate for the presidency of the performers union, joining incumbent Gabrielle Carteris and Matthew Modine. Austin is running as an independent for the top post at SAG-AFTRA, which has 160,000 members. Carteris will seek re-election as the head of the ticket for the Unite [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content