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Loyola spends an evening with John Mulaney


On Sept. 12, Loyola University Maryland and St. Joseph’s University hosted a Q&A webinar with writer, actor, and comedian John Mulaney. Via Zoom, Loyola’s own Jack McCormick ‘23 and Hannah Christou ‘21 hosted the night along with two students from St. Joseph’s, the four of whom relayed questions asked by students to Mulaney.

“I always liked old fashioned show business,” Mulaney said on the webinar, prior to launching into a monologue about why he always wears a suit on stage. His statement also rings true to his successful career in television. 

Mulaney started his career on “Saturday Night Live” as a writer for many crazy characters and monologues. Mulaney’s writing career for SNL began in the summer of 2008. Though he had originally auditioned to be in the cast, he instead received a call from Seth Meyers, head writer at the time, while out to dinner with his mother. Meyers asked him to join the writer’s room, according to Cinema Blend.  Upon accepting the job right away, Mulaney told his mother that he was going to be on SNL, and she responded by telling him that he was finally achieving his dreams of being like Conan O’Brien, who had similar beginnings

During his time as a writer, Mulaney not only created many new characters, but had funny skits for himself to star in like the “Bodega Bathroom sketch.  He stayed on the writing team for about four seasons of SNL and even came back to host a few times.  SNL had brought him many opportunities to show his talent. In an NPR interview, he even said he was there long enough to be able to tell others, “I know all the secrets, and I know all the ins and outs, and I know how to sneak out of the kitchen and I know where we get the meat delivered from.” 

Beyond SNL, most students know about Mulaney’s comedy specials, “New in Town,” “The Comeback Kid,” and “Kid Gorgeous,” available on Netflix, but fewer may know about his self-titled sitcom. The sitcom, which had a short run on Fox, was a semi-autobiographical show akin to Seinfeld, the Dick Van Dyke Show, and Friends. 

“Mulaney” followed a group of friends, John (played by Mulaney himself), Jane (Nasim Pedrad), and Motif (an aptly named character for a writer and comic played by Seaton Smith). John and Motif were both stand-up comics working in New York, while Jane was their personal trainer roommate. And while “Mulaney” was based on his real life, he only wrote four out of thirteen episodes, including the opening and finale. 

The show aired in 2014 but was canceled the following year after low critical ratings. Many dinged the show for following sitcom tropes too heavily and for cheesy dialogue.

Despite not having wide commercial success, “Mulaney” still proved to be pivotal in his career as he went on to write and star in well-known TV shows, including “Big Mouth.” “Mulaney” remains a classic for some and a looking glass into Mulaney’s beginnings on TV. 

Unlike the sitcom, the comedy specials have received wide critical praise. “New In Town,” released in 2012, was Mulaney’s first big foray into the land of stand-up comedy. Completely self-written, the special opened the door for fame, as well as opened Mulaney up to the world of internet memes. The special received whole-heartedly positive reviews, and, only three years later, Netflix debuted “The Comeback Kid.” 

The Comeback Kid” was released in 2015, shortly after the failed “Mulaney,” perhaps inspiring the name. Once again getting glowing reviews, “The Comeback Kid” sees John Mulaney rising through the ranks of the standup industry. Armed with witty political jokes and his bulldog, Petunia, (who is, in fact, credited on IMDB), “The Comeback Kid” is Mulaney at his finest. Things got even bigger when “Kid Gorgeous” hit the scene. 

Kid Gorgeous: Live at Radio City Music Hall” premiered on Netflix in 2018 and is the taped performance of his tour of the same name. Many critics argued that this was Mulaney at his best. “Kid Gorgeous” received incredible critical praise with stories from his childhood and anecdotes from his days on SNL mixed with creative political metaphors. It won an Emmy for Outstanding Writing in a Variety Special.

Furthermore, it sent Mulaney into a full-on pop culture icon with memes on all social media platforms sharing his comedy. Like a comedic Cinderella story, Mulaney took his failure with “Mulaney” and truly became the comeback kid. 

Though the Emmy award winner is best known for his Netflix stand-up specials, he has also co-starred with friend and co-host Nick Kroll on “Oh, Hello on Broadway,” writing with Kroll on “Big Mouth” and co-starring on the animated show as Andrew Glauberman, and voicing Peter Porker in the animated feature “Spiderman: into the Spider-verse.” Mulaney graduated from Georgetown University in 2000, and now lives in New York City with designer and wife, Annamarie Tendler, and beloved french bulldog, Petunia.

On the Zoom Q&A, students asked Mulaney a variety of questions, from his experience at SNL to what color crayon he would be (freckled gray, by the way). Mulaney talked about writing for SNL and creating sketches with Adam Samberg, reminiscing on some of his favorite skits. He also discussed his experiences working with long-time friend and co-star Kroll, from their times in Georgetown’s college improv group to “Oh Hello, on Broadway” and “Big Mouth.” He compared working on smaller projects and short skits to voicing a character in a Marvel movie and explained that they are each exciting in their own ways. 

Mulaney also talked about his experience at Georgetown University, a fellow Jesuit institution. He also attended a Jesuit high school and compared his experiences at both, telling stories about how strict his high school experience was to his nonrestrictive college experience. 

Last—but absolutely not least—Mulaney boasted his beautiful, precious french bulldog, Petunia, in a headband, after telling a story about an animal psychic he called to talk to Petunia and to learn more about her. In the section of spontaneous questions from the chatroom, he addressed the multitude of questions asking about his joking involvement in the death of Princess Diana. This was a running gag from his stand-up special, “New in Town” and his podcast with Nick Kroll, “Oh, Hello: the P’dcast.”

Loyola students were also able to apply for a meet and greet prior to the larger Zoom with Mulaney. The winners were Olivia McKenzie ‘24 and Gillian Borton ’22, the two of whom were given the chance to talk to the comedian one-on-one. McKenzie and Borton elaborated on what it was like meeting Mulaney.

“The John Mulaney Q&A and meet and greet was awesome!” Borton said. “He was so personable and easy to talk to.  I couldn’t help but laugh the whole time because he was nonchalantly eating Sour Patch Kids during the Q&A.”

McKenzie got the chance to talk to her favorite comedian about her career and passion.

“I got the chance to ask him about what his writing process entails as well as whether he had any good cures for writer’s block,” McKenzie said. “He was very nice and polite when he answered my questions. He said a good way to avoid writer’s block is by consistently writing everyday, but it’s better when you’re motivated to do it and not forcing yourself to. As someone who wants to enter into the entertainment industry, I found this advice extremely helpful.”

Students enjoyed a special night full of laughter and fun in a rather dreary time, as Mulaney ended the Zoom with a “good luck” to college students on their fall semester online, sending his best wishes to everyone.

Featured Image Courtesy of The Hanover Theatre via Flickr Creative Commons

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Loyola spends an evening with John Mulaney