John Mulaney Saves SNL from Pete Davidson Drama

Pop Culture

John Mulaney brought the joy on SNL this week—from his eight-minute standup monologue to the made-for-cubicle haircut that launched a thousand memes to a show-stopping Broadway stomper that brought out Jake Gyllenhaal singing a Wicked showtune. Mulaney even slapped on a white wig and American flag pin to play a recently lifted Joe Biden in the episode’s cold open. It’s been a long week of paranoia: Is it allergies or is it coronavirus? Cancel that spring trip to the west coast or hate yourself for your paranoia? Did my family really early vote or just say they did? John Mulaney was the cure for what’s ailing us.

How good was he? He appeared to singlehandedly rescue Pete Davidson from the awkwardness of the hurting comedian’s lengthy comments about feeling unsupported by his SNL cast mates in a recent interview. In a clever promo, the friends winked gracefully at Davidson’s numskull reputation; rather than lean into Davidson’s issues on the show proper, they was put in the rear view. Davidson appeared in two sketches, in both of which he interacted first with Mulaney. He seemed, for the first time all season, to be taking actual pleasure in the work. This time around, there were no passive aggressive back-and-forths at the “Weekend Update” desk, and no no sly digital short, either.

And what a relief that was, really. This was a night to bask in the majesty of Mulaney and the outrageous beauty of musical guest David Byrne. Why sully all the goodness afoot with inter-show sniping?

Speaking of Sully: in the best skit of the night (the season!), Kenan Thompson sang Phantom of the Opera while wearing a goose suit, downy tail sticking out the back of his tuxedo jacket. As one of the geese that took down hero Sully’s plane, he was part of a Broadway fever dream triggered by Davidson gambling on a spicy tuna roll at a LaGuardia kiosk. Sushi chef Cecily Strong joined Thompson’s Phantom of LaGuardia, and warned him he’d be better off eating Wuhan slake.

Mulaney did West Side Story, reveling in a snapping riff of “I Like to Wait in LaGuardia.” Kate McKinnon threw on a red wig, a high pitch and an Auntie Annie’s pretzel apron. Bowen Yang gave us full Little Shop of Horrors–“Profiled Asian, standing beside you!’ And Jake Gyllenhaal, whose muscles were framed exquisitely by those pajamas, took to the air “Defying Gravity.” Just when you thought life couldn’t get bette,r David Byrne joined the fun in a baggage claim vest. He led what must have been damn near the whole cast in a marching spoof of “Road to Nowhere” offstage. What a time to be alive!

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