SNL’s Cecily Strong Brings ‘Smart Life’ to New York Warehouse

Cecily Strong is perhaps best known for her on-site impersonations Jeanine Pirro and Kimberly Guilfoyle—Of the original speech at the 2016 Republican National Convention — on Saturday night live. She has also received critical acclaim for playing the role of Melissa Gimble on Apple Drama + musical comedy parody of homage Schmigadoon!. Now she is making her New York stage debut at The Shed starring Looking for signs of intelligent life in the universe Seems to be one of the really fun events of the theater season.

These aren’t just characters — there are 11 of them — who played and bonded closely with Tomlin, they’re characters that were written because the hers, that of Jane Wagner, Tomlin and his wife’s longtime partner.

Oddly enough, there was no major campaign by Strong to get this job. Like many matches in show business, the casting of Strong is 90% talent and 90% luck.

Right kind of seeds

She told Newsweek, “I’m so lucky to have gotten there. But I also feel it’s a bit unsophisticated. It feels like the most fun thing I could have done in my entire life, but I just received one. emailed over the summer from my agent who helped try to set this up… and they just guessed, at least based on my Jeanine Pirro, I thought: Okay, she can do it. this. She is the right kind of fruit.”

Strong has an extensive knowledge of acting and sketch comedy, which is obviously helpful, but for her, even she feels this is still a challenge. “It was the biggest commitment I’ve ever had in my life. I feel like I’ve really worked my mind harder than ever before. I decided it was. that would also be a good idea. It is a real challenge, but also an honor; and it’s an honor to come Yes challenges.”

Look for signs of smart living is a 90-minute series of character sketches about art, humanities, and feminism. It ran on Broadway in the 1985–1986 seasons and repeated in the 2000–2001 seasons, and a movie version was made in 1991. “I watch it a lot now,” says Strong. Newsweek. “But I’m very jealous. I didn’t get to see the live performance. But I have to do it now.”

Lily Tomlin Strong Smart Life Cecily
Cecily Strong, left, stars created for and Lily Tomlin, left, in the latest film “Looking for Signs of Intelligent Life in the Universe” at The Shed in New York. Above, a composite photo of Tomlin and Strong.
Lily Tomlin photo of Jenny Riser

Much of that is down to her director, Leigh Silverman, for whom Strong is nothing short of outstanding: “Leigh Silverman is so amazing, I can’t say enough. She’s the reason we’re all doing the show. Hey, she’s the reason Jane and Lily are letting us do the show, giving us their blessings and help, it’s all because Leigh explains why this is the show for her and the way she saw it when she was 11 years old. She made sure we had an all-female design team. It was just inspirational.”

Leigh Silverman Directs'Intelligent Life'
Leigh Silverman, director of “Looking for Signs of Intelligent Life in the Universe,” knows how to craft a humorous line.

On top of that, Silverman has a long track record of directing comedies, as evidenced by her work in Bess Wohl’s Grand Horizons on Broadway in 2020. Strong said Newsweek that Silverman knows how and when to make a joke. “She’s the big picture and the little picture very well: ‘This is what we want to do, but let’s speed up the queue because let’s start the joke.”

Some actors don’t want to see another actor’s performance, especially an actor whose role(s) are linked together. Strong, however, had no problem watching Tomlin perform the show on film. “I can’t do something unless it’s me anyway. I can’t really imitate someone else’s performance.”

However, she slightly acknowledges the fan girl’s behavior: “I learned her sign language in Nashville because I think it’s very beautiful. “Strong said she never told Tomlin this. I assure Strong her secret is safe with me.

In addition, Manh said Newsweek that she was amazed by Tomlin’s work in the film Nashville: “Here’s someone who’s known for comedy and doing these amazing, giant great performances and this melodramatic comedy, and that she can do something like [Linnea Reese in Nashville]. Intimate and smaller, but beautiful. She is an incredible performer. “

Update everyday

While the show was written for Tomlin, it was adapted somewhat for Strong. She told Newsweek that “Jane is such a good writer and she’s going to write a whole new show today. She’ll probably throw new lines at us all the time.” She laughed and said, “I remember thinking at one point: Okay, the first preview is going to be in two weeks, so let’s lock it in.

When asked how things have changed, Manh told Newsweek, “It’s been updated, but in many ways it’s the same. I think there’s a lot that people who’ve seen the original will remember. But it still feels like something new was written this year, even yesterday. And it was full of surprises for the audience.”

Strong’s background is largely in sketch comedy, but her roots are theatrical – the way, the back. She told Newsweek, “I think I took my first drama class when I was 3 years old or something, and I did community theater when I was 8 and then I went to theater in Chicago — not Fair and Fairness starting around 11. Then I got my BFA at the theater from [California Institute of the Arts]. It wasn’t until after college graduation that I really started studying improv and sketching. So maybe I did theater — I forgot how old I was [She’s 37, at least according to Wikipedia]—There’s more [than sketch comedy]. “

jane wagner smart life
Jane Wagner, a wealthy writer, has been constantly rewriting and updating “Looking for Signs of Intelligent Life in the Universe.” starring Cecily Strong.

While one might think her sketches and theatrical background would help Strong prepare for this, she said, “This feels different from the theater I’ve been in, especially with the female aspect and the fact that I’m playing a lot of different characters. I’m playing characters that are talking to each other. And there’s the geography of the character: where I’m looking, especially specific point of motion attached to the sound.Like I’ve never done anything like this.

“I like the sketch comedy genre because I like the character work as opposed to the opposite. I come from a theatrical background and love to do comedies. I really enjoy doing all kinds of things. stage, but I’m really good at making people laugh, I think and make myself laugh.”

Strong felt that most of the really rich roles for women were comedies, and especially in Look for signs of smart living: “There’s nothing like this show where I can play male and female roles and range in age from 14 to old.” Strong estimates that she plays 11 characters, but she says it’s really hard to put that number down because “there are other characters that I’m talking to and responding to. So I’m listening to them, but I’m not playing necessarily have. Great feeling [about this play] I’m sharing something that feels a bit magical. “

Her main character is “working with a kind of graph to figure out who we are… like understanding what kind of people we are. It’s about a lot of people who are looking for not only smart living but It’s also about giving meaning in our lives. And then maybe getting to the point where it’s like where, maybe it doesn’t. It’s about things in between. Enjoy what it means to us. Not meaningful and likes mystery. And looking for connections and other things. “

All of that, however, is the small picture for Strong. Being on this show “is just a very special moment. And right now being together in theaters, especially in New York. I have complete confidence in the safety measures being taken at The Shed because I’m a very nervous person, and that’s a greater thing than the honor of being together at this point. I can share this play. We connect — a group of strangers in the dark. “

And of course there’s the matter of staying healthy and she’ll do whatever it takes to do Look for signs of smart living happen.

“I’m trying — to hell or high water — to be safe. I’m a really bad friend and family member — to make that happen, I’m really trying. I just don’t know what’s going to happen I wonder if I’ll ever get a gig I wonder if I’ll get to perform for two So I’m still going day and enjoy it as much as you can.”

Looking for signs of intelligent life in the universe will premiere at The Shed in New York through February 6. For more information and to purchase tickets, visit SNL’s Cecily Strong Brings ‘Smart Life’ to New York Warehouse

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