Interview: 'SNL' writer Katie Rich splitting her time between Chicago and New York

Cecily Strong and Katie Rich go back a few years.

Before Strong joined the cast of NBC's “Saturday Night Live” in 2012 and was named co-anchor of “Weekend Update” last year, she was an understudy for Rich at Second City's mainstage. The two Chicagoans were reunited in December when “SNL” hired Rich as a writer — specifically for “Weekend Update.”

“I really wanted her for 'Weekend Update' when I got 'Weekend Update,'” Strong said Wednesday during Planned Parenthood's fourth annual Generations Celebration at Navy Pier, where she presented Rich with the Margaret Wiley Carr Bright Horizons Award. “There's no one I trust more, who's smart, brave and funny. I don't want to take credit, she gets the credit. She got hired once they met her.”

Rich starred in Second City's 100th mainstage revue “Who Do We Think We Are,” which offered the highest bidder in the audience the opportunity to make suggestions for a scene. By the end of the show's run, a super political action committee-inspired scene raised more than $30,000, all of which went to Planned Parenthood.

Rich's time at Second City came to an end when the Sandburg High School and Northwestern University alum received a phone call from new “Weekend Update” head writer Pete Schultz, who was also on hand for Generations Celebration.

“He said, ‘I've never done this before, but I guess, do you want to come write jokes with us?'” Rich said Wednesday. “That's how he said it. I was like, ‘Yeah, yeah I do.' The first person I called was my producer at Second City, Alison (Riley), to tell her I was leaving. I didn't want to call my parents first because I wanted to say it first to someone else and see if that was real or if I'd gone insane. Then when I called my parents, it was pretty thrilling.”

A week later, Seth Meyers was introducing Rich to the “SNL” writing staff during the Monday topical meeting in New York.

“Seth Meyers said, ‘Meet our new writer, Katie,'” Rich said. “And people were like ‘Welcome.' I was like ‘Oh, me. Yay.' There were definitely times (during that first week) where I felt like I was hovering over myself, like, ‘This is you. This isn't a joke.'” Rich proudly points out that she wrote the last joke Meyers delivered on “Weekend Update” in February before he left to host “Late Night With Seth Meyers.”

“It was a marijuana joke — of course,” Rich said, laughing.

Because her husband stayed in Chicago to continue working at the Museum of Science and Industry and their dog stayed with him, Rich comes back when the show is on hiatus. She said Chicago now feels like a small town compared with New York because it's less crowded and added that her apartment in New York is a shoe box compared with her home here.

Rich has appeared in the movie “The Ice Harvest” and the upcoming film “Bad Johnson,” both of which filmed in the Chicago area, and in commercials for Discover Card and Wal-Mart. If she hopes to one day end up on the “SNL” cast, Rich isn't saying. She said she's just grateful for the writing gig.

“She's the smartest person in the room and the silliest,” said Strong, who was raised in Oak Park and worked at Planned Parenthood's corporate office in Chicago. “I hate this, this sounds so cocky, but a big hit for me this year was the Scottish fish line — and that's Katie's joke. She has this big, loud, South Side of Chicago laugh. That's always important to have around. We have a nice little family at 'Update' now.”

lgomez@tribune.com | Twitter @TribLuis

For more celebrity news and sightings in Chicago, go to chicagotribune.com/luis

Copyright © 2015, RedEye
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