SNL's Cecily Strong and Bowen Yang on her possible swan song and how he learned his iceberg sketch was a hit
The folks at Saturday Night Live have a lot to celebrate this year, having earned 21 Emmy nominations. Among the nominees are Cecily Strong and Bowen Yang, who delivered two of season 46's most memorable performances: Strong as Jeanine Pirro and Yang as the iceberg that sank the Titanic.
"That was [my idea]," Strong says during her and Yang's conversation on the latest episode of EW's The Awardist podcast of the season finale "Weekend Update" sketch in which she sang "My Way" and submerged herself in a tub of red wine. "That came down to just, 'Well, we have to always up the ante, and last time I threw up red wine.'" She found a photo of a magician in a water tank, showed that to SNL's effects team, they had a safety run-through earlier in the day, and the rest is history.
But was it her swan song? While Strong says she hasn't "fully decided yet" whether she'll be back for what would be her 10th season, many think (read: worry) that finale could have been her last given her tears at the top of that same episode when she and fellow SNL vets Aidy Bryant, Kate McKinnon, and Kenan Thompson — all of whom are also Emmy-nominated this year — kicked off the show looking back on the season.
"I actually wasn't treating it like my finale," Strong says of the May season 46 ender. "The tears were, for me, because we had a full audience for the first time, and they were so incredible, and we were all so moved to actually see that and experience it again, and they stood for the entire cold open. I tear up talking about it now. They knew how much it meant to us to see them, and so I think they were like, 'Well, we're going to be the best audience you've ever had in your life.'"
Adds Yang quickly, "And they were."
Yang, who spoke with EW for his Pride issue cover story the day before his famous Titanic iceberg sketch in April, says he found out around midnight Friday that it was probably going to be in the show. The various departments, including wardrobe and props, jumped into action Saturday to create the look. By Sunday morning, it had already gone viral — though he didn't understand the, um, impact until the next day.
"I didn't realize what had happened with it until I had a few people [text me on Monday to] say, 'My law professor talked about your iceberg thing at a lecture today,' ... My friends who are in law school, different law schools, different professors saying, 'You guys gotta watch this iceberg thing,'" Yang recalls. "I crossed over in the law professor market, and that's when I knew [it had become a huge thing]."
During a wide-ranging interview, Strong and Yang also talk about the show's most recent season and the impression it made during a year shaken by a pandemic, a stressful election season, and the insurrection at the Capitol. They also touch on Yang's history-making moment of becoming SNL's first featured player to receive an Emmy nomination and his "Weekend Update" sketch about ending anti-Asian hate, what it's like behind the scenes before they hit the stage, and their personal highlights from season 46.
Check out more from EW's The Awardist, featuring Emmys analysis, exclusive interviews, and our podcast diving into all the highlights from the year's TV shows and performances.