John Mulaney & The Sack Lunch Bunch (2019)
December 25, 2019 6:53 AM - Subscribe

John Mulaney and his kid pals tackle existential topics for all ages with catchy songs, comedy sketches and special guests in a nostalgic variety special. (Netflix)

Variety: How ‘John Mulaney and the Sack Lunch Bunch’ Became One of 2019’s Weirdest, Most Wonderful Hours of TV - Mulaney and composer Eli Bolin explain the Netflix special's influences, and how Jake Gyllenhaal and David Byrne got involved.

Hollywood Reporter - John Mulaney, some huge guest stars and a group of talented kids bring a quirky, hilarious, musical children's TV special to Netflix.

"I am aware what a scrapyard is" Metafilter FPP

*Intro & Theme Song
*Grandma's Got a Boyfriend - musical number, lead kid Jake
*What Are You Reading? - 'Sascha's Dad Does Drag' as told by Jonah
*Bamboo 2 Bamboozled focus group sketch
*Algebra song, starring André De Shields
*Hey Googy sketch
*Plain Plate of Noodles - musical number, lead kid Orson
*Chess game, Tyler versus John Mulaney
*I Wanna Play Restaurant - musical number/sketch, lead kid Suri
*Girl Talk with Richard Kind - kids Ava, Camille, Cordelia
*No One Is Paying Attention - musical number, lead kid Lexi, featuring David Byrne
*Do Flowers Exist At Night? - musical number, lead kids Zell & Oriah, featuring Shereen Pimentel
*Papier Maché Time, with Jacob & David Byrne
*I Saw a White Lady Standing on the Street Just Sobbing (and I Think About It Once a Week) - musical number, lead kid Alex, featuring Annaleigh Ashford
*Music, Music Everywhere! - musical number, featuring Jake Gyllenhaal
posted by oh yeah! (30 comments total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
I don't know why I'd been under the impression that this show was going to be a season of multiple episodes, rather than a special - I kept trying to submit it to the 'suggest-a-show' queue yesterday and getting the 'show not found' error, it wasn't until I actually finished watching the show this morning that I realized it's just the one program.

Anyway, I loved it. The songs were all so damn catchy I may need to buy the soundtrack so I can sing along badly in the privacy of my car. And as a NYC-adjacent child of the 70s, it calls back that whole Electric Company/Zoom/3-2-1-Contact era. Terrific cast of kids. (If I got any of the names wrong in the segment listing, let me know.)
posted by oh yeah! at 7:20 AM on December 25, 2019

I was waiting for this show from the moment I first heard about it, I love Mulvaney's standup shows, the kids here were great, I hated this show. I could not wait for it to be over, in fact, it appears I bailed during the "Do flowers exist at night?" segment.

Maybe it was my morose, Christmas Eve mood? Maybe I will view it again? Maybe not. So disappointed. Perhaps I was not the target audience? But I LOVE Mulvaney, rewatching his Netflix specials often. What happened here? I am confused and sad.
posted by alwayson_slightlyoff at 10:39 AM on December 25, 2019 [6 favorites]

I also love Mulaney and absolutely hated his broadway show with nick krull, so maybe his theatrical instincts just don’t do it for some of us. Still gonna give this a try.
posted by skewed at 11:15 AM on December 25, 2019 [1 favorite]

I don't know who the intended audience for this is, but I loved every moment of it !

Favourite bits:
Grandma's Got a Boyfriend
Girl Talk with Richard Kind
No One Is Paying Attention

Best bit: Jake Gyllenhaal as Mr. Music!!
posted by Pendragon at 1:11 PM on December 25, 2019 [1 favorite]

I love Mulaney's stand-up, and didn't enjoy "Oh, Hello" very much, but I loved this. The sensibility is really, really specific, though, so I imagine it will be very divisive. I'd take an entire season of it were such a thing to develop.
posted by Ipsifendus at 3:31 PM on December 25, 2019

This was exactly what I wanted to watch on Christmas Eve: funny, goodnatured, and hitting a very specific marshamallow-y soft spot of childhood nostalgia for me. The kids were absolutely delightful, and I hope they all go far in whatever they want to do.
posted by northernish at 4:03 PM on December 25, 2019

Mr. Music is my spirit animal.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 4:04 PM on December 25, 2019 [2 favorites]

So, this is a more wholesome Wondershowzen with a seven digit budget?

