You’ve heard from John Mulaney. You just might not have heard of him. Not yet, anyway. Born and raised in Chicago, Mulaney is a 31-year-old comic who already has “former Saturday Night Live writer” on his resume. Remember Stefon? SNL’s city correspondent for New York’s hottest clubs? That already-legendary character came from the comedic minds of Mulaney and partner Bill Hader. Mulaney had been writing for the crew up on Stage 8A at 30 Rock for over five years, but recently decided to step away to focus on other things, like his own sitcom on Fox and his stand-up routine, the latter of which I had the pleasure of joining a sold-out crowd for at Town Hall in midtown Manhattan.
The New York Comedy Festival is one of the most celebrated festivals of its kind around the U.S. This year, you could say that Mulaney was one of the highest billed acts (alongside Stephen Colbert, Larry David and David Steinberg) that the festival featured. In his adopted home of New York City, Mulaney had a lot to be excited about for the show at the historic Town Hall.
Before the headliner takes the stage, Comedy Central champ and Roast MVP Nick Kroll warms up the audience with a half hour of his own. He kills, as usual, and then gushes over having pleasure to introduce “the funniest person I have ever met and a fucking delight, Mr. John Mulaney.” Mulaney enters stage left in a perfectly tailored charcoal gray suit like he just walked out of a J. Crew commercial and takes center stage. The dude looks money, and his material is not far behind.
The first thing you notice about a John Mulaney stand-up show is how smart the guy is. He’s not one to get in your face with noises or impressions or cursing. He’s precise with his storytelling and he’s very present. Quite pleasant, as well. That’s why Esquire named him “The Nice Boy of Comedy.” Mulaney has a charm to him. He’s very relatable. He’s also funny as hell.
His long legs and tall frame move back and forth from each side of the stage as he tells stories of his family when he was younger, how his dad silenced a McDonald’s cat call when he was by pulling up to the drive-thru and ordering a black coffee only and how his mom reconnected with her old, dim-lit flame President Bill Clinton. The best bit of the night comes when Mulaney questions the saying, “Why buy the cow if you can get the milk for free?,” a phrase that, as Mulaney points out, makes no fucking sense. He goes on a tirade using his newly “acquired” fiancé (he likes to call her his ex-girlfriend) as the cow and how the whole idea was absurd and, more importantly, how important his “bitch” is to him (yes, she and her family were in attendance).
Other topics on the agenda included the legalization of weed, how the unhappiness of Catholics is shared by all Catholics (which was a hit with all of the Catholics in the crowd) and a complete breakdown of the conversation when Back to the Future was being pitched in 1984. Mulaney’s set isn’t revolutionary or groundbreaking—it’s hard to say anyone’s is today—but Mulaney is part of the future. He’ll soon be able to call the top his home alongside guys like Louis C.K., Patton Oswalt and Kevin Hart. Following a lot of those guys’ lead, “Mulaney,” the sitcom Fox picked up after NBC passed on it, is expected to debut sometime next year, and his 2012 stand-up special New In Town is hitting Netflix for the first time in January.
We don’t expect you to know his name right this second, but give it a few weeks. Now you’ve at least heard of him. Next up is to know him and love him.