Paul Rudd returns, alongside Steve Martin, Candice Bergen, Elliot Gould, Tina Fey -- and even Conan O'Brien -- to welcome John Mulaney to the vaunted "Saturday Night Live" Five-Timers Club.
It was a packed night for the cast and for guest stars as John Mulaney was ushered into the FIve-Timers Club on "Saturday Night Live."
His induction comes on the heels of Paul Rudd's truncated celebration in that awkward December episode where the majority of the cast went home with Covid and we were treated to a strange hybrid filled with repeat sketches.
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As such, Mulaney shared his time with Rudd, as well as fellow five-timers Steve Martin, Candice Bergen, Elliot Gould and Tina Fey. Even Conan O'Brien crashed the festivities, making it a truly star-studded -- if stumbly -- event!
There's a reason Mulaney has hit that mark in such a short span of time, and that's because the former "SNL" writer really knows how to bring a level of consistency to the show. His humor is a little off-kilter, but it almost never fails to deliver. In fact, the only sketch to fail almost completely this week was ultimately cut for time. We've still got it, but let's just say you'll be reading about it very soon.
In lieu of a traditional cold open -- which apparently would have been the Five-Timers sketch -- "SNL" welcomed the Ukraine Chorus Dumka of New York for a somber introduction to the show. It felt very appropriate to ease us into comedy amid such a tumultuous time on the world stage.
The other huge difference on the night was a truncated "Weekend Update" that featured no special guests and only one segment of jokes. It was a strong segment, but still a little jarring. We can only assume it's because they were overwhelmed with strong sketch ideas.
And, of course, the latest installment in Mulaney's bizarre obsession with Broadway musicals and the seedy underbelly of New York life. Each time he's hosted, we've gotten another elaborate pastiche of and ode to New York, so we were waiting for this one. With Pete Davidson off filming a movie, Andrew Dismukes stepped in as the inept innocent who triggered the latest musical extravaganza by wanting to purchase a churro in the subway.
As usual, we're ranking all the sketches from worst to first, including the Monologue, Cold Open, "Weekend Update" and any sketches that were cut for time but made their way online. 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.
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Cold Open: Ukraine Chorus Dumka of New York
With a message to Kyiv in cancles and a tribute to Ukraine in song, "SNL" opted for a subdued opening, skipping any attempt at comedy or a political cold open that could come off as insensitive in the wake of Russia's invasion. Kate McKinnon and Cecily Strong introduced the chorus, founded in the 1940s by Ukrainian immigrants, per the Ukrainian Weekly [https://www.ukrweekly.com/uwwp/dumka-chorus-celebrates-its-70th-anniversary/}, which appropriately performed "Prayer for Ukrain." Always a topical show, this isn't the first time "SNL" has gone for a more somber approach, coming back with Paul Simon's "The Boxer" after the 9/11 attacks. It felt appropriate then and again now, easing us into the idea of entertainment while acknowledging the seriousness of the world around us.
Cut for Time: Family Band
The premise of a swing revival revival band (trying to revive the '90s swing revival) is funny enough, and Heidi Gardner's relationship with her brothers in this piece was just odd enough to be funny, but the whole sketch felt half-baked. There was potential to go into the differences between the brothers and Mikey Day as Heidi's boyfriend a little more, but they didn't really go there. Instead, we just got one subpar song after another with non-funny interstitials. Sometimes the best sketches get cut for time, but in this case, we can't argue with this choice.
Covid Dinner Discussion
A recurrence of the recent sketches where a group of friends have a tough conversation, gingerly talking about things only to cross the line and have ridiculously cartoonish reactions. Those reactions reached new heights with Kenan Thompson's tie rolling up, Kate McKinnon putting tiny closing elevator doors over her face and Heidi Gardner actually snapping herself away with Thanos' Infinity Gauntlet. But the point still stands strong that we should force ourselves to face difficult conversations, so we applaud them for powering through this one questioning the effectiveness of mask mandates and all our Covid caution. Will we ever know what was effective and what wasn't? Will it really matter in the long run? Will we ever be able to talk about it, or other politicized topics, without being afraid?
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It's rare these days for a sketch to flow seamlessly into the next one, but this was cleverly managed by having some of the Five-Timers watching Paul Rudd and John Mulaney in tonight's Please Don't Destroy sketch on the video monitor. They were joined by Candice Bergen, Steve Martin, Tina Fey, Elliot Gould, and even Conan O'Brien. We were dying over Steve's commitment to his smarmy blowhard persona, holding his pipe backwards and calling John Megan Mullally. Conan O'Brien was an absolute mess in the shaky sketch that featured a lot of flubbed lines and jockeying (literally) for position, but it's always great to see some of the "SNL" greats. This might have been repurposed from Paul's Five-Timer episode that was half-scrapped after half the cast caught Covid, and it definitely appears to have been originally written as a Cold Open. So basically, it was a nostalgia-filled, applause-dominated mess that we still somewhat adored, with the fun twist that the Club is getting full, so someone is going to have to leave for John to join. Who will it be?
The whole joke was how very white John Mulaney is at a Black family reunion, but upended because he seemed to know everyone in Ego Nwodim's family and was right in there with them for all the Black cultural comments about Covid, child-rearing and even unique variations of the Cupid Shuffle dance. It was all very wholesome and coming together in a way that was extremely positive and uplifting, while still being very charming and sweet. John's confidence in that setting was underplayed, and what really made it work was that race was never overtly discussed, though it was an obvious point in the comedy.
