John Mulaney: Baby J (2023)
April 25, 2023 8:20 AM - Subscribe

A chaotic intervention. An action packed stay in rehab. After a weird couple of years, John Mulaney comes out swinging is his return to the stage.
posted by ellieBOA (23 comments total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
I like John Mulaney. His "there's a horse loose in the hospital" bit (from his New in Town, I believe) is the best reaction to the election of Trump that I've heard.
posted by SPrintF at 11:02 AM on April 25, 2023 [3 favorites]

"Horse loose in the hospital" is from Kid Gorgeous.

I'm looking forward to watching this.
posted by Parasite Unseen at 12:10 PM on April 25, 2023

I'm curious how the whole parasocial cloud swirling about Mulaney's head has resolved. I know that a lot of people had Very Strong Opinions about, not only his divorce, but his child. And I thought it was interesting how Baby J chooses to touch upon the kind of relationship stuff that Mulaney always set time aside for in his other shows—by which I mean he touches on the divorce and on his child in the most glancing possible ways, which itself feels like a pointed choice.

Personally, I try not to get too invested in entertainers' lives, and I enjoyed this special a lot in that it's really funny and quality John Mulaney Material. The stuff he'd performed on talk shows and SNL before coming here has been pleasantly polished, and the new material is pretty excellent. It feels like it strikes a nice balance between talking about this dark patch in his life, using it to quietly address the strange relationship between Mulaney's image and his reality, and still primarily staying focused on telling good yarns, which is what Mulaney's best at. He really is just a terrific storyteller, and finds details of the things he's been through that are striking, absurd, and sometimes touching.

The last couple of years have made it clear that Mulaney's persona is very deliberately constructed; Baby J is just as deliberate, even if it's changing that persona up some. I'm curious whether some people will feel uncomfortable about that, as if Mulaney's own self-invention can no longer be trusted the way it once was, or if it's accepted that him doing that is literally part of the job. Personally, I'm fine with him taking the tack of "I'm an entertainer, and the person I present myself as on-stage is part of the entertainment," but I'm unusually curious how this will be taken by his broader audience.
posted by Tom Hanks Cannot Be Trusted at 1:51 PM on April 25, 2023 [7 favorites]

I know that a lot of people had Very Strong Opinions about, not only his divorce, but his child.
I try not to have parasocial relationships with public figures, but I will say that I have...complicated? feelings about the way he addressed his divorce and new relationship in public. I don't judge him for going to rehab or getting a divorce, since shit happens even when you're in recovery. Olivia Munn has expressed some antisemitic beliefs on and off the record (she made a really gross joke speculating about whether Holocaust photos were photoshopped, and there have been blind items about her making gross jokes about Jewish men). Mulaney's ex-wife was Jewish and his depiction of her in his previous specials bordered on philosemitism. He announced Munn's pregnancy on Yom Kippur, and even if the timing was unintentional, announcing his divorce from his Jewish wife and his impending child with an antisemite during the High Holidays just seemed inappropriate. I generally don't care, but that set of details left me with a bad taste in my mouth.
posted by pxe2000 at 4:54 PM on April 25, 2023 [4 favorites]

maybe skip his "Oh, Hello" special with nick kroll then lol
posted by JimBennett at 6:48 PM on April 25, 2023

maybe skip his "Oh, Hello" special with nick kroll then lol
There’s a big difference between playing a character who’s antisemitic on a show you co-wrote with a Jewish comedian and, uh, announcing your divorce and your IRL antisemitic girlfriend’s pregnancy on Yom Kippur.

posted by pxe2000 at 2:41 AM on April 26, 2023 [10 favorites]

Watched this last night, it’s good, he’s an outstanding writer and stand-up comedian. But I couldn’t shake noticing that he is still relishing the stories he’s telling in a way that’s worrisome. He does not seem to me like a person who is really past his addiction(s); he’s trying, but as he says in the show, these behaviors run very deep for him. Three months in rehab/treatment is nowhere near enough time to address and truly change all that he describes, and the ways he details his massive unearned sense of entitlement and skill at avoiding accountability and deeply desperate need for attention, it just seems like his life choices since leaving rehab are continuing his patterns more than changing them.

