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John Mulaney’s ‘From Scratch’ successfully tackles heavy issues with grace

Mulaney’s newest stand-up special includes jokes about rehab, newborn son

<p>Mulaney’s stand-up set included jokes about the comedian’s experience in rehab and his newborn son.</p><p>Courtesy of Netflix Media</p>

Mulaney’s stand-up set included jokes about the comedian’s experience in rehab and his newborn son.

Courtesy of Netflix Media

Long lines of millennials wrapped around the casino floor at Foxwoods Resort Casino in Connecticut to see comedian John Mulaney’s “From Scratch” tour Saturday night. The comedian’s difficult and highly-publicized past 18 months were the subject of many of his jokes during his phenomenal new set. 

Fans of the comedian are familiar with Mulaney’s past issues with drugs and alcohol. In 2014, Mulaney revealed he had been sober since September 2005. Many of his past comedy specials have centered around the contradiction between Mulaney’s clean-cut professional appearance and his turbulent relationship with narcotics.

In 2020, Mulaney relapsed, developing an unhealthy relationship with substances including xanax, percocet, klonopin and cocaine, among other drugs, he said during the show. As a result of his addiction, his friends staged an intervention with him in December of 2020

Mulaney was two hours late to the intervention, which he was told would be dinner at a friend’s house, because he had stopped at his drug dealer’s apartment after getting a haircut at Saturday Night Live. In a hilarious retelling of the story, Mulaney recounted how he walked into the “Emmy-Award winning” hair department high on cocaine, demanding a haircut despite not being the host of the show for the week.

The intervention, which was attended by 12 of Mulaney’s comedian friends, was a star-studded affair, including the likes of Seth Meyers, Bill Hader, Natasha Lyonne, Fred Armisen and Nick Kroll.

One stand-out moment was when Mulaney shared that his friends decided to have a “supportive” intervention rather than a critical one. All of his friends communicated this ahead of time, but no one cc’d Kroll on the email, Mulaney joked. Mulaney recounted Kroll going first of the 12 friends and immediately berating Mulaney about how he has been a “bad friend,” prompting raucous laughter from the audience.

Once Mulaney finally decided to go to rehab, he was concerned that he would be recognized as a celebrity, he said. But he soon realized that not a single person knew who he was. “Ask your teenage daughter or your son, if he’s not good at sports, who I am,” Mulaney retorted, gleefully leaning into his own self-importance. 

Mulaney has the ability to effortlessly take serious subjects like addiction and tell stories on those topics in a light-hearted and relatable way. This extended into interactions with audience members: At one point, Mulaney asked audience members if they had ever been in rehab and which drugs they had been addicted to. These types of questions generally elicited a large response, which gave the show a more intimate feeling.

Acknowledging the adult material included in his set, Mulaney addressed the teenagers in the audience, instructing them not to follow his example. One younger audience member responded to a question from Mulaney asking if their opinion of him changed after the news of his drug use broke. They said it was expected because of his time as a writer for SNL, leading Mulaney to burst out laughing.

Rhode Island was mentioned in the show, with Mulaney detailing his love for the state and its crazy billboard signs. One billboard sign, according to Mulaney, offered to help drivers pay off their DUI fines with workers’ compensation. Regionally-tailored jokes like these will likely help distinguish each of Mulaney’s performances as he continues the “From Scratch” tour until September 2022

In another notable bit, Mulaney talked about being a child who was jealous of all the attention and sympathy his classmates would get when their grandparents died. This led him to fleetingly wish one of his grandparents would as well, he joked, adding that he would be happy as long as it was not one of the “important ones.”

Mulaney also talked about his son, noting how proud he was when the newborn simply hid his face when a bright light shined in his eye at the hospital instead of crying. Mulaney took this as a sign that his baby would be a “gentleman” in frustrating situations, opting to sulk silently rather than openly whine — an approach Mulaney said he takes as well. 

In another memorable moment, Mulaney joked about the ridiculousness of having to “cheer for science” during Donald Trump’s presidency. Mulaney doesn’t care about science, he joked, but had felt pressure to vocalize support for it and express interest when it was being challenged, referencing Trump-era climate denial and policies toward COVID-19. Now that Joe Biden is president, Mulaney said he can return to his antipathy toward the subject.

To conclude the show, Mulaney read aloud parts of an interview he had given with GQ magazine while he was high on cocaine. The interview was humorous and, at times, somewhat nonsensical. Nonetheless, it was a fitting way to end a very enjoyable show.


Rebecca Carcieri

Rebecca Carcieri is an arts & culture editor. She is a senior from Warwick, Rhode Island studying political science. 



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