John Mulaney Can’t Stay Down


Photo Courtesy of Variety.

The beginning of 2015 was a rough time for John Mulaney. The young comedian’s dream had been taken away. His sitcom, Mulaney, was no longer on the bubble. In its first season, the show was over, something Mulaney knew. But there wasn’t a public announcement until months after he found out. Everyone suspected, but FOX waited to give the word. And so, the rest of the episodes premiered as everyone watched the series fade away.

The ratings were dismal, as were the reviews. His intentions were clear. He wanted to make his own version of the live-studio audience show, his own Seinfeld. That doesn’t seem overly ambitious, but in the age where the  “autobiographical” shows of comedians are like Louie, Maron, and now Master of None, this was an idea returning to the roots of sitcoms. However, the consensus was that the jokes were stale and that Mulaney seemed uncomfortable in this new setting. Of course, Seinfeld took a few years to become the legend it’s known as today. It also started rather meekly. Mulaney was in a dark time, but he couldn’t even stay down for a year.

Mulaney was appearing in the final season of  the sketch comedy, Kroll Show, as his character George

St. Geegland, a character he had developed with Nick Kroll years prior. He, along with Kroll’s Gil Faizon, plays a sexually ambiguous old Jewish man. His part in the skits, the Woody Allen parody “Oh, Hello!” series, is of a fired creative writing professor from SUNY Yonkers (for reasons in sealed documents). Kroll Show is over, but this duo is not. In fact, the two have an Off-Broadway show premiering next month.

Mulaney also returned to writing. He has chops, being a co-creator of Bill Hader’s Stefon from SNL. He co-wrote one of the highlight episodes of Bill Hader, Seth Meyers, and Fred Armisen’s new series Documentary Now!. The show parodies several famous documentaries (Grey Gardens, Vice, and Nanook of the North). With Hader, he wrote a parody of The Thin Blue Line named “The Eye Doesn’t Lie.” The episode revolves around how Robbie Wheadlan framed Paul Lentile for murder because when Robbie hitched a ride with Paul, he was irritated how Paul insisted on playing jazz fusion over hair metal. Everyone agreed this guy was the worst—including a bit about trail mix—so everyone is more than willing to overlook the obvious evidence that Wheadlan’s guilty so they could put Lentile on death row.

After the failed sitcom, Mulaney also returned to what he was an expert at: stand-up. With new material, he went back to the clubs and stages where he became lauded as one of the best stand-ups around. He hadn’t lost a beat. In fact, he was better than ever. His excellent 2012 special, New In Town, has gained a resurgence in popularity since being put on Netflix. His appearance doing a short set about The Jinx on The Meltdown With Jonah and Kumail was perfect. However, his new Netflix special is what has cemented Mulaney as one of the smartest and best talents around.

The Comeback Kid shows Mulaney in his natural habitat. He seems much more comfortable telling jokes in a theater than on a sitcom set. His act is brilliant, without a single joke feeling weak. It is definitely bluer than the previous special. Of course, his raunchiness is nowhere near the level of Louis CK or Amy Schumer. He is still a pretty clean comic, but the new format allowed him to be a little more free. The highlights of the special include a bit about how crazy the studio pitch for Back To The Future must have seemed, his mother’s intense love of Bill Clinton, the inner thoughts of his French bulldog, and his strict father. Mulaney has an affable wit, with an encyclopedic knowledge of TV and movies and a confident delivery. It’s probably the best stand-up special of the year and proves that John Mulaney hasn’t hit a speed bump he can’t handle.