“Saturday Night Live” scene-stealer Cecily Strong had viewers reaching for the tissues during the Season 48 Christmas episode, as she bid adieu to Studio 8H after 11 long years (watch above). She’s already been nominated twice at the Emmy Awards in Best Comedy Supporting Actress (2020 and ’21) for her work on NBC’s late night sketch comedy series, so a third and final bid in the supporting category would be the cherry on top of her celebrated tenure. Of course, if “SNL” is feeling strategic, it could choose to submit her as a guest star instead.
There is a quirky Emmy rule that declares, “Only performers appearing in less than 50% of the eligible episodes can submit in the Guest Performer categories.” Strong missed the first three outings of “Saturday Night Live” due to a stage play in Los Angeles, and the December 17 broadcast was her last ever, so she only appeared in six total episodes this year. In other words, when “SNL” ends its 48th season in May, Strong will qualify as a guest star as she appeared in WAY “less than 50%.”
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What would be the benefit of submitting Strong as a guest star instead of as a supporting actress? For one: competition. The featured races are some of the most cutthroat to get into each and every year, as there are routinely more than 240 people submitted. That’s why the TV academy recently decided to bump up the number of supporting nominees from six to eight for dramas and comedies.
Currently, Gold Derby’s odds have Strong in ninth place to reap one last supporting bid, behind last year’s winner Sheryl Lee Ralph (“Abbott Elementary”), 2021 champ Hannah Waddingham (“Ted Lasso”), plus Janelle James (“Abbott Elementary”), Ayo Edebiri (“The Bear”), Juno Temple (“Ted Lasso”), Alex Borstein (“The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel”), Sarah Goldberg (“Barry”) and Lisa Ann Walter (“Abbott Elementary”).
The fact that Strong missed the Emmy line-up in 2022 is a telling sign that competition is stiffer than ever in this era of Peak TV. Kate McKinnon was the only “Saturday Night Live” supporting lady to qualify last year (for her final season), compared to the prior year when McKinnon, Strong and Aidy Bryant were all nominated in the category. With McKinnon no longer eligible, might that slot return to an “SNL” actress like Strong or one of her co-stars (Ego Nwodim, Chloe Fineman, Heidi Gardner, Punkie Johnson, Sarah Sherman, Molly Kearney)?
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Another reason Strong might have a good chance as a guest star is because of the TV academy’s over-indulgence on rewarding “Saturday Night Live” in those categories. Indeed, since the sketch show first became eligible for these races 14 years ago, it has won Best Comedy Guest Actress five times: Tina Fey (2009), Betty White (2010), Fey & Amy Poehler (2016) and Maya Rudolph twice (2020 and ’21). And it claimed Best Comedy Guest Actor a whopping seven times: Justin Timberlake twice (2009 and ’11), Jimmy Fallon twice (2012 and ’14), Dave Chappelle twice (2017 and ’21) and Eddie Murphy (2020).
A potential Strong guest win would be reminiscent of Fey’s victory in 2009 or Rudolph’s two triumphs in that she wouldn’t be recognized for a single episode in which she served as host, but instead for bringing the laughs over multiple outings. Strong’s reliance on playing a breakout political figure (gubernatorial candidate Kari Lake) is another feather in her cap, since that’s what helped Fey and Rudolph cross their finish lines (they portrayed Sarah Palin and Kamala Harris, respectively).
Whatever NBC decides to do with Strong’s Emmy campaign, we have our fingers crossed that TV academy voters will reward her with a farewell nomination. And hey, she could actually earn two bids this year because she’s also competing in Best Comedy Actress for Season 2 of Apple TV Plus’ musical-comedy “Schmigadoon!” — watch the trailer.
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