John Mulaney is the millennial darling of stand-up comedy. His Netflix comedy specials from The Comeback Kid to Kid Gorgeous capitalize upon his awkward but sweet stage presence. They have also made him the face of countless reaction gif memes for a young generation of comedy lovers. All in all, Mulaney has come a long way from attending Detective Bittenbider’s “Street Smarts” assemblies in suburban Chicago. Get ready to laugh with these 42 sincere facts about the Comeback Kid.
1. Legally Funny
Born on August 26, 1982 in Chicago, Illinois, John Mulaney comes from a family of law and order. His father Chip was a partner at the international law firm of Skadden Arps; his mother Ellen was a law professor at Northwestern University. Likewise, on his mother’s side, his grandfather was mayor of Salem, Massachusetts and a state congressman.
2. Better Than The Real Thing
Mulaney cites Ricky Ricardo’s lifestyle on I Love Lucy as the inspiration for his show business dreams. Mind you, that’s the Desi Arnaz character on the show, not his actor. Nevertheless, the fictional musician’s life was dream fodder enough for the five-year-old Mulaney.
3. Back in the Good Old Days
Maybe his suits give it away, but John Mulaney is a big fan of classic TV comedy. As a youth, he would frequent the Museum of Broadcast Communications and watch archived episodes of The Johnny Carson Show and I Love Lucy.
4. Drama Kids Get Extra Credit
As a kid, Mulaney would get out of doing reports at school by instead handing in “skits” with his best friend, John O’Brien. They would impart what they learned in the form of these sketches, which is good practice for the stage, but I’m not sure what his teachers thought…
5. Get Lit (or Don’t)
In 2000, John Mulaney attended Georgetown University, which is where own his parents met. Mulaney did not achieve the same academic heights of his folks, but he did major in English Literature and Religion. To quote his description of the experience in Kid Gorgeous: “I paid $120,000 for someone to tell me to read Jane Austen and then I didn’t.”
6. The School of Hard Knock-Knock Jokes
While attending Georgetown, Mulaney joined the same improv group as his future Hollywood colleagues Nick Kroll and Mike Birbiglia. He followed the latter on a stand-up tour, which was invaluable to sharpening his stage presence.
7. Throwback Thursday
One of Mulaney’s first jobs out of college was as an office assistant for Comedy Central in 2004. Alongside fellow comedian and Georgetown University friend Nick Kroll, he pitched an eight-episode long parody of the I Love the ‘80s titled I Love the ‘30s.
8. You Have to Hear It to Believe It
Mulaney is heavily influenced by early stand-up comedy albums. An avid collector, he counts Chris Rock’s Bring the Pain (1996) and Bigger & Blacker (1999), Woody Allen’s Comedian (1965), and Albert Brooks’ Comedy Minus One (1973) among his favorites.
9. Comedy Lovechild
Mulaney worked as a writer on Saturday Night Live for six years. Most notably, he is the co-creator (alongside SNL cast member Bill Hader) of the iconic “Weekend Update” character Stefon.
10. The Prodigal Son Returns
Having hosted Saturday Night Live twice—in 2018 and 2019—Mulaney is only the fourth SNL writer to return to host the show himself. He follows the acts of former SNL writers Conan O’Brien, Louis CK, and Larry David.
11. They Grow Up So Fast
Raised Catholic, Mulaney is a former altar boy. To quote his act: “When did that become a scandalous thing, being an altar boy? I remember when that was just a boring thing I used to have to do on weekends, but now it’s like saying, ‘I was a French maid for a period of time.’”
12. Rising to the Top
Mulaney’s first comedy album, The Top Part, was released in 2009, while he was working at SNL. Featuring his now iconic Law & Order routine, the album put the up-and-coming stand up on the map.
13. Streaming Never You
Mulaney followed up The Top Part with another special, New In Town, which aired on Comedy Central in 2012. Eventually, the special started to gain traction on Netflix, and the follow-up, 2015’s The Comeback Kid, really rocketed the comedian to another level. On Netflix, The Comeback Kid reached a wide audience and also garnered widespread critical acclaim (and meme stardom) for the 33-year-old comic.
14. The Future Looks Funny
David Letterman called John Mulaney “the future of comedy” while accepting the Mark Twain Prize for American Humor in 2017. Mulaney was invited to present the award to him alongside other comedy juggernauts like Steve Martin and Norm MacDonald. He was, as he put it, the night’s “stand up comedian that no one recognized.”