Not a complaint.
posted by absalom at 6:37 PM on December 25, 2019 [1 favorite]

I enjoyed how they rhymed Joan Didion with Le Pan Quotidien.
posted by cazoo at 7:26 PM on December 25, 2019 [11 favorites]

When Jake Gyllenhaal commits to a bit, he really commits. Mr. Music was the hardest I’ve laughed in a while.
posted by schoolgirl report at 8:21 PM on December 25, 2019 [6 favorites]

This was delightfully weird, and I liked it. Richard Kind being Richard Kind and not changing himself for these kids was funny, David Byrne brought wonderful energy and enthusiasm, plus I needed all the thoughts from André De Shields right now (and whose sketch I thought was terrific). I do wish Natasha Lyonne had had more to do.

I found myself laughing at the specificity of the New York experiences sprinkled throughout. New Yorkers know exactly which Au Bon Pain he's talking about that was right off Union Square where Park turns into 4th Avenue, for example. I get the feeling that Mulaney LOVES being a New Yorker—and I completely understand that.

During Jake Gyllenhaal's segment, I immediately thought of his mother, Naomi Foner Gyllenhaal, who was a producer of the OG Electric Company back in the 70s ("And what about Naomi?"). I'm sure she had a hearty chuckle when Jake told her about this job. Of course, right after I watched this, I looked up old clips for the 70s version of ZOOM on YouTube. Mulaney's too young for that series, but he got the feel of it, which I found cool. He has an uncanny way of picking up on 70s cultural tropes for a guy who was born in 1982.
posted by droplet at 10:22 PM on December 25, 2019 [5 favorites]

I really wanted this to be for me, and it was not for me. I think the simplest explanation I can give is that I'm just not ready to listen to kids as vocalists for five-minute numbers. I loved all the interstitial bits, they felt snappy and the humor landed. And then as soon as I thought there was a rhythm another song would come along and drag the whole thing down. I ended up fast-forwarding through the musical numbers in the second half, which means I fast-forwarded through almost the entire second half.

I will say, though, that I had a dream last night where a wide-eyed and manic Jake Gyllenhaal was trying to kill me with a knife. That alone was worth the price of admission.
posted by komara at 7:11 AM on December 26, 2019

Well I for one loved it and I think my favorite bit was André de Shields, I enjoyed the hell out of the singing & dancing & the story. I did get excited when Natasha Lyonne had an interview but then was disappointed when she didn't show up in a segment.

I thought it was super interesting and unexpected how in the middle of all this silliness the show had this little side interest in exploring how fears are learned rather than innate, and how exactly does that happen, and I really liked André de Shields thing about how fear is an illusion.

I loved this and I would love to see more like this from Mulaney, not necessarily a retread of this format, but it reminded me of the super funny episode of Documentary Now that he did which was a parody of a broadway cast recording which was incredibly funny and good. To me, when you have extremely talented people doing something very silly with a deep & seamless commitment to the bit, with solid writing, you can't go wrong.
posted by bleep at 8:53 AM on December 26, 2019 [1 favorite]

the super funny episode of Documentary Now that he did which was a parody of a broadway cast recording

That's Original Cast Album: Co-Op, which is a spot-on parody of the real documentary about the recording of Stephen Sondheim's Company. Eli Bolin, who was the composer for that episode, also worked on this special.
posted by The Pluto Gangsta at 9:48 AM on December 26, 2019 [3 favorites]

I like John Mulaney and can listen to him talk about just anything with real pleasure. I'd been looking forward to this show but it didn't work for me. It was weird in a nice way but I couldn't find it in myself to care about the kids very much. Maybe I should try again another day.

John Mulaney is still hands down my favorite comedian.
posted by M. at 2:15 PM on December 26, 2019

I watched this and thought it was fine. Several bits were quite a lot of fun (Grandma's got a boyfriend, Chess game, White Lady, Mr. Music), and I didn't hate anything, but mostly it sort of dragged. Ultimately I'm glad I watched it, but I probably would have enjoyed something else more.

