A Ukraine tribute and John Mulaney's sobriety take center stage in a moving 'SNL'

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·Senior Writer, Yahoo Entertainment
·5 min read
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Usually, Saturday Night Live reserves its cold open for a spirited send-up of current headlines. But with Russia's recent invasion of Ukraine, the current headlines are no laughing matter. So the mood was appropriately somber within Studio 8H as SNL raised the curtain on its first show back since Jan. 29. In place of a sketch, veteran Not Ready for Primetime Players Kate McKinnon and Cecily Strong introduced the Ukrainian Chorus Dumka of New York, who performed a moving prayer for their native land. (Watch the cold open above.)

It may have been a departure from the usual SNL playbook, but viewers appreciated the way that the show met the moment.

And the night's host, John Mulaney, kept the serious mood going ... after a fashion. Returning to SNL for the first time since his highly publicized stint in rehab for drug addiction — and the equally highly publicized birth of his son with girlfriend Olivia Munn — the comedian approached those dramatic personal changes in his life with his usual wry levity. "For many many reasons, I’m grateful to be here tonight after a very complicated year," he noted. "It’s always great to be somewhere that’s always emphasized sobriety and mental health."

Mulaney addressed the intervention that preceded his trip to rehab, recalling how it happened at a dinner party thrown by a friend that turned out to be "not dinner." The comic's two-month detox overlapped with the Jan. 6 insurrection, and he made it clear an event like that won't be happening again now that he's clean. "Was there an insurrection before I went to rehab? No! Has there been one since I got out? Absolutely not. They wouldn’t dare! They know Baby J is back on the streets."

Speaking of babies, Mulaney expertly played the part of proud papa when he brought up his 12-week-old son, Malcolm. "His legs are like little calzones, and I just want to eat them," he said, before sharing a sweet "like father, like son" story that happened in the delivery room. "[The doctors] brought him over to this warmer [and] light is just shining in his eyes," Mulaney recalled. "He was annoyed, but he didn't say anything. I was like, 'That's my son. A polite man in an uncomfortable situation, but he's not going to make a fuss.'"

With that monologue, Mulaney more than earned his place in the SNL Five-Timers Club. And an all-star cast of five timers — plus Conan O'Brien — was on hand to welcome him to the increasingly less-exclusive group.

While fans were thrilled for Mulaney, they were equally happy that Paul Rudd got a second chance at a Five-Timers sketch after his own induction was derailed by the Omicron surge.

Saturday Night Live airs Saturdays at 11:30 on NBC.