Please Don't Destroy: Good Variant
As much as Covid dominated the discussion for two years, it looks like its apparent winding down is going to dominate "SNL" as well. That said, we were loving the silliness of this exploration of a new variant that only makes you feel "dope" with some fun cameos with Paul Rudd -- back to help John Mulaney celebrate his Five-Timers Club induction (and enjoy his own) -- and Al Roker. As usual on a Mulaney episode, it just continues to get goofier and goofier. We found ourselves waiting for the dark twist, but it just never happened. Maybe that's the show's way of showing optimism that we really will emerge from this.
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An "Oops! All Jokes" edition of "Weekend Update" was certainly unexpected and unusual, but thankfully Colin Jost and Michael Che packed it wall-to-wall. We found ourselves laughing plenty, even in the absence of any guests for the first time in years -- not counting that weird Rudd episode. They went in pretty hard on Russia, Trump, Prince Andrew, the new anal condom, the guy who stuck a AA batter in his penis and, surprisingly, "yo mama." We're not saying this is a format we'd prefer they stick to, but if the jokes are funny, we can handle six minutes solid of them. It would be interesting to find out how and why this happened, though? Too many good sketches? Or maybe it was because we knew we were going to need room for John Mulaney's latest installment of his musical ode to New York (questionable food).
Monologue: John Mulaney
John Mulaney went all in on intervention and subsequent sobriety in a very funny stand-up monologue where he introduced the idea of a drug addict turning an innocent person into a drug dealer, and blamed the January 6 insurrection on him being on the inside and thus unavailable to stop it. He talked a little bit about his new baby Malcolm, sharing the moment he knew for certain, "That's my son." It was all classic Mulaney humor delivered in his inimitable style and a great way to set the mood for the fun to come. Mulaney is such a unique host, bringing his own strange sensibility to the comedy, so there's no better way to prepare us.
When you talk over-the-top on a John Mulaney-hosted "SNL," you have to be talking bout his New York musical series. The latest installment was triggered by Andrew Dismukes wanting to by a seriously sketchy churro from a trembling Melissa Villasenor in the subway.. From there we got parodies of half a dozen musicals and appearances from more than half the cast, and musical guest LCD Soundsystem. As much fun as it was to hear Cecily Strong's strung-out-on-bath-salts lady threaten to eat faces, we have to give it up for Kate McKinnon as a puddle of mystery liquid seeping toward your shoe. It's so bizarre every time, and yet this has probably become the sketch we most look forward to when John hosts.
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Cut for Time: Podcast Set
A clear poke at Joe Rogan, John Mulaney gets fired for saying offensive things on his podcast only to learn there's a new product that doesn't record all the awful things in his head that he just feels he needs to say. The whole premise was pretty cute with a Fisher-Price motif, but the sketch reached its full potential when Heidi Gardner, as John's wife, catches him broadcasting his racist, misogynist offensive podcast on his new "toy." It's got a great twist ending that makes it an instant classic, and totally appropriate for the type of idiots who really do feel their offensive "white guy" perspective is needed out there.
Blue River Dog Food
A perfect parody of all those pretentious dog food (and cat food) ads that shame pet owners for daring to offer their fur baby anything other than this particular brand of dog food, Cecily Strong was perfectly cast as the doting dog owner ready to get "Karen" all over Heidi Gardner for daring not to spend $70+ on a small bag of dog food. As expected with John Mulaney's involvement, it got deeply weird by the end of it. Even though we knew it was going to end with a fake ad tag, the fact that all of the absurdity and over-the-top drama we'd just seen would be broadcast as a dog food commercial was even funnier.
Nickelodeon: Behind the Slime
A brilliant concept for a "Behind the Music" parody, looking back at the classic Nickelodeon show "You Can't Do That on Television" and the birth of the green slime that would become the network's signature goop. The early looks at the evolution of sliming were perfectly paired with incredibly non-PC and sexist children's content. We weren't laughing so much when rock solid slime bonked Cecily Strong on the head, but when Sarah Sherman and John Mulaney were getting blasted in the face over and over, we found ourselves chuckling and we were laughing out loud when it only got worse for Kyle Mooney and Mikey Day. Chris Redd, as Nick Cannon, got some jokes in about all his kids, but his ad libs with that faulty fake mustache were actually funnier.
With a deadpan delivery, John Mulaney had us rolling with his subdued descriptions of his monkey feelings and reactions to the court proceedings in a trial about another monkey injuring Melissa Villasenor. It escalated to pure lunacy and yet never lost its internal logic. It also didn't go the more obvious route of physical aggression or violence, which we absolutely appreciate. Keeping things in that same calm demeanor throughout only heightened the humor and silliness of the whole thing, which John held together effortlessly.
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PLAYER OF THE WEEK
When you add in the Cut-for-Time sketches, this one becomes a pretty tight two-woman race. Heidi Gardner is so good at playing exasperated, she single-handedly elevated an already strong commercial parody to near classic status with the Fisher-Price podcast set.
Add to that her exasperated dog owner and her disappearing act in the Covid discussion, not to mention her swinging sister in another Cut-for-Time sketch and it was a very strong night for her. But she couldn't touch Cecily Strong's range and commitment.
While Heidi was very funny in the dog food commercial, Cecily Strong was so dramatically perfect, we were feeling every bit of her ridiculous advocacy to the point she was driving us crazy! She got to show off her pipes in the latest New York musical piece and had us cracking up by sucking up to John Mulaney's monkey judge.
"Saturday Night Live" returns next week with host Oscar Isaac and musical guest Charli XCX.