‘Saturday Night Live’: John Mulaney’s Second Chance Theater

Saturday Night Live
John Mulaney &
March 2, 2019

When former Saturday Night Live cast members appear on Late Night with Seth Meyers, Meyers will sometimes do a bit called “Second Chance Theater” in which sketches that the cast members pitched but never made it on air are finally performed. That is what John Mulaney’s hosting gigs for SNL have become: Second Chance Theater for sketches he and his writing partners wrote a decade ago, but never made it on air. And the thing is, it must be deeply gratifying for Mulaney and his fellow writers because as it turns out, these rejected sketches? Far better than most of the crap they put in any given episode.

Last year the rejected sketches were “Diner Lobster” and “Sitcom Reboot,” this year, the rejected sketch involves a toilet. Yes, a toilet, and it is hilarious. Mulaney needs to come back once a season, each time with a rejected sketch — or, better yet, let’s just have him host every week and let him do whatever the hell he wants.

The cold open tackled the Michael Cohen hearing — obviously — and it was just eh. Ben Stiller is still perfectly cast as Cohen, Bill Hader made a surprise appearance to do a FANTASTIC Jim Jordan, and they managed to get at the heart of the Mark Meadows’ use of Lynne Patton as a racist prop business, but otherwise, this was pretty flat. True fact: Ben Stiller debuted his Michael Cohen impersonation the first time John Mulaney hosted last year.

Grade: B-

The monologue is John Mulaney doing his stand-up! Of course it’s great!


Grade: A+

“What’s That Name?” is a game show sketch they’ve done before, but this time Bill Hader’s host Vince Blight is taken to new levels of sadism. John Mulaney and Bill Hader’s chemistry is great and the sexism theme that runs as an undercurrent is terrific. “Interesting choice to apologize to HIM.” I genuinely liked this sketch when they did it originally, but they’ve turned it into art here:

Grade: A+

The commercial spoof of the night is for an ejection device to prevent the embarrassment of dying on the toilet for seniors. It is amazing. Yes, it’s puerile, but this is an example of how puerile humor can be funny.

This is the sketch that Mulaney and his SNL writing partners Simon Rich and Marika Sawyer wrote ten years ago. It almost made it onto air twice but was cut both times. YAY, PERSISTENCE! They also wrote the “What’s That Name?” sketch above which just makes sense and makes me happy.

Grade: A

“Shark Tank Legal Edition” is what it sounds like: Shark Tank in which Michael Avenatti, Alan Dershowitz, Jeanne Pirro, Rudy Guiliani, and Cellino and Barnes are competing to represent celebrity clients who have found themselves in legal trouble recently, namely Bob Kraft and Jussie Smollett. It’s not terrible, but it clearly feels like they don’t quite know how far to take the Smollett business. As a result, the whole thing feels too safe. I’m not mad at it, but it’s not great.

Grade: B

I don’t know how I feel about Chad, you guys. Pete Davidson’s recurring monotone character who is too stupid to realize the situations he is in is a one-joke bit. And I hate recurring characters. But I also kinda think it’s funny? Even though we all know the joke? And there’s not really anything new here? Hey, at least there’s no irritating catchphrase to deal with.

Grade: B

In this bit, John Mulaney, the whitest man in the world, goes to a black wedding with his girlfriend and is nervous about not fitting in. I won’t give away the punchline, but I will say that when I first watched last night, I worried that it felt like a white fantasy and it made me uncomfortable. But upon watching it again, I decided that I was taking myself WAY too seriously and that this is just fun.

Grade: A-

“Weekend Update” starts with some Michael Cohen jokes and ends on a Jussie Smollett joke that made the audience groan. So about what you’d expect. As for the jokes about Trump’s performance at CPAC, they literally just play clips of Trump doing Trump because nothing is funnier than unhinged Trump.

Grade: B+

Kate McKinnon and Aidy Bryant visit the “Weekend Update” desk as farmers who promise to only process meat from unexceptional animals. The smells from the meat basket prop they bring out causes them to break, which makes a merely kinda funny bit more memorable.

Grade: B

Before we begin with this week’s John Mulaney’s musical sketch, if you love musicals, you need to go to IFC.com and watch this week’s episode of Documentary Now!, “Original Cast Album: Co-op” immediately. It’s a spoof of a Stephen Sondheim documentary and it is a fucking delight. I have never seen the documentary in question, I hate Sondheim and musicals in general, and I still loved this episode. It was a genuine love letter to Sondheim from John Mulaney and Seth Meyers and it’s really great.

So because Mulaney is a huge fan of musicals, the last time he was hosted, they did a sketch that he wrote years ago, “Diner Lobster,” in which a man orders the lobster at a diner and it becomes a whole Les Miserables musical production number. I’m not a fan of musical numbers and I still gave it a B+, but then the entire world thought I was wrong and began plotzing over themselves about how brilliant the sketch was.

Thus, it was well expected when Mulaney was announced as host that there would be another musical number and those expectations were met. In this episode’s musical number, a man asks to use a bodega bathroom and the whole thing turns into a musical number that references Willy Wonka, Little Shop of Horrors, Rent and more. I happened to think it was funnier than “Diner Lobster,” but I suspect that’s because it was a little more accessible to me as a non-musical fan — which makes me suspect others will argue that “Diner Lobster” was better. Whaddya gonna do.

Grade: A

The final sketch of the night was a spoof of the Humphrey Bogart/Lauren Becall classic film, To Have and Have Not. This is both a VERY John Mulaney bit, but also a showcase for Kate McKinnon’s physical comedy chops. It’s a fun little floof.

Grade: A-

Finally, this sketch making fun of Dianne Feinstein’s public relations disaster earlier in the week when she admonished some school children who asked her to back the Green New Deal is really great. Cecily Strong has been doing her Feinstein impersonation for a while now, but this gave it room to really come to life. Loved loved loved this.

Grade: A

Final Grade: A- Our first A of the season, you guys! And maybe our only if they don’t bring Mulaney back before May!

Saturday Night Live airs at 10:30/11:30 p.m. Saturdays on NBC.

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