Saturday Night Live Recap Season 45, Episode 14: John Mulaney and Coronavirus

It was leap day on “Saturday Night Live” (for the first time ever, apparently) and John Mulaney was leaping with joy. Well maybe standing with a wry smirk on his face because he’ll use any excuse to get weird.

Hosting for no particular reason than because he’s beloved on this show, damned funny on this show and has history with this show, John brought every bit of his quirky unique approach to humor to an “SNL” that was clearly shaped by his presence.

He even managed to lure in surprise guests like Justin Theroux and Jake Gyllenhaal, but we wouldn’t want to spoil what they’re doing. Plus, in the realm of weird, John took over the Joe Biden impression for the inevitable political cold open.

The problem is that he can’t help but be John Mulaney. The writing was great on the character, but he couldn’t deliver as well as Jason Sudeikis — or even Woody Harrelson, who wasn’t great in it.

Now, Woody took it on when he hosted and then came back a few times before handing the reins to Jason. So is this John taking over the role for now, or was Jason just unavailable? Here’s hoping for the latter, because we just like John Mulaney better doing what he does best … elaborate musical numbers based on bizarre New York-isms.

The trilogy was concluded (or at least continued) this week from its bodega bathroom origins through its diner lobster to its inevitable climax with LaGuardia airport sushi. And yes, it was as glorious and disturbing as the previous editions … though slightly less nightmare-inducing.

This week also saw some incredible makeup and prosthetics work on a male stripper sketch, and if you were wondering how much “SNL” would talk about Coronavirus, the answer is a lot. As in, a lot! As in there was even a cut sketch all about it, but don’t worry, we’ve got it here. In fact, two sketches didn’t make it to air, but we’ve got both in the mix below.

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.

The Admiral

A reprise of an older sketch with Aidy Bryant and Kate McKinnon vying for the Admiral’s (Beck Bennett) affections, John Mulaney’s “twink” sailor was the real problem here as the Admiral was clearly into him. The best parts of this sketch comes when the girls are sabotaging one another, and their attempts to sabotage (or kill) John just fell really flat for us. Perhaps it’s because we knew were this was going, or they didn’t lean far enough into John’s “gay hot,” but the laughs fell pretty flat once he showed up.

CUT FOR TIME: Love Is Blind

With the viral sensation of Netflix’s “Love Is Blind,” it was an obvious target for parody, though we’re not sure the Coronavirus angel was even necessary to have fun with this one. In fact, it made the writing even lazier because rather than poke fun at the show itself or the over-the-top nature of these couples getting engaged without ever having seen one another, they could simply write in coughing or talking about being sick. It had its moments, but we feel it could have been much sharper.

Sound of Music: Rolf and Lies!

In Austria “1930-bad,” John Mulaney’s rapidly advancing age should be the least of 16-year-old Liesl’s (Cecily Strong) worries as he tries to woo her and remind us that we’re really not supposed to think too hard about these classic old movies because some of them have a lot of really creepy elements to them. But the costumes and singing are nice, right? This was a fun way to mock the awkwardness of way too many movies when it comes to younger women and older men, because everything goes down smoother in verse and this gets less palatable with each passing year. Perhaps that’s why this went down as more uncomfortable than gut-busting funny.

Kyle’s Transformation

Kyle Mooney actually got Justin Theroux to show up as his personal trainer in this ridiculous bit about him trying to get ripped (in one week!) so he can appear as a male stripper in one of John Mulaney’s sketches. While the sketch itself was just zany enough to be pretty funny, if we’re being totally honest, the real star of this piece was the incredible makeup and prosthetics work to slowly beef up Kyle throughout the week. Honestly, his arms looked incredibly real through most of this and it was a seamless fake body they put on him, not to mention that jawline!

Jackie Robinson

This sketch took weird to a whole new level, with Kenan Thompson portraying the first black man in history to boo for Jackie Robinson — because his ex-wife thought he was handsome. The crowd shots featured Kenan arguing with fans about Jackie’s skills on the field as Ego Nwodim narrated. It strayed into racial tensions and obvious social issues from the era with clever directness, but it was still more strange than anything else.

COLD OPEN: Coronavirus

“Some of the best people left in government” join Mike Pence’s (Beck Bennett) task force to tackle Coronavirus like Dr. Ben Carson (Kenan Thompson) who let us know, “It’s gonna be bad!” He plays him like such a naughty little minx, you almost forget how much fun some of the political characters on the right can be with all the time we’ve spent on the Democratic field. Nevertheless, Fred Armisen’s Mike Bloomberg was still on hand as they started taking over, including Larry David’s Bernie Sanders, Rachel Dratch’s Amy Klobuchar, Colin Jost’s Pete Buttigieg and Kate McKinnon’s Elizabeth Warren, who “may be fifth in the poles,” but she’s “number one in [Bloomberg’s] nightmares.” John Mulaney inexplicably took over as Joe Biden and he was very … John Mulaney? We were almost excited that this wouldn’t be another sketch with the candidates going at each other before it became exactly that, but if we’re totally honest, we could watch Kate’s Warren insult Bloomberg for five minutes straight.


