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Host of the Year? John Mulaney’s First SNL Hosting Gig is a Major Success

John Mulaney SNL
Photo Credit: Will Heath/NBC

Saturday Night Live Review: John Mulaney (host), Jack White (musical guest) with Ben Stiller, and Robert DeNiro

Written by Melissa Jouben & Mark Henely

The Host – John Mul(v)aney 

Melissa: Why can’t a comedian host every episode? It’s always such a treat to have a host go into the writer’s room with an idea of what will work and what won’t, and what they SHOULD do as opposed to what they WANT to do – although there was a lot of wants in this episode that didn’t diminish the quality. Again, this is probably because Mulaney is a comedian and spend quite a few years in that room as a writer himself. It’s also the most relaxing thing to go into a comedian-led episode of SNL knowing that the monologue will be good and won’t feel as though it’s dragging on forever. Mulaney is an amazing comedian, and whichever jokes weren’t fantastic were at least great.

As a performer, as someone performing sketch comedy on live tv, was he amazing? Not AS much. A little bit of flubbing here and there. Nothing too major, but enough that it was noticeable. I think running over your own lines is usually a sign of nervousness, and pretty much always seen in a first-time host, so it’s not unexpected, though it is interesting because he seemed otherwise pretty confident in himself.

And he should be; he was still great, his lines were almost all hilariously delivered, and it was a lot of fun to see him return to the show that helped him make a name for himself, this time as host. I really don’t know what else to say, because it’s John Mulaney and at this point his name (or the name John Mulvaney depending on who you talk to, Darrell Hammond) is synonymous with high-caliber comedy. 

Should I talk about the cold open while I’m here? I’m embarrassed that I didn’t realize what was happening until Robert De Niro asked “would you milk me?” That was the point where I was like, “Oh! Yeah! These two were in a movie together once.” In the cold open, Stiller plays Trump’s attorney Michael Cohen, being given a lie detector test by Robert Mueller (De Niro). It, at some point, turns into that bit from Meet The Parents. I fully don’t understand why or how the show was able to bring Ben Stiller and De Niro together just to rehash that famous scene, but they managed it.

Mark: I didn’t recognize De Niro either. My first thought was that John Goodman looked different.

Mark’s Favorite Sketch – Drag Brunch

Mark: I love that we live in a time where, on a mainstream television show, a man can dress in drag in a sketch and have the joke be something other than that there is a man in a dress. In this sketch, Mulaney plays a sassy drag queen who insults all of the patrons at a drag brunch where the selling point is the insults. Mulaney‘s character insults everyone at the table good naturedly except for Alex Moffat, who he gets viscous with for being an entitled rich guy. This sketch made me laugh very hard. Moffat plays a very funny rich guy and this whole thing was just great (except for the end of the sketch. It could have had a better ending, but that doesn’t negate the good time we had).

Melissa’s Favorite Sketch – Diner Lobster

Melissa: On Twitter, Mulaney explained that this (as well as “Sitcom Reboot”) were sketches written during his original time as a writer that never made it past the table read. He brought them back and they were given more or less full attention here. It’s kind of unthinkable to me that this idea was something that got rejected in 2011, because it is SOLID. If anything it had to have been because of the high production value, right? My sister and I watched this in complete awe and couldn’t stop remarking “if this is the third sketch of the night, what is the 10-to-1 sketch going to look like?” Nothing managed to top it, but what a blessing that we were treated to this insanity so early in the night, or even at all.

The sketch is about two guys (Pete Davidson and Chris Redd) who go to a diner. Davidson decides to order the lobster, which he is strongly advised against – since it’s a diner and nobody orders seafood at the diner. He’s steadfast, and so they wheel out the lobster, played by Kenan Thompson, and the whole thing is a Les Miserables parody from this point on. Truly one of the most ambitious and stupid things I’ve seen in a long time. Mulaney’s delivery is deadpan and serious, while most of the rest of the cast members struggle to contain their laughter at points. Honestly, I kept thinking about how if I was in a room with Kenan in that lobster costume, it would be impossible for me not to lose it too.

Melissa’s Least Favorite Sketch – National School Walkout

Melissa: The joke is that one of the students in the class (Mulaney) delays his classmates from participating in the National School Walkout because he has a boner and he doesn’t want anyone to see it. That’s… Pretty much it. I’m confused why that idea – that idea, again, being that a kid gets a boner in class and doesn’t want to stand up – seemed so good to the writers that they had to base a sketch around a national protest that happened last month. It’s SO past the point where this could be seen as topical enough to make sense, so being a month out from the protest, it’s just a sketch about a kid getting a boner, and that’s weird.

Mark: There is something fun, in an existential way, of using the school walkout as backdrop for a silly joke about getting a boner in class.

Mark’s Pick for Weakest Sketch – Horns

Mark: I actually think there is a lot to like in this sketch. Luke Null plays a goth who (along with John Mulaney as the Doctor) tires to explain to his girlfriend (played by Heidi Garnder) that he is going to get his horn implants removed. I liked the premise of the sketch, the world it inhabits, and I like the performers, but I just get the feeling that the audience doesn’t have a sense of who Luke Null is.

I’m always interested in which cast members catch on with the audience and which ones don’t. I think Heidi has been used very well this season, but Luke hasn’t been around in that many things and the audience doesn’t seem to know how to take him when he is there. I think this sketch would have gone much better if the crowd had a stronger relationship with the performer. Here is hoping that he can find a way to connect better moving forward. I’m rooting for him.

Musical Guest – Jack White

Melissa: I mean, it’s Jack White. How do you think it went?

Mark: I love the White Stripes was open to enjoy his performance tonight. Ultimately, I felt that he should let his hair grow a little longer. I’d like to see that hair go past those shoulders.


Pop-Break Staff
Pop-Break Staffhttps://thepopbreak.com
Founded in September 2009, The Pop Break is a digital pop culture magazine that covers film, music, television, video games, books and comics books and professional wrestling.


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