Really though, who knows, and I’m not interested in a parasocial relationship with Mulaney, but the entire content of this show necessitates engaging with Mulaney the person rather than Mulaney the onstage persona, so yeah, I don’t think he’s done with that life (or it’s not done with him) so while this was really well made I was ultimately pretty uncomfortable watching it. And I hope he’s not falling into the trap that so many comedians do once they hit middle age, solipsism. All comedians talk about themselves, but the least interesting ones only do that. There are no horse-in-the-hospital bits here, only Mulaney on Mulaney.
posted by LooseFilter at 7:42 AM on April 26, 2023 [7 favorites]

There’s a big difference between playing a character who’s antisemitic on a show you co-wrote with a Jewish comedian and, uh, announcing your divorce and your IRL antisemitic girlfriend’s pregnancy on Yom Kippur.

with all due respect, you brought up a joke she made over 13 years ago as well as a couple of blind items. john mulaney is not reading blind items that are supposedly about his girlfriend. i'm pretty sure he was just excited about the pregnancy. to read any malice or ill intent (or even to imply he was negligent by announcing on a day he may not have any awareness of) is a bit much. lol.
posted by JimBennett at 12:26 PM on April 26, 2023 [1 favorite]

John Mulaney fans continuing to be Very Normal.
posted by Atom Eyes at 1:59 PM on April 26, 2023 [3 favorites]

I'm trying to come up with 'something something Yom Kippur announcements, something something Atone-Police-ing' but its not quite there yet.
posted by bartleby at 3:47 PM on April 26, 2023 [3 favorites]

Mod note: Comment removed. Please refrain from making personal attacks against other members of the site.
posted by Brandon Blatcher (staff) at 5:43 AM on April 27, 2023 [4 favorites]

LooseFilter: "I’m not interested in a parasocial relationship with Mulaney, but the entire content of this show necessitates engaging with Mulaney the person rather than Mulaney the onstage persona, so yeah, I don’t think he’s done with that life (or it’s not done with him) so while this was really well made I was ultimately pretty uncomfortable watching it."

Yeah, it was saddening to hear that he had fallen off the wagon before the pandemic — the narrative I'd pieced together was that he was kinda going nuts during lockdown without a steady standup routine, and I reasoned it was pretty easy to fall back to old vices in that sort of environment.

But, yeah, I winced a little bit when he talked about, for instance, still being a little pissed off at the people who staged his intervention. There are two possible explanations. One is that he said all that stuff because it was funny — much funnier than unencumbered, 100% gratitude — and because it's healthier to acknowledge that feeling and assign it to a self-destructive voice in your head than it is to just pretend it isn't happening. The other explanation is that it's a lingering resentment that he's saying out loud on the “safe space” of a stand-up stage so that he can get that feeling validated. No way to know for sure.

But, like, it's comedy. He's right that likability is a jail. I suspect that he was telling jokes about his wife and his french bulldog this whole time because he thought those things were funny, not because he was trying to cultivate some parasocial fandom. All the stuff on this special was funny, and I appreciated how frank it was and how unlikely it was to please people who used to reblog Petunia memes on Tumblr. I'm curious about what his next special will be like, and whether he'll be more guarded about what he shares with people in the future.
posted by savetheclocktower at 10:34 AM on April 27, 2023 [9 favorites]

Are there any rape or molestation jokes? Can’t seem to find a standup special without them.
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 4:42 PM on April 27, 2023

No, MisantropicPainForest, nothing at all like that. It's closer to a monologue by BoJack Horseman about his time in rehab. (Come to think of it, there's even a therapy horse!)
posted by SPrintF at 5:28 PM on April 27, 2023 [2 favorites]

MisantropicPainForest, as above, no, and none of the other stand up specials I’ve posted have either, it’s not the kind of humour I enjoy either.
posted by ellieBOA at 4:50 AM on April 28, 2023 [2 favorites]

One: I agree that there is a section of Mulaney fans who have absolutely become parasocial with his output. To a degree I find alarming, but then I honestly find celebrity parasocial relationships really really strange. I could remember having vaguely similar feelings when I was a teenager in the 90s but then one's options to be weird like that about famous people were decidedly limited in the boonies.

