John Mulaney comes home to ‘Saturday Night Live’

Saturday Night Live
John Mulaney & LCD Soundsystem
February 26, 2021

John Mulaney is BACK! After an event-filled couple of years (more on that in a minute), Mulaney came home to Saturday Night Live to host for the fifth time, earning him a spot in the increasingly less-exclusive Five-Timers Club.

The hosting gig also served as a chance for Mulaney to show the world that he survived the hurricane that hit his life mere days after the last time he hosted in 2020. Mulaney seems older now, a little more tired, a little darker — of course, that’s what happens when life happens to you. But he’s just as funny, just as observant and clever. He seems to have found his grounding; let’s hope he keeps it.

The show’s cold open this week featured a performance by Ukrainian Chorus Dumka of New York as a tribute to the Ukrainian people. It was beautiful and touching and understated.

Grade: A+

If you’re not familiar with him, John Mulaney is a comedian who had a much more tumultuous few years than the rest of us, which I know is saying A LOT. The last time he hosted Saturday Night Live was in October 2020, around which time, he spiraled out of control: he started abusing drugs again after having been sober for some amount of time, he left his wife with whom he had a picture-perfect relationship (from the outside), he went to rehab, and then he knocked up actress Olivia Munn, earning the fiery rage of many of his fans who were still angry at him for leaving his wife. It was a lot. And he talks about some of that in his very funny, but very dark 7-minute stand-up monologue, which I assume is a preview of the show he’s currently touring the country with. It’s genius, because it’s Mulaney, but it’s also darker than the material you might be used to from him.

Grade: A+

The first sketch, “Monkey Trial” is exactly what the title would suggest: it’s a court case in which a woman was attacked by her neighbor’s monkey, and it is presided over by Judge Tango, who is also a monkey. Mulaney is hilarious here as both a world-weary judge who happens to be a monkey and as such, attracted to shiny things and disturbed by new experiences. It’s a little too long, but I’ll allow it.

Also, I really, really, really hope this was at least partially inspired by this very real headline: “UT football coach’s pole-dancing girlfriend defends emotional support monkey that bit child.”

Grade: A-

In what starts off as a spoof of a dog food commercial seems to lose its way about halfway through and becomes a sketch about dog owners shaming other dog owners for not caring enough about their dogs. Too long by half, they’re not sure how to end it, but still pretty funny and relatable.

Grade: B

A group of friends has dinner where they broach taboo COVID topics among a more liberal set, like whether mask mandates actually stop the spread of the virus or whether people should lose their jobs for not getting vaccinated. Everyone freaks out. And conservatives claim that SNL only picks on them …

Grade: B+

The Please Don’t Destroy kids are back with a sketch about a “good” variant that makes you feel great and want to party with Paul Rudd and Al Roker. Eh.

Grade: B-

It’s John Mulaney’s fifth time hosting Saturday Night Live, and you know what that means: induction into the Five-Timers Club, which is becoming increasingly less exclusive. Paul Rudd, whose own Five-Timers Club was ruined by the entire cast and crew coming down with COVID, is back, along with Steve Martin, Candace Bergen, Tina Fey, and Elliot Gould. And, representing Mulaney’s SNL writers room roots, is Conan O’Brien being very Conan O’Brien.

Grade: A

“Weekend Update” is all jokes, no sketch for the first time that I can remember in recent years. And it’s a solid 6-minute set, despite world events being kinda hard to joke about right now.

Grade: B+

If it’s a John Mulaney show, you can count on a New York City Broadway bit — this time set in the New York City subway, complete with mole men, subway masturbators, puddles of unknown origin, and mysterious churros. Genius, as always.

Grade: A++

I’m pretty sure I’m the only person I know who actually watched You Can’t Do That on Television, the Canadian kids’ show on Nickelodeon that inspired the whole green slime thing back when it aired in the early eighties. Apparently, one or two SNL writers looked the show up on YouTube (because ain’t no way any of them are old enough to have watched it in real-time), because this bit about the show experimenting with the consistency of the slime is note-perfect, down to Cecily’s “Moose.”

Grade: A+

The final sketch of the night is a variation on a sketch Mulaney did when he hosted back in 2019, in which he plays a very white man attending his Black girlfriend’s family reunion. He worries that he won’t fit in, but then he ends up knowing more people in attendance than she does, and all the very specific dance moves. It’s funny because he’s a white nerd!

Grade: A


There were two sketches cut for time, this overly long one, in which a woman introduces her boyfriend to her brothers who are all in a “swing revival revival” band. It’s best it was chopped.

The other sketch is a commercial for Fisher-Price’s Podcast Set for White Guys, so that childish men can “shout every crazy thought in [their] head” without ruining their lives. This bit is great — sharp, straight to the point, and making a very clever point about that blowhard Joe Rogan without ever saying his name.

And before we get to the final grade, shout out to Punkie Johnson, New Orleans native, for her Mardi Gras-themed outfit in the goodbyes. I see you and I know what it means to miss New Orleans, Punkie.

Final Grade: A. Just a solid A.

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

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