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John Mulaney triumphantly returns to SNL with more laughs than ever before

Mulaney’s fifth time hosting features sequel to previous popular sketches

<p>In his opening monologue, Mulaney alluded to the struggles he faced this year, including a drug intervention and a newborn son. </p><p>Courtesy of Will Heath/NBC universal media </p>

In his opening monologue, Mulaney alluded to the struggles he faced this year, including a drug intervention and a newborn son.

Courtesy of Will Heath/NBC universal media

Comedian John Mulaney hosted “Saturday Night Live” for the fifth time in an especially funny episode Feb. 26. After hosting in April 2018, March 2019, February 2020 and October 2020, he is one of three hosts in SNL history to achieve this honor in less than four years. To make matters even more unique — he is also only the fourth SNL writer, who was not also a cast member, to host the show, joining the ranks of Conan O’Brien, Louis CK and Larry David.

The show commenced in an incredibly moving fashion. Instead of a typical comedic cold open, the cameras revealed members of the Ukrainian Chorus Dumka of New York, which sang the emotional hymn “Prayer for Ukraine.” At the end of the song, it was revealed that the candles placed in front of the chorus spelled out “Kyiv” in honor of the victims of recent Russian attacks against Ukraine. It is rare that such a sentimental approach is taken during an SNL cold open, barring notable exceptions such as the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks and the Sandy Hook school shooting.

Following the emotional opening, Mulaney made his appearance in his typical full-piece suit and handheld microphone. His monologue featured stand-up comedy bits from his current comedic tour “John Mulaney: From Scratch.” Mulaney made allusions to his highly publicized and complicated year, including his experiences going through a drug intervention, breaking up with his dealer and parenting his 12-week old son. As always, Mulaney brought an element of humor to otherwise serious experiences.

Mulaney’s stand-out moments of the night were the sequels to sketches from previous hosting gigs. His past four times hosting, Mulaney’s episodes have featured a musical rendition of popular Broadway songs in silly scenarios where someone makes a frowned-upon choice, such as a man ordering lobster from a run-down diner and causing the cast to erupt into the soundtrack of Les Misérables in the 2018 sketch “Lobster Diner.” In the latest addition, “Subway Churro,” a man surprises everyone by buying a churro in a subway station. Immediately, singing cast members come out as assorted characters that one might see in a subway station — such as a man masturbating and a personified mysterious liquid. Tunes from “South Pacific” and “Fiddler on the Roof” were among the songs spoofed in the fantastic musical performance.

Another highlight of the night, “Cupid Shuffle,” was a follow up to the 2019 “Cha Cha Slide” sketch. In the previous skit, Mulaney joined Ego Nwodim at her cousin's wedding. This time, he joined her for her family reunion. In both sketches, Mulaney feared that he would be uncomfortable and feel out of place, but ultimately the audience discovered that he coincidentally knew more people than his partner and blended right in — especially on the dance floor. In Saturday’s sketch, Mulaney was even wearing a “Robinson Family Reunion” t-shirt, something that not even his partner was gifted.

In a star-studded moment, Mulaney was introduced to an exclusive SNL honor in the sketch “Five-Timers Club.” In a format reserved for five-timers, Mulaney was brought into a fancy room and given a special five-timers jacket by five-timers Steve Martin, Candice Bergen, Paul Rudd, Elliott Gould, Tina Fey and Conan O’Brien. The combination of these comedic legends added a notable shine to the sketch. The skit consists of all of them talking about the club, and how it feels less special with so many people being initiated, before they all agree that it is a special honor. The simple dialogue between the stars brought some of the greatest laughs of the night, especially with Conan O’Brien saying, “Live from New York: It’s Saturday Night,” a phrase always said at the beginning of the show, not so close to the end. 

The acting talents of Mulaney and cast member Cecily Strong were evident in the sketch “Blue River,” where they portrayed an overzealous couple trying to convince their friend to switch to a different brand of dog food. While this might not sound funny initially, the absurd nature of Strong and Mulaney’s performances and their passion for dog food make it hard to not laugh out loud. 

There were some second-tier sketches in the show. “Monkey Trial,” a sketch where Mulaney is a monkey who is also a judge, was very simple. The sketch consisted of a trial between a woman and another monkey. While the concept might seem pretty strange, the highlight was Mulaney’s complete commitment to the part, which few others could successfully pull off. 

“Nickelodeon Show” takes a look back at old episodes of “You Can’t Do That on Television” with a focus on the outdated nature of the conversations, such as suggesting that the reason why someone doesn’t have a boyfriend is because their parents are divorced and they are color blind, as well as the inconsistencies with the nature of Nickelodeon's infamous slime. The cast did an incredibly effective job portraying kids from the 1980s in their demeanor and reaction to the slime. 

The sketch “COVID Dinner Discussion” portrayed an over-exaggerated conversation between friends about COVID. Friends with varying points of view share their perspective on the pandemic, ranging from mask mandates to vaccines with elaborate reactions from the others, such as Mulaney pulling out a tooth. While it was realistic and current, it fell flat unlike the aforementioned sketches. 

Although this episode was a highlight of Saturday Night Live’s 47th season, there were some sketches that weren’t as powerful as others. “Weekend Update” and independent comedy group Please Don’t Destroy’s “Good Variation,” while entertaining, could not compete with the other sketches of a truly exceptional show. The success of Saturday’s episode should remind everyone that even after Mulaney’s difficult year, he is still the man many love.


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