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Chicago's Cecily Strong gets 'SNL' desk job

Michael Patrick O'BrienTina FeyImprovOlympicNBCPat O'BrienSeth MeyersJason Sudeikis

NBC has confirmed some personnel changes at "Saturday Night Live" ahead of its 39th season premiere on Sept. 28. Chicago performer Cecily Strong will co-anchor "Weekend Update" alongside Seth Meyers — a move that leaves her poised to take over the slot when Meyers (a former Chicagoan himself and a Northwestern grad) says goodbye to "SNL" in February to take over his own late-night talk show berth on NBC. This is a major jump for Strong, who is starting her second year with the show after a number of years performing with Second City's touring company and locally at iO.

And Monday morning, NBC released the names of the six featured players for the new season: North Shore native and AT&T ad star Beck Bennett, Second City alum Michael Patrick O'Brien, John Milhiser, Kyle Mooney, Noel Wells and Brooks Wheelan.

O'Brien, who joined "SNL" as a writer in 2009, was a regular presence on local stages (performing under the name Pat O'Brien), follows in the trajectory of performers including Jason Sudeikis and Sept. 28 host Tina Fey, who also started as writers before being promoted to on-camera performers.

You can get a sense of O'Brien's wonderfully offbeat sense of humor from his web series "7 Minutes in Heaven," in which he interviews celebrities (such as Fey and Jon Hamm) while standing next to them in a cramped closet.

Five years ago it was O'Brien's Andy Kaufman-esque solo show ("Shatter" at Second City's e.t.c) that got him noticed and cast shortly thereafter in Second City's mainstage in "America All Better," which ran from 2008-2009. Both the Second City revue and his solo turn showcased his tendency to upend audience expectations, often playing terribly polite characters who were also vaguely hostile. That kind of approach can be incredibly subversive in the right hands, in the right show. He has sharp observational skills offset by an almost innocent persona. It will be fascinating to see how this quality is put to use in front of the camera.

Lastly, another recent Second City veteran, Tim Robinson, will shift from featured player to the writing staff. Though a standout at Second City, his talents were underutilized during his first year on "SNL."

Earlier this summer, Chicago native and iO performer Claire Mulaney was brought on as a writer for "SNL" as well; her brother John Mulaney has been a writer on the show since 2008.

nmetz@tribune.com

@NinaMetzNews

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Michael Patrick O'BrienTina FeyImprovOlympicNBCPat O'BrienSeth MeyersJason Sudeikis
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