I'll stick to his stand-up in the future. I saw a clip of him explaining the show on a late night talk show, and him just talking about the concept was funnier and more engaging than I found the actual show to be.
posted by vibratory manner of working at 2:56 PM on December 26, 2019 [3 favorites]

I think most of the bits were about 30% too long but concept and execution were still very good, and I laughed a lot. The David Byrne and Crying White Lady numbers were definitely my favorites, and the Plain Noodle song would not have been out of place in a real 70s kids show, with a little bit of tweaking.

Also if Girl Talk With Richard Kind was a real show airing weekly I would never miss an episode.
posted by nonasuch at 3:38 PM on December 26, 2019 [3 favorites]

I think part of why this isn't a big hit for me is in the directing, and some of the finer details of the production design.

The kids feel too professional, like they're not excited to be on TV. They seem like actor kids, not real kids, and of course they are, considering how much was asked of them, performance wise, but it takes away from the kid show feel for me. It feels very quiet and low energy; there's no buzz of a studio audience in the room.

But it's still fun enough that I'm giving it another shot after falling asleep during it last night.
posted by itesser at 4:13 PM on December 26, 2019

This is one of the weirdest things I've ever seen, and I enjoyed it greatly for that reason. It was just constantly unexpected, although I wouldn't disagree that a few things could have been shorter. The guests were so clearly having a ball that it poured off the screen.

The Variety article mentions The Point, and it felt like that really made sense for the show--the greatest animated movie/album ever, for me. I love that weird '70s sensibility. Harry Nilsson would probably have loved it.
posted by kitten kaboodle at 8:14 PM on December 26, 2019 [3 favorites]

I just saw this and not only did I love it, it is 100% the sort of thing I would have loved as a kid - going way back before John Mullaney's time to the slightly too grownup for kids 60s NYC TV shows like Soupy Sales, Wonderama with Sonny Fox, and the Sandy Becker Hour.
posted by maggiemaggie at 9:56 PM on December 26, 2019 [1 favorite]

I didn't mind it, but I thought each segment was a touch too long and a touch too sincere. If it was trimmed down a bit and a bit more sardonic I would like it more.
posted by Marticus at 10:20 PM on December 28, 2019

I watched this yesterday, and I'm still not sure how I'd describe it if asked. But I loved it. (I do kind of agree that most segments ran just a bit long though.)
posted by solotoro at 7:25 AM on December 29, 2019

(I really loved Oh, Hello and look forward to this.)

The kids are very much all pros—they talk about how good they all are in this article from Theater Mania.
I was talking to [child actor] Jonah Mussilino on the last day of shooting, and he was like "When I did the Falsettos touring company…" and I was like, "What? You were Jason in Falsettos? We could have been talking about this the entire time?" I was amazed that they could just drop a credit like that.
Looking forward to this, will settle down with a plate of plain noodles and a little bit of butter, the childhood mainstay of my brother. He was totally that kid.
posted by fifteen schnitzengruben is my limit at 7:16 PM on December 29, 2019 [1 favorite]

I enjoyed the heck out of this and I felt like the kids being "too professional" was part of the gag.

I know people on Twitter seem to be split on Jake Gyllenhall but he was my favorite part.
posted by rednikki at 11:45 PM on January 4, 2020 [3 favorites]

I enjoyed how they rhymed Joan Didion with Le Pan Quotidien.

Ditto for “in love again” and “Gilbert and Sullivan.”
posted by ricochet biscuit at 6:58 AM on January 5, 2020 [1 favorite]

The music is on Spotify.
posted by Pronoiac at 12:26 PM on January 5, 2020 [1 favorite]

Seeing Mulaney do standup on his Kid Gorgeous tour was the hardest I've laughed in my life. I loved Oh, Hello. This special was terrible, I had to force myself to finish it. If you're going to be this random, there's got to be a lot more funny parts. Was it actually intended as a children's special after all?
posted by wnissen at 3:42 PM on January 27, 2020 [1 favorite]

John Mulaney Sets Two ‘Sack Lunch Bunch’ Specials at Comedy Central

I'm surprised that Netflix let it get away.
posted by Etrigan at 1:14 PM on July 7, 2020

> I'm surprised that Netflix let it get away.

Mulaney knows how to throw Netflix off their rhythm. But, will we follow him to a second location?

Street Smarts!
posted by Pronoiac at 4:18 PM on July 7, 2020 [4 favorites]

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