John Mulaney is undeniably one of the funniest stand-up comedians working right now. His extended bit comparing Donald Trump to a “horse loose in a hospital” from his excellent 2018 special Kid Gorgeous at Radio City is arguably one of the best jokes ever told about the 45th president of the United States.
But during an otherwise solid monologue in the final Saturday Night Live episode before the 2020 election, the host delivered a major miss when talking about the race between Trump and Joe Biden.
After a handful of jokes about the coronavirus and New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, Mulaney told viewers, “Oh, yes, I’m supposed to make an announcement. On November 3rd there is an elderly man contest.”
“So there’s two elderly men and you’re supposed to pick your favorite of the elderly men,” he continued. “You can put it in the mail or you can go and write down which elderly man you like and we’ll add them all up. Then we might have the same elderly man or we might have a new elderly man.”
“But just rest assured, no matter what happens, nothing much will change in the United States,” he said, inexplicably. “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.”
Those three examples may be broadly true, but for Mulaney to tell the millions of people watching SNL three days before the election that there is essentially no difference between Donald Trump and Joe Biden can only be described as deeply irresponsible.
Later in his monologue, Mulaney did urge viewers to vote, saying, “You’ve got to vote. Vote as many times as you can, fill in every circle, every dot they have, fill them in,” which could again be considered a “both sides” take on the election.
From there, he revealed that his 94-year-old “Nana” is going to vote, which he thinks is not a great idea. “You don’t get to vote when you’re 94-years-old!” he said. “You don’t get to order for the table when you’re about to leave the restaurant!”
“I’m sorry, that joke is ageist, that is wrong. It is wrong to say one age group is better than another,” Mulaney added. “That would be like calling yourself the greatest generation. ‘Oh, we fought the Nazis!’ Well, we’re trying to fight the new Nazis if you get out of the way and stop voting for people you saw in between coin collector commercials.”
Later in the episode, during Mulaney’s latest New York-themed musical sketch, the Les Misérables song parody “Three Days More” ended with the lyrics, “November 3rd’s a Wednesday or a Tuesday, I’m not sure. I don’t vote. What’s the point? It’s New York!”
So yes, he did redeem himself somewhat by at least implying that Donald Trump is a “new Nazi.” And yes, they are just jokes that don’t necessarily reflect the comedian’s actual feelings about the election. And no, he should not be “canceled.”
But is now really the moment to tell people it doesn’t matter which “elderly man” they vote for on Tuesday?
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