Pin It
Favorite

Boyish Wonder 

John Mulaney could have crumbled after his sitcom bombed; instead, he returned to the stage

click to enlarge artsculture2-1-69a794f860889872.jpg

Blending boyish silliness with just the slightest edginess, John Mulaney's comedic style can crack up comedy snobs and fans of CBS sitcoms alike.

On his Netflix comedy special New in Town, his topics bounce across the map with blissful abandon: his physical appearance (being bullied as a kid for mistakenly being seen as Asian American), knowing outdated commentary on Home Alone 2: Lost in New York and the titular city's grid system, not wanting the girl he's dating to meet his parents ("Oh honey, tonight is going great. But you know what would make it perfect? Charles and Ellen Mulaney."), Ice-T's brilliance on Law and Order: SVU, a failed attempt to get a Xanax prescription and meta jokes about the setups to his stories ("I was once on the telephone with Blockbuster Video, which is a very old-fashioned sentence."). He can zig and zag without ever feeling disjointed.

At his comedic core he's a storyteller. The jokes he writes aren't reliant on huge closing punch lines, but rather a continuous flow of laughs each step along the way. He can take an anecdote about playing Tom Jones' "What's New Pussycat?" too many times on the jukebox as an 11-year-old and turn it into a gut-busting, six-minute comedic epic. Outside of stand-up, these writing skills were showcased as a writer on Saturday Night Live for six seasons. His pièce de résistance at that gig came when he and Bill Hader co-created Weekend Update's favorite New York City nightlife expert, Stefon. Mulaney famously would insert new, outlandish lines in the script right before Hader's performances of the character in order to get him to break down laughing mid-bit.

But Mulaney then left SNL and tried, like so many other comics before him, to create his own sitcom dynasty. Like most of those others, his show crashed and burned. Perhaps it was his comedic universality and likeability made this year's failure of the aptly-titled Mulaney that much more unbearably painful for longtime fans.

Taking most of its cues from Seinfeld, the show was all but doomed from the get-go. For some reason, Mulaney was a multi-cam show taped in front of a live studio audience, an outdated format abjectly despised by the audiences that follow Mulaney. The format alone dug a hole that was probably too deep for the show to escape from, and scripts that basically cast the lead as a nicer, blander Seinfeld were universally panned. Fans of Mulaney's stand-up loathed Mulaney (I endured every episode, and my many Mulaney fan friends rightfully treat me like I'm insane because of it.) The fact that Fox kept it around for 13 episodes from October 2014 to February of this year, instead of putting it out of its misery early, seemed like a cruel joke.

But Mulaney isn't taking the time to wallow; plenty has gone right for him in 2015. In March, he ended a successful run of Kroll Show, where he played one of the sketch program's most popular characters, old Upper West Side divorcé George "Too Much Tuna" St. Geegland. In May, he taped his latest stand-up special in Chicago, John Mulaney: The Comeback Kid (which will be released via Netflix on Nov. 13). In July, he got married.

Yeah, he had his show canceled too, but he had a show named after him on network television. That's crazy. Besides, it all led him back to the spotlight where his comedic talents shine: the stand-up stage. ♦

John Mulaney • Thu, Oct. 1, at 8 pm • $34-$49 • Martin Woldson Theater at the Fox • 1001 W. Sprague • foxtheaterspokane.com • 624-1200

  • Pin It

Speaking of Culture, Comedy

  • Shooting a Scene
  • Shooting a Scene

    Garageland photo exhibit brings Spokane's '90s-era rock scene back to life
    • Feb 16, 2017
  • Anchoring the Absurd
  • Anchoring the Absurd

    Leyna Krow's first book is filled with surreal stories about space, squids, snakes, sinking ships and much more
    • Feb 16, 2017
  • Mammoth Proportions
  • Mammoth Proportions

    A massive touring exhibit at the MAC highlights our region's connections to the iconic beasts of the most recent Ice Age
    • Feb 9, 2017
  • More »

Latest in Arts & Culture

  • Variations of Zuill
  • Variations of Zuill

    Badass cellist. Musical missionary. Grammy winner. Zuill Bailey redefines Bach for the 21st century
    • Feb 16, 2017
  • Backstage Story
  • Backstage Story

    Behind the preparation and precaution: Why it practically takes a village to put on a Cirque du Soleil show
    • Feb 16, 2017
  • The Genius of Bach
  • The Genius of Bach

    His lasting influence, and a look at this year's Bach Festival schedule
    • Feb 16, 2017
  • More »

Comments


Comments are closed.

Today | Wed | Thu | Fri | Sat | Sun | Mon
Black Lunch Table: Wikipedia Editathon

Black Lunch Table: Wikipedia Editathon @ Terrain

Tue., Feb. 21, 6-9 p.m.

All of today's events | Staff Picks

More by Seth Sommerfeld

  • Darkest Before the Dawn
  • Darkest Before the Dawn

    Rogue One: A Star Wars Story leans on its characters to push through the bleakness
    • Dec 15, 2016
  • The Right Side of Edgy
  • The Right Side of Edgy

    The Edge of Seventeen infuses sharp modern wit into the coming-of-age teen dramedy
    • Nov 17, 2016
  • The Kids Aren't Alright
  • The Kids Aren't Alright

    Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children can't quite strike the balance between whimsy and darkness
    • Sep 29, 2016
  • More »

Most Commented On

  • Partisan Pagans

    The political divide is even splintering Spokane's witches
    • Feb 2, 2017
  • Finding the Words

    The sounds of 8,000 people taking to the streets of Spokane
    • Jan 26, 2017
  • More »

Readers also liked…

  • Blind Faith
  • Blind Faith

    In a vacant lot by the railroad tracks, an unlikely friendship is found
    • Jan 7, 2016
  • Main Man
  • Main Man

    How Eric McClellan helped save Gonzaga's season
    • Mar 17, 2016

© 2017 Inlander
Website powered by Foundation