15. Better Luck Next Time
Mulaney’s work in The Comeback Kid earned him an Emmy Award nomination for Outstanding Writing for a Variety Special. Most honorably, he lost the award to Patton Oswalt’s Talking for Clapping.
16. From the Stage to the Small Screen
Well before his Comeback Kid fame, John Mulaney produced his own sitcom pilot for NBC—which the network passed over in May 2013. More fortunately, the pilot was picked up by FOX and titled Mulaney. Less fortunately…
17. Not Fun While It Lasted
They can’t all be hits: Mulaney—the eponymous sitcom that he wrote, produced, and starred in—was canceled after just 13 episodes. During its short run, the show was plagued both by low ratings and arguably worse reviews. Mulaney styled the multicamera show after the sitcoms he liked growing up, but the effect was more trite than nostalgic. One critic asked, “Why would a cool comic pick such an uncool format?”
18. Dry Humor
Mulaney is a reformed alcoholic. After years where he would, in his words, “blackout and ruin parties,” the comic turned his life around and went sober. To this day, he abstains from alcohol.
19. Three’s Company
Since 2014, Mulaney has been married to make-up artist (and artisan lampshade designer) Annamarie Tendler. They live in New York City with their French bulldog, Petunia.
20. His Time to Win
In 2018, Mulaney finally won his Emmy for Writing. In his second nomination ever in the category, he won the Outstanding Writing for a Variety Series award for John Mulaney: Kid Gorgeous at Radio City.
21. Hog-Wild Language
John Mulaney originally added a lot more cursing to his performance as Spider-Ham in the (supposedly) child-friendly Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse. He was told to “have fun” with the role—and only later learned the rating was PG, and that he had to do the lines over.
22. Hamming Up the Silver Screen
Believe it or not, Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse was John Mulaney’s first-ever theatrical role.
23. The More Me’s the Merrier
John Mulaney himself actually exists in the alternate universe portrayed in Spider-Man: Into the Spider-verse. In the background of Times Square, a billboard of the comic can be seen advertising a show called “Hi, Hello”—which is clearly an alternate universe take on Oh, Hello, the Broadway show he created with Nick Kroll.
24. These Are Their Stories…
In Mulaney’s short-lived sitcom, Mulaney, rapper and actor Ice-T does the narration after the opening credits. This is a wink to Mulaney’s famous bit about Law & Order: Special Victims Unit in his special, New In Town. In fact, many of the jokes throughout the sitcom were lifted from Mulaney’s stand-up.
25. Party of Five
Mulaney grew up in a large family alongside two sisters and two brothers. The younger of his brothers tragically passed away when Mulaney was young.
26. Canine Close-Up
Mulaney’s dog Petunia has her own Instagram account. At 118K+ followers and counting, she is leaving her mark on the Internet like her owner.
27. Survivor’s Guilt
Jerry Seinfeld comforted Mulaney after the cancellation of his much-fraught show. According to Mulaney, the veteran comic told the young man, “You starred in and wrote and produced your own network show. Well, it’s me and you and only a few other people who have done that.”
28. We’ll Meet Again
Mulaney shares family history with his SNL colleague Seth Meyers. Years ago, Mulaney’s grandmother, Carolyn Stanton, was co-stars with Hilary Meyers, Seth Meyers’ mother, in Pills A Poppin’, a hospital benefit show.
29. Laughing from 9 to 5
Mulaney paid his comedy dues via administrative work. While interning at Comedy Central, he would be “copying tapes and delivering envelopes” by day and doing stand-up while also sleeping on Nick Kroll’s couch by night.
30. Putting that English Degree to Good Use
When asked about his status as a reaction meme resource, Mulaney is comedically ambivalent. Sometimes, his wife and friends will send the comic gifs of himself to respond to his texts. When he saw a “John Mulaney as Shakespeare plays…” meme collection, he felt a bit “undereducated” and didn’t get all of them…
31. Stick to the Chorus Line
Mulaney has had a (not-so-secret) desire to write a Broadway musical for years. However, he is self-conscious about his creative range: “I realize that so far my musical repertoire is very, very limited to small issues in Manhattan, from Co-op [in an episode of Documentary Now!] to ‘Lobster’ to ‘Bodega’ [both SNL sketches], so I cannot promise that I can expand my palate. I simply cannot promise that.”
