More Treats, Less Tricks On ‘SNL’ Halloween Episode, Thanks To Guest Host John Mulaney’s Steady Hand

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Former Saturday Night Live writer John Mulaney returned to guest host the show for his fourth time, this time on Halloween.

What’s The Deal With The SNL Cold Open for 10/31/20?

Nary a mention nor an appearance by anyone resembling a Trump, for that might be too scary for the show’s viewers this Halloween? Well, Jim Carrey’s Joe Biden does hold up a copy of Donald Trump, Jr.’s book, Triggered, but only to show how triggering that feels, before pivoting to Poe. Edgar Allan Poe. The 19th century American master of the macabre. We’re playing off of Poe’s epic 1845 poem, “The Raven,” with updated lyrics about Trump and the election. Kate McKinnon as the ghost of election past Hillary Clinton swoops in with a cape and some rhymes (e.g. “we lost before” and “just like Al Gore”), and even Mikey Day as Nate Silver (if you know who this is, then you’ve spent way too much time looking at electoral polls and odds) offers up “I was wrong before.”

Eventually they lose the rhyming scheme, and just shuffle in more timely jabs at Ice Cube and Lil Wayne (Kenan Thompson and Chris Redd, respectively) for supporting Trump at this late hour, at Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (Beck Bennett) because his skin has turned purple for real, and also an appearance by Sen. Kamala Harris (Maya Rudolph) to shore things up.

We’re not quite at the point where we have to imagine Jim Carrey playing the piano and morbidly singing “Hallelujah” next week, but he’s going to get in some last words so he can joyfully scream “Hallelujah” instead.

His two quips before the inevitable “Live from New York…”

  1. “We have to come together, like two butt cheeks, to stop the crap.”
  2. “Let’s gain an hour and lose a president.”

It’s the end of Daylight Savings Time, y’all. Please make a note of it, even if your tech hasn’t already.

How Did The SNL Guest Host John Mulaney Do?



It’s Mulaney’s fourth time hosting SNL, and the first three times have taught us to expect a long, funny monologue, a long, funny musical tribute to New York City, and sharply written sketches in between.

So how about that monologue? Definitely sharper and funnier than the two stand-up comedians who had hosted earlier in the season (sorry, Chris Rock and Bill Burr, but it’s true), but still managed to be slightly divisive?

Fans of New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (or Cuomo himself) might take issue with Mulaney’s take on watching Cuomo’s daily press conferences on TV throughout the spring and summer, describing them as a reality show about an Italian-American empty nester quarantining with his daughters: “He learns a lot about being a father, and a little bit about being a governor.”

Folks who’ve become heavily invested psychologically and emotionally in the election might not find solace in Mulaney’s assessment of what he described as “an elderly man contest,” in which he says: “Just rest assured, no matter what happens, nothing much will change in the United States.” I don’t know if it’s possible to deliver that line with less sarcasm? Of course, Mulaney immediately follows that up with this characterization of life after the 2020 election: “The rich will continue to prosper while the poor languish, families will be upended by mental illness and drug addiction, Jane Lynch will continue to book lots of projects, and when she does, she’ll deliver.” Perhaps it’s merely a sign of how much anxiety is felt in the households of everyone I know right now, but this didn’t cheer us up, nor did his funny ha-ha suggestions for making voting fun. I don’t know. Perhaps there’s nothing he could have said in this time and place that actually would’ve sounded reassuring AND funny, but I would’ve liked to think that if anyone could’ve found the words, it would’ve been Mulaney? After all, Mulaney has provided us with some of the best jokes describing Trump, including his “horse loose in a hospital” bit.

In fact, he does pivot into observations that find broader appeal, including a good-natured jab at people who are as old as his 94-year-old grandmother. “I don’t think maybe she should vote,” Mulaney quips, adding: “You don’t get to order for the table when you’re about to leave the restaurant.”

As far as his performance in other sketches, he brings his observational focus to good effect on Alfred Hitchcock’s 1963 horror film, The Birds, with Reese De’What (Thompson) showing us alternate versions of the scene in which Tippi Hedren (McKinnon) gets trapped in a phone booth, only this time she has placed a call to a police officer (Mulaney) who can’t quite get a handle on the bird situation.



Here’s the real scene, btw.



There’s also a pre-taped sketch that starts out as a music video with a 1970s vibe about “Strollin’ To The Polls,” except our strollers (Thompson, Redd, Ego Nwodim and Punkie Johnson) keep getting thwarted by Mulaney as different white guys closing down the polling locations. Funny because it’s true, but also sad that it’s true, so you laugh through your tears of sadness and not happy tears? I don’t know.



