The classy and sweet sendoff Kristen Wiig got at the end of the season finale of "Saturday Night Live" marked a departure, in more ways than one, for a performer who created hilariously disturbing and grotesque characters during an at-times brilliant seven-year run.
Wiig, after all, gave us Gilly, the vacant-eyed, human rag-doll, schoolgirl havoc machine. She inhabited the hair-twirling, monotone-voiced queen of one-upsmanship, Penelope. She lent a manic energy to the screeching, annoyingly invasive Target Lady.
Watching the comic actress struggle to contain her emotions during her touching farewell dance with her cast mates offered a final oddly fascinating “SNL” moment starring Kristen Wiig, who leaves as one of the show's all-time greatest cast members, part a pantheon that includes names like Belushi, Radner, Murphy, Myers, Hartman, Ferrell and Fey.
The comic character actress seemed almost embarrassed to be the star attraction of a show that capped a generally strong season with a terrific hosting job by Mick Jagger, who led her poignant goodbye with sing-alongs of "She's a Rainbow" and "Ruby Tuesday." Her humble reaction belied her collection of characters, from oddballs (the perennially outraged Aunt Linda) to outright freaks (Dooneese, the bizarre "tiny hands" singer), tied by a desperate need for attention and the willingness to do whatever it takes to seize the spotlight – a satirical reflection, perhaps, of a time when celebrity too often derives from a talent-free drive to out-outrageous the competition.
Wiig never stopped trying to top herself during her "SNL" tenure. Her turn as Bjork in the "Bein' Quirky with Zooey Deschanel" bit in February marked the funniest performance of the season and ranks among Wiig's best. Wiig's standout appearances in her final outing as a cast member both came during running gags offering a surreal revisionist take on television's supposedly simpler 1960s hey-day: her Dooneese from an alternate-reality version of "The Lawrence Welk Show" opened the finale (with an assist from Jon Hamm) and an appearance by her Broadway has-been, Mindy Grayson, who always blurts the answer in a "Password"-like game show, proved a highlight.
Wiig seemed to thrive on being in more than her share of skits, though judging from the success of "Bridesmaids," she's got a strong future in the slower-moving world of movie comedy. "SNL," which has overcome the loss of other favorites – including Tina Fey and Amy Poehler in recent years – will go on. But like Gilly, we're "sorry" to see Wiig go.
As we await the inevitable "Best of Kristen Wiig" special, check out her musical goodbye and some of her funniest moments below: