That moment John Mulaney literally had me in tears. Comedian John Mulaney reflects on what led him to rehab in his new stand-up special for Netflix, “Baby J.” His stories about healing reminded me of a time Mulaney’s comedy helped me feel better.
The comic was for years heavily addicted to cocaine and prescription medication before seeking treatment in 2020. He even hints in his new set that his old style of comedy, with theatrical leaps and bounds across the stage, may have been due to being high at the time.
“If you’ve seen me do stand-up before, I have kind of a different vibe now,” Mulaney says near the top of “Baby J.”
He then launches into an hour-long tale of his recovery that began with a “star-studded” intervention, in a room filled with a dozen of his friends (six over Zoom, he laughs), including Seth Meyers, Fred Armison, Bill Hader and Natasha Lyonne.
“I was the best looking person at my intervention,” he tells the crowd, because he was “cocaine skinny” with a fresh haircut, one that caused him to be two hours late to his intervention.
Mulaney completed a two-month stay and rehab and says in the set that he’s now doing great. He is a relationship with actress Olivia Munn, and, together, they share a son, Malcolm.
Mulaney’s “Baby J” jokes are multilayered; when he tells a story about doing cocaine off of a Koala baby changing station in a gas station bathroom, he later does a callback when he finds himself at a museum needing to change his son’s diaper.
“Hello, old friend,” he says with a salute to the Koala
Mulaney was testing out his new material when I saw him perform in New York in June 2021. It was my first night out since the pandemic started more than a year earlier. Working from home with my husband and young daughter, I desperately needed the laughs. Mulaney delivered a raw and vulnerable set at City Winery titled, “From Scratch.”
The stories he told were so shocking, I thought about them for days afterward. One bit about hawking a Rolex for drug money made it into “Baby J.”
I saw his show again that August, where Mulaney sang a tune about how his reputation had “changed” and he was no longer so likable, like “Bo Burnham.” He was more polished and sold out a small theater – a feat, Mulaney says, because there was a time he wasn’t sure he’d survive, let alone do standup again.
This broke my heart, because Mulaney’s comedy had once rescued me from my own darkness.
In April 2018, I was sitting in a hospital bed, having just given birth to my daughter. I was recovering from a difficult cesarean, my baby was in the NICU, and I felt confused and scared. As a distraction, I turned on Mulaney’s Netflix special, “Kid Gorgeous.” I laughed so hard, I popped two staples in my lower abdomen.
When my doctor later came to fix my wound, she asked what had possibly caused the issue.
John Mulaney,” I responded. She nodded. I later met Mulaney at an event the next year and recalled to him how I needed stitches after he made me laugh so hard. Oh wow,” he replied. “That is simultaneously the most disgusting thing I’ve ever heard and the greatest compliment I’ve ever received.”