After appearing on the show for 11 seasons, the star appeared in what was announced be her final episode as a cast member on Dec. 17. She announced her departure on the Weekend Update segment while performing as one of her most popular recurring characters, Cathy Anne.
"I'm a little emo tonight because, truth is, I'm here to say goodbye," she said, to which co-anchor Michael Che asked, "Wait, where are you going?"
Strong's character then responded, "Turns out, prison!"
She later joked she had "friends on the inside," and a photo of former SNL cast members Kate McKinnon and Aidy Bryant, who departed the series themselves in May, dressed in orange prison uniforms was screened.
Also on the episode, the cast adapted Strong's SNL exit into another sketch, which saw her playing herself as a departing RadioShack employee and episode host Austin Butler, who played the late Elvis Presley in the biopic Elvis, begin to serenade her as "Casual Elvis" with the King of Rock and Roll's 1957 song "Blue Christmas."
Strong and the rest of the cast joined in, with the musical number ending in many hugs.
Strong, 38, had until Dec. 17 been absent from most of the current 48th season of SNL because she was starring in the Off-Broadway revival of Jane Wagner's one-woman play The Search for Signs of Intelligent Life in the Universe.
Strong, a native of Springfield, Ill., joined SNL in season 38 in 2012 as a featured player before being promoted to cast member the following year. In 2014, Che replaced her as co-anchor of Weekend Update, while she focused on acting in sketches.
In 2020 and 2021, Strong was nominated for Emmys for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series for her work on SNL. During her time on the show, she became known for playing original characters such as Cathy Anne and The Girl You Wish You Hadn't Started a Conversation with at a Party and for her impressions of celebrities such as Jeanine Pirro and Melania Trump.
"Every time she gave to work, she had a new character or new accent or new impression that would blow you away," cast member Kenan Thompson said in the "Blue Christmas" sketch. "She'd have a power and a joy to her performance that made you remember why you loved working at Radio Shack in the first place."
(E! and NBC are part of the NBCUniversal family.)