Role Models: John Mulaney

This is a segment on this page where I gush over some creatives I deeply admire. That’s it. It really is just a passage of adoration. And a teensy bit partial research exercise. Enjoy. 


I’ve mentioned before on my Twitter (casual plug), John Mulaney is in my top 5 for White Men I Trust On This Planet. As for the rest of that list, I’ll save for another day. John Edmund Mulaney was born to Charles Mulaney Jr. and Ellen Stanton in August of 1982. The Chicago native is the third of four children and was raised Catholic.

I originally stumbled upon his work whilst browsing Netflix’s selection of stand-up comedy specials. I’m a big comedy nerd. I clicked on his after letting it stare me down two weeks prior. The special, The Comeback Kid, follows Mulaney’s show in his hometown of Chicago, Illinois; where he details tales of his colourful childhood, his marriage and home life, a meeting with former president Bill Clinton, and self-awareness towards his non-threatening exterior. His delivery is what kills me. There’s something about the way his jokes take off and land that gets me rolling on the floor, and watching the same specials at least four times a week.

After accidentally memorizing all the jokes in The Comeback Kid, I dug back through the internet to find his older specials; The Top Part and New In Town. I realised then that I had heard Mulaney’s jokes long before I was aware of who he was. There’s a joke from The Top Part, where he recalls a prank he and his friend (aptly named John as well) pulled in the Salt and Pepper Diner, playing Tom Jones’ What’s New Pussycat? A total of seven times. I had heard this joke in an animated YouTube video with characters from the webcomic, Homestuck. (I had a phase.)

As well as being a stand-up comedian, Mulaney spent his late twenties writing for Saturday Night Live, alongside Bill Hader, Fred Armisen, and Seth Meyers. Mulaney and Hader created one of Weekend Update’s most beloved characters, Stefon; the segment’s City Correspondent, providing regular New Yorkers with eccentric and even absurd things to do over the weekend and during the holidays. In an interview with Conan O’Brien, Mulaney had explained how he enjoyed to keep Hader on his toes during the show by changing some of the Stefon jokes last minute, causing Hader to break. If you go ahead and watch some Stefon clips on YouTube, you can pinpoint the exact moments where Hader realises Mulaney has fucked with his cue cards. It’s become one of my favourite games. Stefon was well known for providing detailed descriptions of New York’s Hottest Clubs, including “Push”, “Kevin?” and my personal favourite “YOUR MOTHER AND I ARE SEPARATING”.

He’s also friends with a lot of my favourite comedians. Like Bill Hader, Seth Meyers, Nick Kroll, Joe Mande, Andy Samberg, Ali Wong; he knows everyone.

As a fan of observational comedy, watching Mulaney pull out the most mundane of details; like, say, writing a happy birthday sign without tracing the letters, is an absolute joy. It’s like he’s saying the things that always slip my mind. And the things you don’t really notice are absolutely ridiculous until you say them out loud.  

He’s written some of my favourite episodes of Documentary Now! on IFC; including The Bunker and Final Transmission. John is also a Virgo.

We can’t talk about John Mulaney without talking about Oh, Hello. There are very few things in life that make me laugh and smile as much as Oh, Hello does. I’ve seen the Broadway Netflix special nearly 80 times, so much so I can quote every line in the play. I’ve seen their 92Y specials, the Kroll Show sketches, listened to every podcast George and Gil ruined with their presence, I have a solid Gil impression; I’m not even remotely from New York but somehow I got all of the jokes and bits they were doing. That’s how good they are. Mulaney plays George St. Geegland, a self-proclaimed successful novelist, playwright, and former SUNY Yonkers professor in creative writing with dry hands. Like many men over the age of 70, George is neither Jewish nor a woman but is somehow both. He was born to verbally abusive parents in Newark, New Jersey and was responsible for reintroducing the polio virus to his school district. He blew one of the drag queens from Paris is Burning. That was just me showing off at how well I knew all of their bits. I’m so obsessed with Oh, Hello I’m starting to question my sanity and taste. (Who am I kidding, this is just proof I have great taste.) I hope to someday see Faizon and St. Geegland live and in the flesh; it would be a great honour with a hard H to get hit on by at least one of them.

There’s something about John that I relate to so deeply. Maybe it’s the fact that his dog doesn’t love him as much as he loves her, or the anger hidden inside George St. Geegland, or perhaps it’s the history of blacking out drunk and being able to laugh at it. Or maybe it’s because he’s also a Virgo.

He also stars as Andrew on Netflix’s new animated series Big Mouth. I love Big Mouth. Here’s a place holder for a blog post I’ve yet to write about how much I loved it. Mulaney’s voice is so distinct that sometimes I forget that Andrew is a the childhood incarnation of Nick Kroll’s best friend and Family Guy writer Andrew Goldberg, and not John as a child himself. John is, after all, a tall child. He doesn’t look older, he just looks worse. You can’t keep burning the candle at both ends, tall child. He brings to Andrew this awkwardness and dryness that I fucking love. His timing makes the jokes all the more ridiculous and all the more hilarious.

John Mulaney is currently on his Kid Gorgeous stand-up tour across North America. His new Netflix special will be filmed this February, and I can’t fucking wait.

Reflecting on Writing this Piece:

I can talk about the people I stan all day. It’s nice to finally get it out in the open that I’m such a huge fan of his. I have a few posts lined up about a few other comedians. I gotta say though, I hope this doesn’t come off creepy. I left out Mulaney the show because I haven’t seen it properly. I remember it vaguely from when I was younger but it didn’t really leave an impression on me, and we all know how John feels about that part of his life. It’s actually pretty inspirational.

Published by Ariane Anantaputri

sharpay evans sympathiser. screenwriter & stand-up comedian. this is where i talk about movies and my mental health.

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