Two: I think a lot of the blowback and hurt his fans felt was because Mulaney was one of the few Wife Guys of comedy. In his act, he genuinely demonstrated adoration and love of his then-wife (at least to me) and it was nice to see a comedian who didn't make his wife into the trite "wotta shrew amirite" schtick that a lot of male comedians have done to death forever. But in doing so, he really painted himself into the likeability jail corner. Honestly, Mulaney would be one of the few comedians I would be comfortable watching alongside older family members. He wasn't tame, but he was personable.

I think if I went back and watched the previous specials, I'd now clock a guy who has a lot of darkness in him that he wasn't really dealing with. I plan on watching the new special tonight so I am grateful for reviews to let me know that he's dialing back likeability and slowly revealing all the darkness he's been harbouring due to his addiction. I still wish him the best in staying sober.
posted by Kitteh at 5:01 AM on April 28, 2023 [8 favorites]

John Mulaney Punctures His Persona in ‘Baby J’ [NYT / Archive]
posted by ellieBOA at 12:15 PM on April 29, 2023 [1 favorite]

The last couple of years have made it clear that Mulaney's persona is very deliberately constructed.

Guys, this is true of basically every celebrity, comedian or otherwise, at least any sane one. It's the only way I could imagine surviving fame of any sort. People, fans and antagonists both, need to make peace with this.

I found the gratitude exhaustion funny and relatable. He basically spends the special talking about what an idiot he was being (the bit at the end with the GQ interview really drives it home), and in a lot of ways still is.
posted by dry white toast at 5:19 PM on April 30, 2023 [2 favorites]

I thought it was funny. I hope future specials are not All About John Mulaney, but he's been the center of enough gossip that I can understand why he kind of needed to do John Mulaney on John Mulaney to clear the decks.
posted by grandiloquiet at 8:46 PM on April 30, 2023 [1 favorite]

Watched this last night with friends and we liked it a lot. While, yes, the entire show is about him, his addiction, and his recovery, it didn’t feel like he wallowing in any sort of pity-party one bit. It was more of a “Hi! I was really fucking stupid. How fucking stupid was I? Well, lemme tell you...” show.

It was both hilarious and poignant. And, while you could catch glimpses of Mulaney’s prior stage persona, I felt this was a more unguarded “real” Mulaney, and I think that really helped the performance hit harder than it might’ve before.
posted by Thorzdad at 10:19 AM on May 1, 2023 [1 favorite]

I find it deeply unsettling that he’s not doing the John Mulaney voice. I’ve seen him live multiple times. The last time I saw him was during his tour with Pete Davidson. It was a weird night. John Mulaney broke character at the end to yell at a heckler. It was the first time I heard him not use the voice, to speak as himself, I guess, and it was full of rage. And then Machine Gun Kelley made an awkward surprise appearance. That night, before the divorce, before the intervention, before all the parasocial bullshit, kinda put me off him.

I’ve been to rehab. I empathize with his struggle with addiction. But his sudden turn that night scared me, in the way that a previously abused woman gets scared when a man starts unexpectedly yelling, you know? Sudden rage is scary. He probably doesn’t even remember that moment. But I do. And I know he made a stupid joke about Providence in this (and to be fair, he’s made jokes about PVD before, and they were very funny) so I’m not feeling very inclined to extend him grace right now. Maybe in the future, I’ll be able to get past the first two minutes. I hope so, because I’d been a fan for a long time.
posted by Ruki at 1:18 AM on May 2, 2023

I thought that his exactly-one-apiece references to his ex-wife and child were cannily constructed. He mentions the divorce in that little sing-song-y bit and never again, and his kid comes up in one story towards the end, very much as an aside to the main bit. No Petunia mentions for that matter, either.

