That childhood cocaine habit doesn’t seem to have slowed down Cecily Strong. In recent weeks the former Oak Parker has told jokes before the president at the White House Correspondents Dinner, landed a role in a Melissa McCarthy movie and now seems to be besties with Reese Witherspoon.
Strong and the “Saturday Night Live” host were paired twice on this week’s show: as the flirtatious hosts of an L.A. talk show (shades of the old Kristen Wiig bit “The Cougar Den”) and in the first two-person version of the Girl You Wish You Hadn’t Talked to at the Party, showing nifty chemistry each time.
The real eye-opener about Strong, though, came in the opening monologue, a Mother’s Day special that featured visits by the cast members’ own moms. They brought along home video footage showing the formative years of the future stars, and Strong’s was a bizarre one: At 13, when she’s confronted by another girl observing that her mom’s in jail and her sister’s in the hospital, her answer is, “Where’s my cocaine?” This kid had either a pitched sense of drama or a teenage bad-girl streak to rival Drew Barrymore’s.
(“SNL” actors often pay Mother’s Day tributes on the air, which must make their dads wish the show would just once air in June.)
Witherspoon had hosted only once before, but it was a doozy: the first “SNL” after 9/11, famously and fearlessly filling in when scheduled host Ben Stiller got the willies. She’s a good one, carrying a few bits but also gamely stepping into routine ensemble roles as a game show contestant and one of those simple-minded high school theater students doing preachy performance art.
(It was the second time around for the high school routine, which was pretty thin the first time. Someone at Studio 8H must really have it out for the self-righteous theater kids. And speaking of easy targets, haven’t the lesbian cat ladies been beat up enough?)
• The cold open had more laughs than usual as GOP presidential contenders tried to build their cool credentials with sharp clothes, funky dance moves and, in Rand Paul’s case, weed. The big fun for “SNL” nerds, though, was finding out who will be playing who during the long primary process. You lucked out if your bracket had Beck Bennett as Mike Huckabee, Kenan Thompson as Ben Carson, Bobby Moynihan as Ted Cruz, Kyle Mooney as Paul and Taran Killam as Marco Rubio. And if Carly Fiorina breaks from the pack, it will mean some hectic months for Kate McKinnon, already the designated Hillary.• Another highlight had a bunch of Southern women (led by Strong, natch) sharing a box of wine and recounting their weird travails — like the guys used to do between stanzas of a pop song in a beloved recurring bit a few years back.• The season wraps up next Saturday with Louis C.K. hosting for the third time and introducing musical guest Rihanna.