32. Under New Management
Mulaney used to be represented by Louis CK’s former manager, Dave Becky. After CK’s disgrace from sexual misconduct came in 2017, it also emerged that Becky might have intimidated his client’s accusers and prevented them from pursuing careers in comedy. Mulaney was one of several comedians to dump Becky that year, though he didn’t mention it publicly until 2019, in the interest of not “taking up oxygen” in the conversation.
33. Corduroy Dreams
Alongside Nick Kroll, Mulaney donned old man make-up to embody one half of the elderly duo in Oh, Hello. In their act, a pair of old men, Gil Faizon (Kroll) and George St. Geegland (Mulaney), go on various adventures with their outdated ideas and manners. The characters were inspired by the time Kroll and Mulaney saw two old men in turtlenecks buy separate but identical copies of Never Have Your Dog Stuffed: And Other Things I’ve Learned by Alan Alda.
32. A Sweet Send-Off?
In 2018, Mulaney and Kroll revived George and Gil in a Portlandia sketch. Their characters are invited to an assisted suicide party by Toni and Candace, the owners of a feminist bookstore. Never a dull moment with those two!
33. Gotta Love Himself
John Mulaney provides various voices for the animated series Big Mouth. With the utmost dignity, he voices Andrew Glouberman, a character who is, among other things, obsessed with self-pleasuring.
34. White House Blues
Mulaney’s parents were Yale Law School classmates with US President Bill Clinton. A young Mulaney even met the then-campaigning president in 1992, when the boy learned to play Clinton’s campaign song, “Don’t Stop” from Fleetwood Mac’s Rumours. Mulaney reminds us that this is “an album written by and for people cheating on each other. He let us know who he was right away.”
35. Not Coming to a Theatre Near You
Before he left Saturday Night Live, Mulaney had begun to write a feature film about his and Bill Hader’s Weekend Update character, Stefon. It was to be a mockumentary that followed Stefon to the outlandish clubs he often described on the show. Unfortunately, Stefon’s adventures never left the page.
36. Dressed to Distress
The character of Stefon was partially inspired by an email that Mulaney once received that recommended various elaborate New York parties. It was also Mulaney’s idea that Stefon wear an Ed Hardy shirt because it had a latex-like appearance and paid homage to the film Party Monster.
37. Watch Your Mouth
In one of his few on-screen appearances during his tenure at SNL, Mulaney played Stefon’s lawyer—named Shy—who reminded the clubber to use politically correct language when describing his eccentric parties.
38. A Most Royal Murder?
In one of his most famous bits, a young Mulaney is grilled by his mother as if he caused Princess Diana’s death himself. His primary defenses were (1) he was in Wisconsin and (2) he was 12. Of course, fans did research and found that (1) Mulaney grew up in Chicago and (2) he was actually 15 at the time of Princess Diana’s death. So, what’s the truth, John? In a video, Mulaney cleared up his alibi: when writing the joke, he didn’t think about his age that deeply and Wisconsin is actually not that far from Chicago. OK, that checks out…for now.
39. I Am Not a Crook
After the success of Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, Mulaney expressed interest in doing a Spider-Ham spin-off. The plot, he suggested, would be a “Watergate-like story” that would make use of Spider-Ham’s journalism background.
40. Charmed I’m Sure
From late 2016 to early 2017, Mulaney and Nick Kroll brought their Oh, Hello characters to Broadway. The show featured a guest cameo from a different celebrity each night, including names such as Steve Martin, Alan Alda, and OJ Simpson prosecutor Marcia Clark. Did all those schmucks know they were to be prahnked with too much tuna? Not a chance.
41. Too Young to be Home Alone
A seven-year-old Mulaney had the chance to go out for the role of Kevin McAllister in Home Alone. Unfortunately, Mulaney’s parents wouldn’t let him audition, thereby putting his career on hold for a few more decades.
42. He’s Not a Belieber
During his SNL years, Mulaney was almost karate chopped by a young Justin Bieber. Back in 2010, Mulaney was walking down the halls of 30 Rock at night, with papers in hand, when the young singer leaped in front of him and performed karate moves in his face—causing Mulaney to drop all the documents. According to the comic, Bieber and his pals simply laughed in Mulaney’s face before rushing into an elevator. Not exactly a pleasant experience, but to be fair, Mulaney has insisted that people should cut the troubled Bieber some “slack” for his youth.
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