Cecily Strong Pulled From ‘SNL’ Cold Open Following Dress Rehearsal

She played conservative Rep. Elise Stefanik in the earlier unaired run-through of the college presidents antisemitism sketch, according to fans in attendance

A closeup of a woman with light-medium-toned skin.
Cecily Strong (Photo by Rich Fury/Getty Images)

Former “Saturday Night Live” cast member Cecily Strong made a surprise appearance at “SNL” dress rehearsal in her first return to the show since leaving at the end of 2022 — but was replaced in the actual show.

Strong played the Rep. Elise Stefanik role in the sketch, according to multiple attendees to the “SNL” dress rehearsal. But by the time the show went to air, Strong had been replaced by new featured cast member Chloe Troast in the role. The news was also shared by Saturday Night Network.

With fellow “SNL” alum Kate McKinnon set to return to host next week, speculation quickly turned to Strong potentially holding off her return to appear on next week’s episode. But why Strong was swapped out of the cold open wasn’t immediately clear. It’s also not known how much prep Troast had before being thrust into the role and finding her own take on the political character.

The troubled sketch seemed to receive both lukewarm laughs and a largely negative response from viewers sharing their thoughts online, in addition to the names of two of the college presidents being mixed up during the sketch with the UPenn and MIT presidents’ nameplates switched (this appears to have been corrected in the version available online). Conservatives in particular seemed to take issue with the segment — replies to the sketch shared on both X and YouTube had multiple comments criticizing its approach as antisemitic. As one commenter wrote, “This sketch was very similar to the university president themselves: afraid of offending someone, thus pissing off everyone.”

The sketch also came shortly after news that University of Pennsylvania president Liz Magill was resigning from her role following the widespread public blowback, including from school alumni, to her appearance before Congress earlier in the week. The quick-moving nature of the news could be another reason it was decided to switch out Strong from the sketch, either for sensitivity reasons or a lack of preparation time following the news.

Observers of the testimony by the actual college presidents earlier in the week have noted that, while the academic representatives appeared prepared to defend their positions from a legal standpoint, their testimony ended up coming across as tone-deaf to concerns over antisemitism from a broader public perspective.

Representatives for “SNL” did not immediately reply to request for comment.

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