John Mulaney hits the ground running, off air and back on the road

By Phil Pucci

March 24, 2015

John Mulaney is in good spirits. And why shouldn’t he be? Because his first network television series Mulaney was pulled from FOX after a paltry 13 episodes? He’s not buying that. In a phone interview I recently conducted with Mulaney, the former Saturday Night Live writer sounded lively and hopeful. Upon the airing of the last Mulaney episode in February, he is diving head-first back into stand-up and embarking on a three month tour of the US, which will take him to Charlotte on Saturday, March 28.


Mulaney suffered from poor ratings and reviews throughout its short run. “How did I take the news of its cancellation? Well, it’s not really ‘news’ when you’ve been in the middle of it and can see it coming for a very long time” Mulaney says, adding, “To even get the opportunity to do a TV show for 13 episodes is amazing.” It’s an astute sentiment to make. There’s a seemingly unending list of comedians whose eponymous programs were either canceled during infancy (see Louis C.K.’s Lucky Louie) or received abysmal reviews (like Seinfeld, which Mulaney modeled itself after, evidently to a point of fault). The fickle nature of network programming in this era leaves no room for error, or for a show to fumble around finding its own identity.

John Mulaney and Martin Short.

And that’s OK; Mulaney was hardly the do-or-die moment of John Mulaney’s career. In fact, he has spent years cultivating a sizable, loyal following for his stand-up. He says that his 2012 special New in Town gains him new fans daily just by being available on Netflix. Rightfully so, as his observational comedy is quotably hilarious. And now Mulaney is taking to the road again, revealing that he will be recording a new special, “hopefully at the end of May,” in his hometown of Chicago, IL, at The Chicago Theatre. It seems as though Mulaney will smartly regard his short-lived sitcom not as a failure, but rather a significant bullet point on his résumé.

TV-Bill Hader
Bill Hader’s “Stefan” character is one of Mulaney’s most iconic creations during his SNL tenure.

The comedian also served as a writer on Saturday Night Live from 2008 to 2013, notably co-creating the popular recurring “Weekend Update” guest character “Stefon” with Bill Hader. Mulaney recently returned to the set of SNL for its 40th anniversary. “It was so great,” he says of the experience, noting that “SNL was the best job I’ve ever had. It was fun being there.” Mulaney’s dexterity in sketch comedy extends into his recurring role in the Comedy Central series The Kroll Show, where he plays George St. Geegland, a bespectacled old man who gets a rise out of pranking his lunch guests with having their server bring them sandwiches with way too much tuna. (I asked John Mulaney to actuate for me the amount of tuna one must have to qualify it as too much tuna. He tells me, “if the top piece of rye bread starts to look like a hat, then you have too much tuna. If the top piece of rye bread resembles an umbrella and envelopes the tuna, then that’s not enough tuna.”)


Mulaney was an earnest attempt at a four-camera style sitcom that fell short of what it was aspiring to be. But that’s OK, because John Mulaney is poised to flip the script of the negative reviews and dig in to what he is lauded for: standup comedy. Mulaney will appear at Knight Theater on Saturday, March 28, presented by Blumenthal Performing Arts & The Comedy Zone. Ticket prices start at $20 and the show is at 8 PM. When asked to reveal a single word from his current set, to get fans hyped for his performance, Mulaney thinks for a while and says, “Horses.”


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