So the point of this sketch was for John Mulaney’s host to destroy the self-confidence of his guests who’ve overcome their insecurities by making them absolutely focus on them all over again. Plus, it gave Cecily Strong the chance to act alongside animals again, which seems to be something she gets a kick out of. And this kitty with a poodle skirt was so-o-o-o-o cute! She was so happy, at least until John’s character made her second-guess her choice to leave the security of a high-paying job to pursue this cat-skirt dream. This one reveled in its awkwardness to beautiful effect, creating a sense of comfort with us that we were able endure a minute of total silence in it … plus, the cat gave great face!

MONOLOGUE: John Mulaney

You can always count on comedians to simply do a bit of stand-up for their monologue, and John Mulaney has always delivered in this area. He did bits about Boomer fathers, Leap Day, the Founding Fathers and making a Make-a-Wish kid’s actual dream come true. Every bit of it was charming and there were even a few laugh-out-loud moments throughout, which is just what you want to ease into what’s sure to be another wacky night of strange sketches with him hosting.

Uncle Meme

Pete Davidson took lead in a generational gag that pulls the curtain back on what it must be like to be the butt of a viral meme … i.e., it’s gotta suck so bad, man! John Mulaney plays his poor uncle, who has been forever cursed and memed now as #WhiteVirgin in a series of disturbing memes … but none so bad as the one Pete started with. We loved the generational shift between the parents and their kids, who get and appreciate the memes a whole lot more. And we love it when “SNL” turns its big lens on small topics like this, because there is a dark side to these memes for the people immortalized in their worst light and twisted into something far worse. Also, tbh, some of those memes were pretty funny.

Weekend Update

Michael Che got a few groans comparing him cracking jokes about Coronavirus if he were to ultimately contract it to if there was footage of Steve Irwin making stingray jokes. Then, Colin Jost tried to make “Trump Slump” a thing — referring to the stock market record points drop — in the same way Trump always says “everyone” is saying whatever really only Trump is saying. What we’re saying is the boys were a little off the rails this week and we loved every bit of it. Did you know Che might have a kid? His no-f–ks-given collapse was easily the highlight of the entire segment.

Chris Redd was on fire, tearing apart what does objectively seem like it may be one of the worst Black History Month celebrations in recent memory. From bizarre marketing misfires one after the other to the bizarre boxing costuming like it’s the WWE to the bizarre face Trump made during a prayer, Chris tore into all of it with gusto and a total command of the moment and the stage. As “SNL” sees a cast transition looming, Chris is one of the bright stars poised to help usher in the next era of greatness … at least we hope it’ll be great!

Che kept going strong, laughing at Colin’s jokes and half-assing his way through his own and we absolutely loved this persona. Plus, Eric Trump’s Charmin bear trap is pretty funny stuff. We feel ya there! Seriously, can we have Che not give a crap and deliver the news holding a tumbler of alcohol for the rest of the season? We are here for it!

Airport Sushi

Finally, the next chapter in the Mulaney “weird” trilogy. First, it was bodega bathroom, then diner lobster, and now we’ve got airport sushi. All the things we think we’d never want turned into some of the most delicious — and surreal — comedy we’ve ever seen. This turned into a total trashing of LaGuardia Airport complete with giant rats and “Li’l Orphan Auntie Annie” (Kate McKinnon). As always, the full cast gets involved in these extravagant musical numbers and every moment is pure bliss. Jake Gyllenhaal even got in on the fun to bring the insanity to (literal) new heights, while musical guest David Byrne was the legendary baggage handler who tosses everyone’s suitcase into Long Island Sound. Filled with musical parodies, every single one of these oddball sketches is totally different, exactly the same, and comedy perfection.


You could tell that John Mulaney and Pete Davidson are pals, because suddenly Pete was in two separate sketches with prominent — dare we say lead — roles in each of them. It’s the most engaged he’s looked pretty much all season.

On a pretty balanced night overall, though, we have to acknowledge workhorse Beck Bennett, who appeared across eight sketches and really manages to bring a lot to even the smallest parts. He’s their go-to straight man but also down to be as ridiculous as a giant baby in the airport sushi sketch.

He played buffoonish racist perfectly in the Jackie Robinson sketch, disapproving father in Meme, a hapless lover in the “Love Is Blind” parody, ripped on Kyle relentlessly in the stripper bit and manages to elevate his part in the Admiral sketches perfectly; this time by fawning over John Mulaney’s “twink” sailor.

Like Phil Hartman, Beck has become a versatile utility player for the show, able to step into almost any situation and find the laughs in it. On top of that, he can play the straight man to whatever zaniness they cook up, and he’s got the perfect voice for narration. It’s easy to see why he shows up so much, and this week it lands him our coveted POW (we know he’s honored!).

“Saturday Night Live” continues next week with host Daniel Craig and musical guest The Weeknd.

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