As a kid, Cecily Strong spent Saturday nights parked in front of the TV with her dad. "If we weren't watching SNL or I Love Lucy, we were renting Marx Brothers and Monty Python movies," says the Chicago-area native. In grade school Strong put on plays for friends and experimented with accents, which she practiced on her family's voice mail greeting. "Looking back," she says, "I was a pretty obnoxious ham."

Big Break

After receiving her BFA, Strong, now 29, flubbed a few auditions—including one for an In Living Color remake in 2011 ("I bombed so hard!"). While honing her comedy chops, she worked in the box office at iO, a famed Chicago improv theater. When SNL creator Lorne Michaels held auditions there, Strong tried out. "My family came and sat in the front row," she says. "Afterward they looked like they'd seen a murder. I was positive I'd done terribly." But soon Michaels called her back and, following screen tests in New York, offered her a spot. "I was so happy, I left the studio and wandered around Manhattan by myself...sobbing."

Settling In

Strong, in her second season on SNL, already has a roster of excruciatingly hilarious characters: an enraged fast-food employee, a bird-brained former porn star, and the girl you really wish you hadn't started a conversation with at a party ("There are high school students who can't even point out India on a map of Africa!"). Now she's coanchoring the show's "Weekend Update" segment. "This is the dream job," jokes Strong. "Lots of lattes and makeovers. Not bad at all."

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