Saturday Night Live Recap: John Mulaney Is a National Treasure

Saturday Night Live

John Mulaney
Season 47 Episode 13
Editor’s Rating 4 stars

Saturday Night Live

John Mulaney
Season 47 Episode 13
Editor’s Rating 4 stars
Photo: Will Heath/NBC

Amidst an international crisis (Russia’s invasion of Ukraine) and a domestic crisis (Kanye West threatening Pete Davidson for dating his ex-wife, Kim Kardashian), John Mulaney stops by to host Saturday Night Live with musical guest LCD Soundsystem. This is John’s fifth time hosting, and like all five-timers, this should be a good show. John’s got it all: comedy chops, star appeal, and the baggage SNL can poke at. While his personal life has been a bit of a rollercoaster in the last few years, Mulaney has been putting out consistent funny work, with Documentary Now!Oh, Hello on Broadway, and the uproarious John Mulaney & the Sack Lunch Bunch. I don’t consider myself part of the ravenous John Mulaney fandom, but sometimes you have to tip your cap.

Best Chorus Dumka

SNL replaces its cold open with the Ukrainian Chorus Dumka of New York singing “Prayer for Ukraine.” I would have almost put money on Beck Bennett returning as Putin, but SNL opted for a respectful tribute. It’s an honorable decision, but I would have trusted the talented staff with some Russia jokes. Ukrainians are even telling jokes to the faces of Russian soldiers.

Best Bicoastal Intervention

John Mulaney’s monologue touches upon his battle with drugs and his subsequent intervention with six people in New York and six people on Skype from Los Angeles. Stand-ups have an unfair advantage over other hosts since they can just do a random few minutes from their standup for their monologue. But John’s choice to talk about his ultra-personal struggles set a friendly tone for the night.

Best Dog Food That Will Help Your Dog Walk

Cecily and Heidi run into each other at the pet store and are both buying dog food. Or are they? Cecily is buying real dog food made with real ingredients, and she asks Heidi to read the ingredients of hers out loud to her dog. “How much do you pay for Blue River? $80?” “It’s not $80; it’s $73.99.” This is a slicker, repackaged version of an earlier Blue River dog food sketch with Seth Rogen. However, this works better, and Cecily is great as the histrionic dog owner.

Most Honest COVID Discussion

A few friends are having dinner before Heidi, over her husband Bowen’s protests, cites a Bloomberg article that said mask mandates had little to no effect. The group grows fearful, knowing how difficult it will be to toe the line between a nuanced COVID discussion and a COVID-denier. This sketch is inspired. The jokes were all the same, cutaways to everyone making a funny, terrified face. But still, it felt gutsy to admit that conservative anti-vaxx psychos have cornered liberals into publicly backing all the mandates 100 percent.

Best New Five-Timer

Steve Martin gamely returns to SNL for another five-timer sketch. For Paul Rudd’s episode, Steve sent in a video where he accidentally called Paul Rudd “Tom Hanks,” even as Martin Short tried to correct him. Here he stands with Paul Rudd, Candice Bergen, and Chest Hair Magazine’s Sexiest Man Alive, Elliott Gould. Once again, John’s life gives SNL a lot to work with. (Tina Fey: “You wrote that character with Bill Hader and 800 other things that aged terribly.”) John even asks if Elliott remembers being on Mulaney’s horrible sitcom. (Elliott: “Should I?”) In the biggest surprise of the night, Conan O’Brien drops in. (“Conan, what are you doing here?” “I’m just here to sign up for Peacock.”) In a technical note, they bungled Conan’s entrance. For the love of God, SNL, stay wide. This is not the first time they’ve messed up a queue, and it’s because of these tight camera angles. Conan is incredible, though. (“I hosted my own TV show for decades.” “What do you do now?” “I have a podcast.”)

Best ‘Weekend Update’ Joke

Michael Che: I have a close friend who’s Russian, and I asked her what she thought about it. And she said, “Michael, you no pay me to talk, baby.”

Keeping Score

This was a terrific episode of SNL in a very weird time. The MVP goes to Cecily Strong, who made a welcome return after working on her one-woman show the past month. Her chemistry with Mulaney in the “Monkey Judge” sketch was terrific, and she had standout performances in the “Blue River” and “Subway Churro” sketches.

Regarding the Churro sketch, not sure how much I love putting down a churro lady as she silently stares back. “An hour before you, a rat bit it too.” That’s a little much. However, there really were no clunkers in this episode. Please Don’t Destroy was great, and the more they involve hosts and other cast members, the better. With sketches like “Monkey Trial,” “Cupid Shuffle,” and “Nickelodeon Show,” it feels like SNL is going back to basics. They’re finding simple, strong premises and hitting them cleanly. However, I still think the writers and performers can turn it up another notch and surprise us. As crazy as it was, the “Monkey Trial” became almost too routine and was begging for a curveball. The ending of “Cupid Shuffle” similarly lost momentum, and they even recycled the Chris Rock “Robitussin” joke.

However, after a couple of weak episodes, SNL felt exciting again. Knock on wood, but if they can get the new writers settled in and COVID continues to abate, Studio 8H is setting up for a strong finish to the year.

Saturday Night Live Recap: John Mulaney