Immediately after the “Strollin’” sketch, though, came this announcement…trollin’?

It being Halloween, we also were treated to a new take on “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow,” in which Ichabod Crane (Mulaney) wonders why the Headless Horseman (Bennett) doesn’t take advantage of his situation for sexual gratification. Eventually other men from the town join in the questioning, and it somehow ends in a joke that’s described off-camera as essentially sexual assault if you stop to think about it for more than a second.



How Relevant Was The Musical Guest?

The Strokes released a new album in April called The New Abnormal and 2020 called and says the shoe still fits. The only way the band could have been more relevant? Had they played their “Ode to the Mets,” seeing as Major League Baseball owners just OK’d the sale of the New York Mets to new owner Steve Cohen on Friday. But no. No such inside baseball treat for us.

For their first song of the evening, they performed the album’s opening track, “Adults Are Talking.”



For their second song, they performed “Bad Decisions.” And yes, I thought they were going to cover “I Melt With You,” too. That’s my bad decision to bear.



Which Sketch Will We Be Sharing?

While the pre-taped bits about voting or New York City might have their avid fans, to be sure, the pièce de résistance of a Mulaney-led SNL episode is his “only in New York” musical tribute set to the greatest hits of Broadway.

In each of his previous stints hosting, he revealed the inner workings of diner menus at Big Nick’s Greek Diner with “Diner Lobster,” asking to use the bathroom at Big Nick’s Bodega in “Bodega Bathroom,” and what happens when you want to eat packaged sushi at LaGuardia with “Airport Sushi.” Always the customers, Redd acts reasonably while Pete Davidson makes the outrageous request of Mulaney’s store owner, and Thompson starts the musical medley. And this time, they’re in Big Nick’s Souvenirs store in Times Square, where Davidson inexplicably wants to try on a pair of “I ❤️️ NY” tighty-whitey underpants. Cue the music! Cue the Times Square mascots!



It’s Halloween, so it’s gotta be mascots, right? Right! With Bowen Yang as Batman, Melissa Villasenor as Minnie Mouse, Lauren Holt as Elsa, Alex Moffat as Elmo, McKinnon as the Bubba Gump shrimp, Bennett as the “diddler on the roof,” Rudolph as the Statue of Liberty, Chloe Fineman as the woman from Westchester with obvious COVID-19 symptoms, and Mikey Day as the guy looking to mug Rick Moranis again?

Who Stopped By Weekend Update?

Even Weekend Update felt sharper this week with anchors/head writers Colin Jost (newly married to ScarJo!) and Michael Che going in harder than usual on the election with only three days to go.

That said, that left them with time for only one visitor to the Update desk this week, and that visitor would be…



Baby Yoda, of course! Season two of The Mandalorian just premiered Friday, so Kyle Mooney showed up to continue Baby Yoda’s beef with Baby Groot, and also make a Joe Rogan podcast reference (with photo!) in an effort to move some cannabis merchandise. Anyone in the market for some Dago-Bud, Wookie Cookies, or Jabba the Kombucha CBD?

What Sketch Filled The “10-to-1” Slot?



Hi, it’s 12:57 a.m., do you know where your 10-to-1 sketch is?

It’s the return of the Uncle Meme routine from Mulaney’s previous visit in February, only somehow Uncle Ron still decided to hire his nephew Tyler (Davidson) as the new intern at his company, Brenner Goods. Talk about “Bad Decisions,” am I right, The Strokes?  Turns out Uncle Ron’s dating profile had some good reasons to get himself roasted, after all.

Who Was The Episode’s MVP?

Mulaney’s a rising tide who lifts all boats at SNL, making everyone funnier.

If anyone shined more than anyone else among the cast, or held things together just a little bit more, then we’d have to pick Kate McKinnon. She played vital roles in four sketches (Hillary in the cold open, Tippi Hedren in The Birds send-up, and the Bubba Gump Shrimp soloist in the musical number), none more central to the premise working than her lady of a certain age who spends so much time in Central Park because, frankly, that’s how she stays New York Strong.



Next Saturday, SNL is feeling frisky and not the least bit superstitious, inviting Dave Chappelle back to host, as he did the Saturday after the 2016 presidential election. Double or nothing?!

Sean L. McCarthy works the comedy beat for his own digital newspaper, The Comic’s Comic; before that, for actual newspapers. Based in NYC but will travel anywhere for the scoop: Ice cream or news. He also tweets @thecomicscomic and podcasts half-hour episodes with comedians revealing origin stories: The Comic’s Comic Presents Last Things First.

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