Saturday Night Live, Sunday Night or Later: Episode 13


General Overview:
“When I walked into my intervention, I knew right away that it was an intervention. Do you know how bad of a drug problem you have to have if when you open a door and see people gathering your first thought is ‘this is probably an intervention about my drug problem?’”
—John Mulaney, 2/26/22

Going into this episode, I was curious and a little bit nervous to see how “Saturday Night Live” would adapt to the major global geopolitical issue of the moment. But, as far as I can tell, they handled it spectacularly.

The episode started off forgoing its cold open, which is most often a satirization of current events; instead, it began with the hymn “Prayer For Ukraine” from the Ukrainian Chorus Dumka of New York and a candle arrangement spelling out the name of the Ukrainian capital, Kyiv.

But this somber opener was not merely placed haphazardly onto a wild and tone-deaf comedic set; rather, SNL embraced the mood of this opening and the world by weaving it into the episode as a whole. Mulaney’s monologue, for example, focused on overcoming his drug addictions, but he managed to give the sober subject a tempered levity that felt well-placed.

This isn’t to say that there wasn’t any humor all night—far from it. The sketches (even the weird ones) just had less spastic energy and were more controlled than chaotic. They somehow successfully slid an intense discussion of the relaxing COVID-19 restrictions (“COVID Dinner Discussion”) in the same episode as a sketch about green slime of all consistencies attacking ‘80s teenage actors (“Nickelodeon Show”).

Mulaney’s trademark deadpan fit nicely into the episode’s tone, keeping it grounded and only going over the top when it was worth it (more on that later). In “Monkey Trial,” for instance, Mulaney played Tango the monkey judge, but instead of some of the show’s previous monkey business, this monkey meant business (I’m so sorry). Mulaney described the ridiculousness of monkey behavior in sharp, stern detail that was way more funny than it should have been.

“Weekend Update” was also phenomenal, staying on the fringes of the current conflict but nonetheless delivering one lemon-juice-soaked cut after another to the victims of their jokes.

Surprising no one, as John Mulaney returned for the fifth time, he brought with him several repeated sketches. Surprising me, though, they all landed, like the “Five-Timers Club,” which remains fresh no matter how many times they do it. This time, they even added a cameo from Brookline High School’s own Conan O’Brien.

But of course, there must be one John Mulaney Repeat to rule them all:

Best Sketch:

“Subway Churro.” These musical sketches do not always land for me, but given that this episode came at the end of my February break trip to New York City such that I had been on the MTA that day, I was on the floor by the end of the sketch. (Kind of like Kate McKinnon’s Puddle of Unidentifiable Origin…)

Best Joke:
“Let the record show that I am fairly close to completely losing it.”—John Mulaney

Overall Score: 9/10
Okay, so maybe it wasn’t all serious, but even so, SNL handled the Herculean task of making a comedy show during a land war with a miraculous amount of grace and, thankfully, humor.