I don’t know if standup John Mulaney is poised to become the next big breakout comic, the next Amy Schumer or the next Jerry Seinfeld. But I can assure you that the Chicago-raised comedian is worthy of your attention, particularly if, like me, you’re always on the lookout for a fresh and funny comic voice. Don’t just take my word for it. Check out his special, New in Town, where the former SNL writer brings his unique comic P.O.V to bear on everything from the disappointing absence of quicksand in adult life to how crimes were solved in a pre-DNA era.
In advance of his headlining gig at Toronto’s JFL42 comedy festival on September 25, I talked to Mulaney about the proper way to take a compliment and what it was really like to work at SNL.
What are you up to right now?
I just finished a big tour and now have more dates coming up on the east coast and I’m doing Just for Laughs. I’m also editing a special for Netflix that comes out in November and working on a theatre show for early winter and that’s about it.
That’s A LOT. How long was the tour you just wrapped up?
It was pretty much October to May. I wasn’t gone the whole time but I was doing a couple of shows a week at least.
You must take to that lifestyle of being on the move…
I do. I miss my wife a lot when she’s not with me, but I like a different hotel every night. I stay a lot sharper when the days don’t blend together. You kind of know that today’s Thursday and I’m in Columbus, Ohio, today’s Friday and I’m in Philadelphia, today’s Saturday and I’m in Boston. Being aware and not a zombie is pretty helpful.
The press has labeled your comedy as being of the “charming” variety. How does that description sit with you?
It would be gross if I said I thought I was charming. I’ve been called so much worse than charming. I’ll take anything neutral or leaning toward a compliment.
You’re often referred to as one of the cuter comics too….
That’s very nice. All compliments are nice. Insults are not.
That’s a good philosophy. Some people have the opposite reaction to receiving compliments.
Yeah, those people haven’t been insulted. People who are like, “I don’t know how to take a compliment.’’ It’s like, OK, take a million insults. And then they’d be like, “Oh, I know how to take a compliment!”
You wrote for SNL for six years and you got the job when you were freakishly young. What was that environment like for a twenty-something?
I was there from age 25 to 30 and I was designed at that age to stay up all night and only care about writing comedy and have no other personal life. I just liked doing that so much, I liked writing with other people and it was extremely fun. It was like the fun side of college without the bad stuff. We would stay awake until six in the morning and make each other laugh so much and then it didn’t have to end. You took a nap and then there was a read-through and that was pretty fun. It could be grueling, too. But I was the perfect age to do it.
WELL WE ARE HAVING A GREAT MORNING OVER HERE AT THE MULANEY HOUSE!! A photo posted by Annamarie Tendler Mulaney (@amtendler) on
You’re newly married and it sounds like you’ve been touring for a while. How does that work?
With doing a TV show and touring, I’ve never met my wife.
What’s a question I could have asked that would have been exciting to you?
Anything not comedy-related.
What’s your dog’s name?
JFL42, takes place in Toronto from September 23 to October 3.