Personally, I don't think it's possible to derive any real conclusions one way or the other about what he went through. All of the public information about his divorce feels informative, it feels like you can maybe construct a story about the kind of man he "really" is... but that's just as parasocial of a construct as any other. Neither he nor his ex-wife have talked much about their feelings towards each other: they are overtly careful not to talk about that, in fact, probably because neither of them thinks it's the public's business. And this special feels like a pointed extension of that. When Mulaney talked about his ex on-stage, she had consented to being a part of his routine; the fact that he's not talking about her is as simple as the fact that there's really nothing he could say that wouldn't constitute a violation of sorts.

Maybe Mulaney is still a Wife Guy who feels all sorts of complex broken-hearted love towards his ex, and his relapse simply made their marriage untenable. Maybe Mulaney is a shitty dude when he's on cocaine. Maybe he's a shitty dude when he's not on cocaine. Maybe there's some stuff about his marriage or his ex-wife that nobody but they and their close friends know about. But the post-divorce narratives that people formed about Mulaney are about as reliable as the ones that they formed about Mulaney based on his comedy back then.

It's maybe a bit obvious to point to the line that Netflix used for the show trailer—the one where he points out that the awful story he just told is still a story he's willing to tell—but that line feels significant to both this routine and to his older ones. Discretion is discretion, whether you're applying it to the things you don't say or the things you decide you're willing to say. His routines about his wife were routines that he decided were acceptable for public viewing, and his lack of routines about her now are also that.
posted by Tom Hanks Cannot Be Trusted at 2:00 PM on May 3, 2023 [3 favorites]

I just watched it and I’m not sure how I feel about it. It was absolutely funny, but it definitely wasn’t the kind of comedy that Mulaney is known for, or that I love about his work. Considering what he’s been through, it’s probably the perfect set for his first post-everything special - and he sort of references that. “No one knows what to think, all the kids like Bo Burnham more because he’s currently less problematic! Likability is a jail!” was a really funny truth, and what else is he going to do? But it was a tough hang. On the other hand, I’d forgotten how good he is at impressions, so there were definitely unexpected joys to the bits as well.

I agree that he didn’t really sound like someone who was over addiction or even really cowed by it. Repeatedly saying that people saved his life never felt like he meant it - it felt like those were the words that were the best way to describe “helped him” and gave it sufficient weight - but every time he said them, balanced against every anecdote about how the drugs made him act crazy, not endangered… I didn’t get any sense that there were real stakes for him. Granted, as others have mentioned, this is the version that he’s constructed and is comfortable telling. And even though he’s doing a different kind of comedy here, I can’t expect Marc Maron levels of introspection - he’s not that kind of comedian. I didn’t need to hear about his divorce or fatherhood, even though it was noticeably missing, because I understood why. But if he decided to build a whole show around his addiction and rehab, leaving out why it mattered to him that he got better beyond making insane financial decisions and giving unhinged (but still funny) interviews - it was hard to know what to make of it.

Maybe personal comedy just isn’t where he really wants to be, and he doesn’t want to go there. That’s fair. But in that case I wish he had chosen to find a way to end with some jokes that were just jokes. There was literally a horse in the hospital with him (or there would have been, except for Covid), and he didn’t reference it. I hope he can find his way back to sillier work without needing all the baggage that apparently (he seems to think) helped drive it.
posted by Mchelly at 3:18 PM on May 3, 2023 [1 favorite]

« Older Somebody Somewhere: NNP...   |  Last Week Tonight with John Ol... Newer »

You are not logged in, either login or create an account to post comments