Cecily Strong, the 31-year-old comedian and third-year Saturday Night Live cast member, is hosting the White House Correspondents’ Dinner this weekend. In doing so, she will become just the fourth female and the first since Wanda Sykes hosted in 2009 to do so.
Strong, an Illinois native and Second City improv comedy team alumni, received the news that she had been selected for the honor from her father, Bill Strong, who was the Associated Press bureau chief at the Illinois Statehouse and often performed in the Gridiron show put on by the state corp whereby he imitated the governor. Strong almost didn’t believe him when he tried to tell her the news, according to Ray Rahman of Entertainment Weekly.
“I didn’t believe it, because it came from my dad. He worked for the Associated Press 30 years ago, and he knows the head of the Correspondents’ Association. She emailed him to get in touch with me. Who would believe that? I did not believe him for a week. I thought he was saying he had been invited. So I said, ‘Uh, great, Dad… have fun?” Like, ‘Yeah, I get it, Dad — you’re cool. You’ve still got it, Bill.'”
Strong, who stepped away from the anchor desk of SNL’s signature news send-up “Weekend Update” to spread out and explore other characters, has proven to be one of SNL’s most versatile performers. Strong joins fellow SNL alums Seth Meyers, Conan O’Brien, Darrell Hammond, and Senator Al Franken, as well as comedy legends such as Bob Hope, Rich Little, and Richard Pryor on a relatively short list of comedians to serve as host of the event.
Rudi Greenberg of the Washington Post called Strong “the most unlikely White House Correspondents’ Dinner host in recent years,” pointing out that Strong is not only not a stand-up comedian but also is not a white male. With Strong’s improv background and dead on impersonations, Strong, while appearing on the surface to be a “safe” choice, will almost assuredly bring something different and funny to the proceedings. Strong told Rahman that while she won’t be as harsh as Stephen Colbert in 2006, she also is taking pains not to be less funny than President Barack Obama.
“It’s hard to follow the funniest president! You don’t want him to be funnier, you know? Which he very well may be. For some jokes, at least. They can’t all be winners.”