Kate McKinnon says it was cathartic to perform 'SNL' viral hit 'Welcome to Hell'

Gwynne Watkins
Writer, Yahoo Entertainment
Cecily Strong, left, Saoirse Ronan, Kate McKinnon, and Aidy Bryant perform “Welcome to Hell.” (Photo: NBC)

At a moment when comedy feels like a vital act of resistance, few performers are delivering more consistent, pointed laughs than Kate McKinnon. This season on Saturday Night Live, McKinnon often seems to be everywhere at once, transitioning fluidly between characters of different genders, ages, political affiliations, and, occasionally, species. (Her Jeff Sessions, for example, is part opossum.) Unlike some breakout stars from SNL’s past, McKinnon is equally adept at starring roles and parts in ensemble sketches — which brings us to this week’s viral music video “Welcome to Hell.” (Watch it below.)

In the candy-colored video, full of clouds, rainbows, and lollipops, a female pop group (McKinnon, Aidy Bryant, Cecily Strong, and guest star Saoirse Ronan) cheerfully informs the men in the audience that the world of sexual predators is the world in which women have always lived. In the words of the song, “This is our hometown, we’ll show you around. Welcome to hell!” At one point, McKinnon clenches a ring of keys between her knuckles and purrs, “This is how I walk home at night. Meow.” On Monday, Yahoo Entertainment got on the phone with McKinnon to discuss her (very apolitical) role as a goat in the animated film Ferdinand, and we had to ask: Is it cathartic to create a sketch like “Welcome to Hell”?

“It really is, yes!” McKinnon replied.

Watch “Welcome to Hell”:

“It’s a real honor to have this kind of platform to speak about what’s going on at a moment when there’s so much to say,” she continued. “I just know that I feel so blessed, and all of my colleagues do as well.”

Of all the characters she inhabits on SNL, real and fictional, McKinnon told Yahoo Entertainment that the one who’s most empowering to play is Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. McKinnon’s Ginsburg, a regular guest on “Weekend Update,” is known for delivering verbal smackdowns with the punchline “That’s a Gins-burn!”

Kate McKinnon as Ruth Bader Ginsburg on Saturday Night Live. (Photo: NBC)

“She does have that level of outspokenness and brazenness in real life,” said McKinnon. “And then to even amp that up from reality creates the character that I just wish I could be more like. I wish I could just say exactly what the hell I think all the time, and she’s just a firebrand and a complete hero for so many people.”

As for her own personal heroes, McKinnon said that she works alongside them. “Right now, the people giving me the most juice are the people I work with at SNL,” she said. “Not just the women — but the women in the cast and the women on our writing staff are killing me right now with their intelligence and their passion for creating the most trenchant political satire possible.”

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