Trumps sad-sack ex-lawyer is rich territory and John Mulaney a fine host: this is the best of the season
As expected, we open with Michael Cohen (Ben Stiller) providing testimony to Congress, a turn of events that for any other president would be the most damning and humiliating moment of their lives, but for Trump its just Wednesday.
Of all the guest stars the show has tapped to play Trumps cohorts and/or enemies, Stiller is the most consistently funny. Playing up the disgraced lawyers flop-sweat squirliness, hes actually managed to craft a real character, which is more than can be said of Robert DeNiros dull Robert Mueller or even Alec Balwdins hammy Trump. Stiller is able to present Cohen as a hapless, almost sympathetic sap, while never letting you forget hes also a fool and a liar whos ruined hundreds of peoples lives.
Great as Stiller is, though, the sketch is stolen by Bill Hader, who lampoons angry Trump cheerleader Jim Jordan.
Former SNL writer turned standup megastar John Mulaney hosts for the second time. For his monologue, he delivers a mini-routine. Topics include being raised in the Catholic Church (dont Google us), old-fashioned police sirens that sound like an old, gay cat was dying, and an awkward run-in with Woody Allen while taking his dog Petunia out for a stroll in a literal stroller.
Hader shows up again as host of Whats That Name, a gameshow in which contestants simply have to guess other peoples names. Contestants Doug (Mulaney) and Courtney (Cecily Strong) nail the first questions, correctly identifying celebrities Chrissie Teigen and Lil Xan, but fall short when theyre asked to name people specifically women from their actual lives. Haders sadistic needling of the contestants misogyny adds a deeper layer to the proceedings, as does the revelation of his true motive: In a word chaos. Its a heavy contender not only for sketch of the night, but sketch of the season.
Legal Shark Tank is a version of the reality show in which guests vie for legal representation from porn lawyer Michael Avenatti, former prosecutor and current Fox News banshee Jeanine Pirro, scourge of Marthas Vineyard Alan Dershowitz and the man, the myth, the leper, Rudi Giuliani, as well as jingle-famous injury attorneys Celino & Barnes. Contestants include New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft, fresh off his arrest on charges of of soliciting prostitution, and Empire star Jussie Smollett, who has recently broken humanity. Its a funny sketch but it goes by too quickly. The Kraft and Smollet stories deserve far greater savaging.
Next up is a parody of voyeuristic horror movies like Scream and Saw. A masked killer attempts to intimidate an aloof slacker (Pete Davidson) who has zero conception of the danger hes in. Davidson is at his best leaning into his stoner persona and Mulaney is wonderful as the unhinged slasher.
Cha Cha Slide stars Mulaney and Ego Nwodim as an interracial couple. He joins her on the dance floor at her cousins wedding and expresses his nervousness about meeting her family, only to reveal that he has surprisingly deep roots in the black community. Its an impressive turn by Mulaney and Nwodim, who effortlessly deliver their lines while keeping in step with the minutes-long dance routine.
Thomas Rhett takes the stage and performs the song Look What God Gave her, then Weekend Update kicks off with Colin Jost comparing Cohen to the German rat that got stuck in a sewer grate and went viral. Michael Che is sick of Cohens damsel in distress routine. He gives the president far more credit, saying at least Donald Trump has the decency to slowly fall apart until hes dragged off in handcuffs, like a BOSS. I mean, thats how I want to leave SNL.
They make fun of Trumps unhinged two-hour CPAC speech from earlier in the day, especially the patriotic #MeToo moment in which he hugged the American flag like Lenny from Of Mice and Men.
They welcome meat farming sisters Valetta and Wylene Starkley. Kate McKinnon and Aidy Bryant play the feisty Texan siblings and find themselves continuously cracking up. They can hardly be blamed, given that a plate of meat used as a prop has clearly gone bad (even Jost comments on the stench). Its a doubly unhinged performance that is actually made funnier by the fourth-wall breaking.
Bodega Man is an enjoyably silly and gross parody of a number of musicals, centered around a bodega bathroom and featuring full-on renditions of tunes from Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, Little Shop of Horrors, Cats and Rent. Along with Whats That Name, this is the standout sketch. The entire cast (including Mulaney) shines, and the choreography, set-design and use of costumes and special effects is top notch.
A new entry in the always-enjoyable Cinema Classics (hosted by film historian and worlds worst husband Reese DeWhat [Keenan Thompson]) features a lost scene from To Have and Have Not. McKinnon plays Lauren Bacall, who attempts to seduce Humphrey Bogart only to find, much to her chagrin and his horror, that she cant play sexy to save her life. Rhett then closes with Dont Threaten Me with a Good Time.
Thanks to Mulaneys ace hosting abilities, and Haders welcome return, this is the best episode of the season.
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