The annual appearances of John Mulaney, who this weekend hosted “Saturday Night Live” for the third time in three seasons, have become one of the show’s more enjoyable traditions in this current era of its history. The presence of Mulaney, the former “S.N.L.” writer turned stand-up star and ubiquitous comic talisman (“Oh, Hello,” “Documentary Now!”, “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse”), seems to help loosen up the cast members and bring out their goofiest material. And this time, he had extra help from some co-stars of his latest Netflix special, “John Mulaney & the Sack Lunch Bunch,” including Jake Gyllenhaal and this week’s musical guest, David Byrne.
But first: another opening sketch featuring “S.N.L.”’s now familiar roster of celebrity impressionists playing the Democratic presidential contenders.
The segment was set in the White House, where Vice President Pence (played by Beck Bennett) was holding a news conference to discuss preparations for a widespread outbreak of coronavirus.
Bennett explained, “Most of you know me from the sentence: ‘Even if Trump was removed, we’d still be stuck with Mike Pence.’” He added, “I have to admit, this disease has been quite a test of my faith. Just like dinosaur bones or Timothée Chalamet.”
He brought out Ben Carson (Kenan Thompson), the housing and urban development secretary. “This is something I actually do know about,” Thompson said, “and rest assured, in my expert opinion: It’s going to be bad.”
Then came the questions — not from journalists but from the Democratic nominees.
Fred Armisen, playing Mike Bloomberg, asked, “Doesn’t it seem like a good time to have a president who’s competent and capable, even if that candidate lacks charisma or the ability to connect with human beings?”
Alongside him sprung up Kate McKinnon, as Elizabeth Warren, explaining to Armisen that she would never stop tormenting him. “It’s my job now,” she said. “I follow you around, make your life a living hell. I might be fifth in the polls but I’m number one in your nightmares.”
In the absence of either Woody Harrelson or Jason Sudeikis, the role of former Vice President Joe Biden was played tonight by Mulaney, who boasted, “Guess who just kicked butt in South Cracker Barrel?” He added, “If we want to fight China Cough, we’ve got to be smart. We’ve got to make sure to get new teeth daily.” He also shared what he said was “an honest-to-goodness true story based loosely on fake events” in which he and Nelson Mandela “were palling around South Africa, ‘Green Book’-style.”
Colin Jost played Pete Buttigieg (“I’m a candidate, too, for the next three days”) and Rachel Dratch appeared as Amy Klobuchar, his Midwest rival (“I’m from Minnesota so I will cut you — in line, at Target.”)
McKinnon continued to rattle off negative details about Armisen: “He invented traffic,” she said. “He was responsible for McDonald’s serving spaghetti. He wrote and directed the movie ‘Cats.’”
Meanwhile, David discouraged people from relying on hand sanitizer. “Just use good old fashioned bar soap and scalding hot water,” he said. “Now, I might get in trouble for saying this, but you know who was great at washing his hands? Joseph Stalin.”