In a nutshell: John Mulaney, yes! LCD Soundsystem, boring.
Reflecting on both a chaotic and spectacular year for comedian John Mulaney, his return performance to SNL does just that. Discussing his drug intervention, stint in rehab and the birth of his son, Mulaney describes the year as “complicated,” while telling exuberant stories during his opening monologue. The exciting achievement this episode honored, however, is his fifth time hosting the show, or joining the “five-timer’s club” alongside many other famed comedians. With too many celebrity cameos to count and consistent sketches, John Mulaney’s newest SNL appearance is highly anticipated and quite solid.
Instead of their usual, politically-centered cold open, SNL decided to dedicate this time to honor the atrocity of the invasion of Ukraine. Opening with The Ukrainian Chorus Dumka of New York, the choir performed a short song, “Prayer for Ukraine,” with a candlelit ‘Kyiv’ in front of them. The show did a great job throughout many sketches of keeping things light while making space for the terrifying events of the week.
The first sketch was “Monkey Judge,” Mulaney plays Honorable Judge Tango, juxtaposing a neutral tone while describing monkey limitations within a courtroom. Mulaney always manages to steal the show, like playing a supportive husband in “Cupid Shuffle” and “COVID Dinner Discussion.” Paying homage to timeless Mulaney SNL themes, he brings back the absurd, New York-themed musical with “Subway Churro,” which covers everything from subway stabbings ordered by Giuliani to Jesus wearing a beer helmet.
“Weekend Update” had a particularly hard job to do this week, as Michael Che and Colin Jost typically pull a lot of political content into their segment. Hitting Russian leadership hard, they delicately navigated the Ukraine invasion, mostly focusing on Chernobyl and Trump’s response. Balancing this with the classic strange news headlines and even a “yo mama” joke, “Update” ended up being cut short with no additional interview segments.
Unfortunately, SNL always has a dud or two. “Blue River” was a bit lackluster, yet the low point in the show was LCD Soundsystem’s performance. With a technically spot-on performance, they gave everything and not enough. Playing two throwback songs from 2005, the lead singer, James Murphy, was serving some Morrissey vibes, in a bad way. The stage setup was both strange and boring, as there were excess percussion players, resulting in one dude literally standing in the corner doing nothing for a majority of a song. With both Moog and percussion overkill, their two repetitive songs with dull lyrics were not a great representation of the art-rock genre. If this is the best New York has to offer, thank goodness we don’t live there.
Yet, exciting moments definitely include the numerous celebrity cameos from Paul Rudd, Steve Martin, Candice Bergan, Elliott Gould, Conan O’Brien and Tina Fey, all to honor Mulaney’s induction to the five-timer’s club. Further, LCD Soundsystem makes an additional appearance in a sketch. As usual, there is a surplus of great content as the two cut-for-time sketches, “Podcast Set” and “Family Band” are both fantastic. The most exciting cameo is hands-down John’s new son, Malcolm, whom he poses with in his series of SNL promotion photos for the week. The comedy community clearly went all out for Mulaney’s triumphant return.