Shop­ping tips from SNL’s Ke­nan & Ce­cily

Chattanooga Times Free Press - Parade - - FRONT PAGE -

It’s a few weeks be­fore Christ­mas and Sat­ur­day

Night Live’s Ke­nan Thomp­son and Ce­cily Strong have hol­i­day gifts on their minds. Thomp­son hopes he won’t re­ceive black socks or yet an­other funny neck­tie. Strong crosses her fingers that her fam­ily will get a kick out of her DIY gifts, like they did the time she gave ev­ery­one mock-celebrity-signed pho­tos.

“One year I even pho­to­shopped my­self with Shaquille O’Neal,” Strong says. “The pres­sure is on—they’ve ex­pected that level of cre­ativ­ity ever since!”

As you might imag­ine, talk­ing about gift giv­ing with th­ese two comedic cast­mates is hi­lar­i­ous. Thomp­son, SNL’s long­est-run­ning cast mem­ber (whose late-night ca­reer spans 15 sea­sons, 40 char­ac­ters and 126 im­pres­sions—and count­ing), and Strong (known for her spot-on im­pres­sions of ev­ery­one from Rachel Mad­dow to Lin-Manuel Mi­randa since she joined the show in 2012) love ev­ery­thing about the fes­tive sea­son, in­clud­ing the hus­tle-bus­tle of find­ing the per­fect presents.

Thomp­son, 39, claims that he’s the king of last-minute shop­ping.

“A lot of peo­ple on my list get gifts from Wal­mart,” he says. “It’s a last-stop 24-hour place that has good choices, so some peo­ple get pot-and-pan sets. There’s noth­ing wrong with that!”

For Strong, 33, it’s the ex­cite­ment of watch­ing loved ones open her gifts that thrills her most. “I en­joy see­ing if I’ve made a home run,” she says. “I’m much more ex­cited to find out what you think about a gift than to re­ceive some­thing.”

Gifts can fall flat too, but even that can be part of the fun. “My sis­ter re­cently told me that the Easy-Bake Oven my brother and I got her when she was young made her re­ally mad,” Thomp­son re­calls about his lit­tle sis, who is 14 years his ju­nior. “You can see it in the photo of her, in her face—she was like, ‘You guys come around once in a while and want to put me to work mak­ing cup­cakes.’ She was like, ‘I’m not bak­ing you guys any­thing.’ ”

SNL Se­cret Santa

Back at the show’s HQ at 30 Rock, the SNL cast and crew do an an­nual Se­cret Santa gift swap—the rule is that no gift can cost more than $20—yield­ing some pre­dictably funny mo­ments.

“I got one of the writ­ers last year and she seemed like a fun, spunky type,” Thomp­son says. “So I got her an in-of­fice Fris­bee set.”

One year, Strong bought sev­eral wigs for a staffer, which she ad­mits may have gone over the $20 limit. “If I need to get five wigs, I’ll spend the money for five wigs,” she says, laugh­ing. “If the gift is right, the price is right!”

Ev­ery year, Strong’s mom plays a real-life Santa, send­ing gifts to the women in the cast.

“My mom gives all the girls stock­ings,” Strong says. “She col­lects through­out the year, the stuff right up at the cash reg­is­ter, like lit­tle ChapSticks, lip glosses, socks, Ghi­rardelli choco­lates . . . and she al­ways puts a cle­men­tine in too.”

And pro­ducer Lorne Michaels is no Grinch at hol­i­day time, ei­ther.

“Lorne loves giv­ing gifts,” Strong says. “On our birth­days, we all get blue­berry jam.”

That doesn’t mean it’s easy to think of things to get the boss.

“I’m ter­ri­fied of him some­times,” Thomp­son says. “He’s the sweet­est man in the world, but I never know what to give him.”

For Strong, the sea­son truly be­gins when she re­ceives an an­i­mated Jacquie Law­son e-card from her grand­mother.

“It’s al­ways a beau­ti­ful song with a lit­tle Santa com­ing out,” Strong says. “I love presents from my grand­mother.”

If Thomp­son feels stuck on what to get some­one, he’ll just ask fre­netic hol­i­day shop­pers brows­ing near Rock­e­feller Cen­ter for gift ideas.

“When I see tourists rush­ing around, I start ask­ing them for ideas,” he says. “I’ll ask them what gifts they’re think­ing about giv­ing this year. And then I’ll run right into the Lego and Nin­tendo stores near 30 Rock. They’re sweet places to buy kids’ gifts.”

Home for the Hol­i­days

Both Thomp­son and Strong are big on be­ing with fam­ily at Christ­mas. For Thomp­son, it means gath­er­ing with fam­ily for sit-down meals.

“We’re very tra­di­tional,” he says of his child­hood in At­lanta. “I grew up Bap­tist and do the Christ­mas thing. My church got into Kwan­zaa but then laxed off. We should do more Kwan­zaa,” he adds with his inim­itable grin.

Thomp­son’s daugh­ter, now 3, is re­ally into cel­e­brat­ing the hol­i­day. “Kids are into mak­ing a mess,” he says. “So be­tween the Play-Doh and play­ing in the wrap­ping pa­per, she’s all about Christ­mas!”

Strong spends ev­ery Christ­mas in the Chicago sub­urbs where she grew up. “I have a bro­ken fam­ily, which means I have two Christ­mases,” she says. “It’s a lot of food, a lot of friends and a lot of wine. It’s a lot of fun.”

Last year, she added a new tra­di­tion. “I have a friend from the South Side who is a men­tor to all th­ese kids,” she says. “Last Christ­mas we threw them a pizza party and Beats by Dre gave me 15 head­phones to give to the kids. For some of them that’s the only gift they’ll get.”

Help­ing oth­ers is some­thing she does year-round. “This job can be chaotic, but help­ing oth­ers is an easy way to feel good,” she says. “It’s not ask­ing much of us. So why not?”

Hol­i­day Magic

Work­ing in the heart of Rock­e­feller Cen­ter at hol­i­day time adds to the sea­son’s fes­tive mood.

“When we have the luck of Santa shin­ing upon us, we get to do the show’s ‘good nights’ from the [ice skat­ing] rink,” Thomp­son says. “They close it off, so we run down there and do it quick. We have two min­utes to get from stu­dio 8H, put on skates and wave good night. It’s Rock Cen­ter and it’s cold, but it’s also re­ally spe­cial.”

Th­ese two stars are clearly any­thing but jaded about the magic of the hol­i­day sea­son.

“The way the New York City streets are lit up and down dur­ing this time of year is pretty fan­tas­tic,” Strong says. “I love the hol­i­days, espe­cially when the city looks espe­cially gor­geous.”

For Thomp­son, it’s a sea­son to take stock.

“It’s the time of year where ev­ery­body re­mem­bers what it feels like to love oth­ers and to be thank­ful,” Thomp­son says. “The joys of the lit­tle things come fly­ing back.”

By Lam­beth Hochwald Cover and fea­ture pho­tog­ra­phy by Lloyd Bishop

Sat­ur­day Night Live stars Ke­nan Thomp­son and Ce­cily Strong get into the hol­i­day spirit.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.