It's no wonder they brought him back within the year, because he brings a level of energy and creativity and reckless abandon so strong that even this week's weakest sketch was very entertaining. And it's best is an instant classic.
Mulaney wasn't the only new face, either, as Ben Stiller made his inevitable return as Michael Cohen so "SNL" could poke fun at his recent hearing, while Bill Hader returned to the house that made him to appear in two brilliant sketches. And he was on fire!
As usual, we're ranking all the sketches from worst to first, including the Cold Open and the regular "Weekend Update" segments. We'll skip the musical guests, because they're not usually funny - unless Ashlee Simpson shows up. We wrap up with a look at the cast-member who had the strongest week.
Pete Davidson debuted his Michael Avenatti, joined by Cecily Strong's Jeanine Pirro, John Mulaney's Alan Dershowitz and Kate McKinnon's Rudy Giuliani in a sketch where troubled famous people sought their legal help. Potential clients included Robert Kraft (Beck Bennett) and Jussie Smollett (Chris Redd). Unfortunately, they only dabbled in the shallow end on both stories when they could have really taken a deep dive and really dug into the meat of these stories. Still, it was fun watching Kate, Pet and Cecily really ham it up in their respective roles.
Cha Cha Slide
There were two elements of humor here. One was that John Mulaney was at a reception with Ego Nwodim's family and yet he seemed to know more of them than she did. He was more immersed in the traditionally black community, including church and Howard University, than even his girlfriend realized. And then the other layer was the bizarre new-rules version of the "Cha Cha Slide" Kenan Thompson was emceeing, including two different Beyonce moves, stirring grits and the use of a church fun. Both were gently humorous, neither was hilarious.
Once again, as he did last April, John Mulaney gave a standup routine in lieu of a monologue, but it was to be expected. Plus, it was still funny as he played off of his look and talked about how he used to be cooler, like when he did cocaine. He dug into his own Catholic history, subways and the weirdness of life in NYC. While there were no laugh-out-loud moments, there was plenty of good content delivered with confidence and charm, setting the stage well for the show to come.
CUT FOR TIME - Dianne Feinstein
In this pre-recorded sketch that was cut for time, Cecily Strong's Sen. Dianne Feinstein proved just how horrible she is with kids, with having an open mind and with listening. She was combative and angry, lashing out at teachers and students and constantly demanding a D.O. (do-over). This was to help her public image, but even she couldn't escape the unpleasant reality of her closed-minded reactions.
Toilet Death Ejector
The aim issues with this self-explanatory invention were the funniest bit in a totally absurd and yet well-intentioned fake ad. Nobody wants to die on the toilet, elderly or not, but there are a lot of kinks and details to work out before this one is really ready for market. And yes, it's the most obvious questions you're thinking of, but it was still funny. We're still laughing at the dead bodies flying across the room and just missing the bed.
Just like in the cold open, Michael Cohen's testimony was the top story, with Colin Jost kicking it off by comparing him to that fat sewer rat that got stuck in a grate. They moved through some of Cohen's weirder claims and on to Trump's weird CPAC appearance where he hugged a flag and is probably still talking.
In response to a pig that paints and thus was spared the slaughterhouse, Kate McKinnon and Aidy Bryant dropped by as two women from a farm that would never slaughter and serve a cute or talented animal; only the stupid and bad ones for them. But the funniest part of the whole bit wasn't the details about the animals on a meat tray they brought out, but how much the stench of the meat nearly derailed the bit over and over again.
"For R. Kelly, unpaid child support is also alimony," Michael Che said once they jumped back into the news, proving they were not going to hold back on this story. And then they slid backwards into an equally scathing -- okay, maybe not equally -- dig at Jussie Smollett. And that was it, a shorter and tighter "Update" than usual, but nevertheless continuing the hot streak of the segment.
Pete Davidson brought back his most famous character, the clueless and could-care-less-about-anything Chad to drop him into a starring role in a movie. "Okay." This character is so stupid, and yet in this "Scream"-inspired setting it worked perfectly. John Mulaney tried so hard to menace him, but Chad just wasn't capable of getting it, but hey, free pizza!
To Have and Have Not
In this pastiche of classic movies, Kate McKinnon tried to play the seductress, but as she couldn't whistle or sing or do any of the things her "sexy" monologue was demanding it just got increasingly awkward and embarrassing for both her and her would-be man, John Mulaney. Kate got a reaction when she suggested maybe she was gay and that's why she was so bad at this. John played it very lowkey, which worked perfectly as Kate went deeper into the bizarre.
Ben Stiller came back with his Michael Cohen impression, surprised at the lack of surprise when he claimed Trump was a racist, conman and cheat. "For too many years I was loyal to a man when I shouldn't have been," he said. "Now I know how Khloe Kardashian feels." Yes, this joke got the biggest audience response ... welcome to America. At least until Bill Hader's angry Jim Jordan took over. He was a tour de force of fake fury and it only made us miss him on this show even more!
What's That Name?
Bill Hader returned to host the fake game show where people are asked to identify regular people in their lives (which they can't do) and people like the Kardashians (which they can) ... welcome to America. As expected, John had no trouble with Chrissy Teigen, but the name of his good friend's girlfriend of four years? Well, who has the time? Who can pay attention to such things? We're all so busy these days. It was the deepest exploration of the shallowness and self-centeredness of modern Americans and it was brilliantly played by all involved.
An instant classic in gross-out humor. John Mulaney and Kenan Thompson presented a musical based on the mythical and disgusting bodega bathroom, complete with backup singing cockroaches (Melissa Villasenor and Cecily Strong) and an oversized singing toilet (Beck Bennett). It was a mashup of several musicals with the toilet acting appropriately as Audrey II from "The Little Shop of Horrors" and it was a masterpiece of parody. And if you're not from an area with bodegas, just change it to those creepy off-brand gas station (in)convenience stores) and you get the idea. They're gross, they're weird and now they have a beautiful tribute to their very awfulness.
It's interesting that two of the week's strongest sketches were carried on the back of former cast-member Bill Hader, who had an absolutely brilliant night. But he's not eligible, which leaves us looking at Cecily Strong and Kate McKinnon, with Pete Davidson a surprise dark horse.
But it was the two veteran ladies who had the most fun, and especially if we include Cecily's cut Feinstein performance. On top of that, she killed it again as Jeanine Pirro and provided able support as a dancing cockroach and a game show contestant.
But we have to give it to the brilliant Kate McKinnon, who delighted us again with her Rudy Giuliani, laughed it up in "Update," brought the Virgin Mary candle to life in the bodega and then brought it home as a classic film star who has no idea how to be alluring.
It's moments like this that remind us just how much of a treasure she is to this show, emerging as the female cast leader (we have to give Kenan his props as overall leader) and one of the most versatile and fearless performers on the show. There will be a huge hole in the cast should she decide to leave after this season, or whenever she decides to go.
"Saturday Night Live" airs Saturdays at 11:30 p.m .ET on NBC.