Sack Lunch Bunch: subpar SNL episode, but with kids

Brianne Kerr, Associate Editor

On Dec. 24, I woke up early, full of excitement and ready to watch John Mulaney’s newest Netflix show, the Sack Lunch Bunch. 

But I was left disappointed.

If you haven’t seen the show or the previews yet, the basic premise is that John Mulaney wanted to put a twist on some of his childhood nostalgia by hosting a kid’s special. There would be celebrity guests, dark humor and childhood nostalgia, which sounds great.

The show starts off promising, with a short clip of a small child telling an interviewer about their fears, saying, “I’m afraid of death, but out of all of the ways to die, I don’t want to drown.” It’s dark, it’s cute, it makes you want more.

We’re next brought to John Mulaney’s little garden where he engages in some scripted banter with kids. Sure, it’s not natural, but it’s kinda fun, John Mulaney is center stage and you think it might be able to work. 

The problem is, most of the time is the show is not taken up by the interviews about fear, nor the children sassing Mulaney in the garden. Most of it is taken up by sketches.

And this is when the show doesn’t feel like Mulaney’s stand-up, but instead reaches back further in his career and begins to feels like a subpar episode of SNL.

Most of the sketches are comedic songs that start with an idea that could be funny, a concept that I could imagine Mulaney pulling off in stand-up, but they ultimately fall flat. Whether it’s the one about a white woman crying on a street corner in New York, a child who just wants the adults in the room to pay attention to her or the story of Mulaney’s widowed grandma getting a boyfriend, each song feels stale and adds nothing to the original premise of the joke.

The only truly redeeming sketch in the show is at the very end, when Jake Gyllenhall (somewhat reprising his role from “Okja”) has a visible meltdown on stage while trying to show the kids that they can find music all around them. This is the only part that seems to fit Mulaney’s vision, to combine the nostalgia (a kinda creepy guy trying to teach kids a lesson through a cheesy song) with the dark humor and skeptical eyes of a modern child (them all staring at him concerned as his madness escalates). 

But aside from that, every other sketch was dull and felt forced. So why is it that John Mulaney can capture my heart when he’s alone on stage with a microphone, but put a real damper on Christmas with his staged passion project? Maybe I had fallen more for his cultivated, energized stage personality than his jokes.