Character Studies

Cecily Strong (left, with Seth Meyers) made a splash early on in her “SNL” tenure as The Girl You Wish You Hadn’t Started a Conversation With at a Party.

Cecily Strong (left, with Seth Meyers) made a splash early on in her “SNL” tenure as The Girl You Wish You Hadn’t Started a Conversation With at a Party.

The last thing a young “Saturday Night Live” cast member would want to do during summer vacation is homework, right? “You would think,” says Cecily Strong, who joined the venerable NBC sketch series last season. Yet there she was last week, studying a Phil Hartman “best of” special before bedtime. “I promise I don’t do it every night,” she says.

Even if she did, it wouldn’t be out of character: The Chicago-bred sketch comedian grew up on “SNL.” “I’ve been preparing for 29 years,” she says. “I was one of those geeky little kids.” (When Strong was 5, she’d talk the baby sitter into letting her stay up to watch.)

Her dedication paid off. With characters like The Girl You Wish You Hadn’t Started a Conversation With at a Party (a know-it-all who knows very little) and an ex-porn star who sells Hermes handbags, Strong was the breakout face of Season 38. This weekend in Arlington, she and a few pals will stage the first-ever Cecily Strong and Friends improv shows.

How will these shows take shape?
There’s going to be some solo character work, some I did for my “SNL” audition. Expect informal, which is just more my speed, and it will depend on the audience that night. We may do something I tried for the show and it didn’t work, but I love.

One of the shows is an afternoon matinee. Is that a scheduling quirk?
It was. I promise I did not ask for a 4:30 p.m. show. That’s just a silly time for a show. The audience won’t be — I mean some people may be drinking, god bless them — but we’ll see how that goes.

cecilyDo you write your own “SNL” sketches?
Oh yeah, most of the stuff. A lot of the things I was in, I got to write … with the writers. I like to collaborate. I’m never a person that sits down and writes something by myself, and if I did it’d look like a 12-year-old wrote it.

You are doing that 4:30 show, so …
There you go, me and all my 12-year-old friends.

The Girl You Wish You Hadn’t Started a Conversation With at a Party really resonated with people. Any idea why?
No, I get asked that a lot. When I write my book in 45 years I think I’ll be able to answer it. I definitely think [part of it is] everyone feeling like they have a platform and getting all their own information from someone’s blog online.

When someone’s an expert, people say that they have an encyclopedic knowledge of a subject. Today, it seems like people have a Wikipedic knowledge of things.

Yes, that’s perfect, that absolutely works. I love it. I love looking at my own Wikipedia, too. I just laugh at it. “Oh that’s my birthday? Who knew? Oh, I didn’t know that was my nationality.” People are so sure of themselves and that’s The Girl. People are so sure but they’re wrong.

Arlington Cinema & Drafthouse, 2903 Columbia Pike, Arlington; Fri., 7:15 & 9:45 p.m. and Sat., 4:30 & 7:30 p.m., $20; 703-486-2345.

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