Whenever John Mulaney hosts an episode of Saturday Night Live (which has happened every season going back to 2018), you are guaranteed to see three things: a hilarious and sometimes touching opening monologue, a large number of celebrity guests, and some of the best musical skits the show has ever produced.
These fan-favorite skits, which range from small musical numbers parodying the likes of The Sound of Music, to over-the-top full-scale productions set in airports, diners, bodegas, and other locations throughout the Greater New York City metropolitan area, are all special in their own way, but some are better than the rest. Below is a breakdown of each of those sketches as well as a video for each in case you want to relive some of the best modern-day SNL moments featuring the five-timer and former long-time writer.
6. The Sound Of Music: Rolfe And Liesel
The duet “Sixteen Going on Seventeen” by Liesl von Trapp (Charmian Carr) and Rolfe (Daniel Truhitte) is one of the most beloved songs from The Sound of Music, thanks to its upbeat tempo, lovely melody, and lyrics about a young woman trying to show she’s no longer a little kid. Well, John Mulaney and Cecily Strong’s take on the song during a March 2020 episode of Saturday Night Live, takes the catchy track and adds another layer to it, a much creepier layer that only gets the worse the more you dig in.
This hilarious back-and-forth between a “geriatric telegram boy” who is 33 (or 46) years old and a girl who is “rich and good with puppets” has fun with everything from the premise of The Sound of Music to world history during the World War II era.
5. New York Musical
Set in a Times Square souvenir shop in the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, the November 2020 skit, “New York Musical,” starts off with Chris Redd and Pete Davidson (who appear together in all but one of the following musicals) looking for some “I Love New York” merchandise from John Mulaney, only for Davidson to buy a pair of underwear with the iconic logo. And, that’s where things really take off. Over the course of the next eight minutes, characters like a Minion mascot (Kenan Thompson), Shrimp Louie (Kate McKinnon), and the Statue of Liberty (Maya Rudolph) sing a cautionary tale with parodies of songs from Fiddler on the Roof, Follies, and Guys and Dolls.
The topical nature of the skit (it came out the weekend before the 2020 Presidential election) makes it a fun reminder of how insane things were at the time, but this also dates the skit unlike the more timeless musical numbers that were part of the previous episodes. But still, there are some bangers throughout.
4. Subway Churro
The February 2022 Saturday Night Live musical skit “Subway Churro” starts at the 34th Street-Herald Square subway station, but the decrepit location is soon turned into a dark and fantastical world when Andrew Dismukes’ character (taking over for an absent Pete Davidson) buys an unwrapped churro from a vendor holding it with a Starbucks napkin. Over the course of this expansive and unhinged skit, characters like John Mulaney’s newsstand attendant, Kenan Thompson’s Mole Man, Cecily Strong’s wandering Broadway singer, and Alex Moffat’s flasher paint a picture of New York’s seedier side below the surface. But, the cherry on the top of this otherworldly pie is Aidy Bryant’s Jesus Christ from a Subway Car with her ability to bring everyone together.
“Subway Churro” takes what John Mulaney started with “New York Musical” and makes it even more wacky (and catchy), creating one of the best skits of the night.
3. Diner Lobster
Ah, the famous “Diner Lobster” musical skit that was featured on John Mulaney’s first time hosting Saturday Night Live back in April 2018. Perhaps the simplest of Mulaney’s numbers, but also one of his most effective, this nearly five-minute sketch shows what happens when someone (in this case, Pete Davidson’s character) orders a lobster from a run-down New York City eatery. Whether it’s Kenan Thompson’s lobster singing about his fate or a group of peasants building a barricade to protect him like a short-order Les Miserables, there’s just so much going on here, and I’m all aboard the crazy train.
If the next two skits didn’t exist, “Diner Lobster” would be at the top of the list. Basically, it feels like a really good, low-budget EP from a band that would blow-up and have high production values with subsequent releases, which gives it this unique raw quality in comparison to the others. And, it’s also a great sign of things to come from John Mulaney in the years following.
2. Bodega Bathroom
It feels like “Diner Lobster” crawled so “Bodega Bathroom” could walk, because this hilariously epic skit from a May 2019 episode of Saturday Night Live takes the basic concept and turns it up like five notches. What starts out as Peter Davidson making the mistake of asking to use the restroom at a run-down bodega quickly devolves into utter madness with a singing cat (Kenan Thompson), a talking toilet (Beck Bennett), and references to Rent, Little Shop of Horrors, and Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory, and so much more.
Once again, John Mulaney shows how much he loves musical theatre in this six-minute skit, exposing an entire ecosystem of forgotten animals, products, and expired candy. After this it’s no wonder Mulaney was given his own family-friendly Netflix special, John Mulaney and the Sack Lunch Bunch, a few months later.
1. Airport Sushi
The “Airport Sushi” musical skit, which aired on Saturday Night Live in March 2020, offers a little cautionary tale about what happens when you make a questionable purchase just minutes before boarding a pressurized airplane traveling 33,000 feet in the sky.
Like other sketches on this list, John Mulaney’s best musical number starts with Pete Davidson making a poor choice, though it feels so right considering the madness that awaits. With characters like the Phantom Of LaGuardia (Kenan Thompson), a sushi chef (Cecily Strong), and Auntie Orphan Annie (Kate McKinnon) singing about the culinary disaster that awaits, the skit plays tribute to West Side Story, Annie, and other classic musicals.
And, just when you thought the eight-minute production couldn’t get crazier, Jake Gyllenhaal (on a wire harness) and David Byrne pop in and provide even more great moments that put this one on top. It feels like this is the point in John Mulaney’s Saturday Night Live musical journey where all the pieces felt like the fit in the proper places, as it was over-the-top while not being too crazy at the same time.
Even though our journey has ended, it doesn't mean we can't go back and relive all these classic moments until John Mulaney appears on Saturday Night Live again. But, if you want to know which celebrities and musical guests are coming to the show in the meantime, check out our list of all the upcoming SNL hosts.
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Philip grew up in Louisiana (not New Orleans) before moving to St. Louis after graduating from Louisiana State University-Shreveport. When he's not writing about movies or television, Philip can be found being chased by his three kids, telling his dogs to stop barking at the mailman, or chatting about professional wrestling to his wife. Writing gigs with school newspapers, multiple daily newspapers, and other varied job experiences led him to this point where he actually gets to write about movies, shows, wrestling, and documentaries (which is a huge win in his eyes). If the stars properly align, he will talk about For Love Of The Game being the best baseball movie of all time.