John Mulaney Cracks Wise About Addiction
Rehab isn’t funny. It’s not supposed to be anyway. Neither is addiction. After all, by the time most folks reach the former, the latter has almost always nearly killed them. John Mulaney knows this, of course. Why? Because he’s lived through both. That’s why. In fact, it’s precisely because he’s lived through both addiction and rehab that he’s gotta give the two a good ribbing.
And Mulaney’s new Baby J sure gives addiction and rehab a ribbing. He cracks wise about intervention too. Though it’s generally more streetwise than Greeks-wise. That’s okay though. Heck, it’s actually better than okay. Because without street truths the Greeks couldn’t become self-evident.
John Mulaney Summons Baby J
Yes, by now you know that John Mulaney has a new Netflix special. You probably also know that special is called Baby J. The name springs from an adolescent nickname Mulaney picked up because his two best friends were also named John. So far as we know, the moniker had gone dormant till now.
So no, we don’t exactly know why John Mulaney resurrected the name Baby J at this particular time. We’re glad that he did though. Damn glad. Because its resurrection gave us an insight we’d previously been denied. And for a comic as consistently insightful as Mulaney, that’s saying something.
In fact, it’s saying something else, which is kinda what Baby J turns out to be – something else. Yes, as Wiki points out, “multiple reviews, including Esquire, compare [the new show] to Richard Pryor’s 1982 Live on the Sunset Strip.” And yes, that’s mostly because of each comic’s candor. Yet, we’d like to think the comparisons are also due to both comics’ courage too.
The Journey Begins
Mulaney’s particular journey begins when 12 friends stage an intervention. Does it matter that the dozen interveners are mostly famous? Sure. After all, even Mulaney calls it “a flattering line-up.” But the group’s fame never gets in the way of the humor. Mulaney’s way too much of a natural for that.
He’s also too consummate a professional. Before Baby J was a thing, Mulaney workshopped the material, first at New York’s City Winery; then out on the road. Between the workshopping and the roadwork (entitled John Mulaney: From Scratch), Baby J became a bona fide grown-up.
So did Baby J himself. Naturally, grown-ups talk about grown-up things. And that’s not something that younger Mulaney was particularly known for. So when adult Baby J spots a youngster up on the theater’s balcony, he’s a little thrown off. When the more mature Mulaney discovers the youngster is all of 11, he nearly throws in the towel.
Okay, not quite. In fact, not even close. But the situation does cause some pause. It also provides Mulaney a perfect opportunity to warn folks that there’s a new sheriff in town. We’re happy to add that from parricide to poltergeists, this new sheriff has it on lock.
To Catch an Intervention
After Mulaney gets over the fact that the intervention will likely prevent him from dipping into his pocketful of drugs, he can’t help pointing out that he’s the best looking star in the room. Oh, Mulaney’s pleased with the star-studdedness of it all, alright. Well-pleased. But he can’t resist commenting on his fellow comics’ cavemen demeanor. Sure, the world was on Covid lockdown, but they “looked like Jerry Garcia.” Furthermore, if a pill-popping cokehead can manage to keep himself looking sharp, why can’t these so-called sober folks?
Mulaney also couldn’t help being taken aback by everyone’s unfunniness. Remember, this is a room full of top shelf comedians. And yet not one is cracking a joke. Then we learn that before Mulaney arrived, the interveners “had promised each other they wouldn’t do bits.”
“I was going psychotic,” recalls Mulaney. “The funniest people in the world were staring at me, refusing to do jokes. It was maddening.”
One funnyman’s unfunniness was apparently just too much. Way too much.
“Fred Armisen was serious,” remembers Mulaney. “Do you know how oft-putting that is?”
We don’t have words enough to describe Mulaney’s consequent shriek over the memory.
Nor do we have the words to describe the look on his face when another intervener expresses disappointment at the start of the proceedings.
“I thought they were going to tackle you,” said the unnamed participant, “like on Intervention.”
“That’s To Catch a Predator,” replied Mulaney, from the far side of aghast. “Are you disappointed?”
“Yes,” said the inaccurate friend. “I’m a little disappointed.”
Such seem to be the risks when one gets Seth Meyers, Nick Kroll, Fred Armisen, Bill Hader and the like to stage their intervention. When the late, great Richard Pryor had his addiction intervened with, he didn’t get to field such a stellar cast, but he did come close, at least at the weigh-in. Why? Because as The New Yorker’s Carrie Battan notes, Pryor had no less an intervener than the immortal heavyweight Jim Brown.
“You gonna get well, or you gonna end our friendship?,” asked the former Cleveland Browns fullback.
Pryor apparently wasn’t very impressed: “Leave me the fuck alone!”
Go Ahead, Laugh About It
It’s tempting to look back and laugh about our bad behavior. In fact, laughter is generally what saves our lives. It can also help restore our sanity.
But it’s gotta be more than mere chuckle, and that only comes from cracking wise. Which is precisely what makes Baby J so effing vital.
Healing Properties applauds John Mulaney for sharing his truth. We know how much courage it takes to come clean. How much it took to do so before the whole wild world we can’t even imagine. We do know it’s crucial to sobriety though, audience or otherwise. And if Baby J is any indication, John Mulaney’s gonna have one helluva sober life.
How about you? Are you looking to bring laughter back into your life? Well, take a cue from Baby J and flip the script. You’ll be back to laughter and wisecracks in no time.
Image Courtesy Netflix