The moment you see your reflection in a coke mirror is the moment your childhood dies.
-John Mulaney, 2009.
I can’t keep up with the John Mulaney news. Every hour it’s a new thing. I’m not on Twitter nearly as much as I was even 3 weeks ago, but a simple scan shows friends of mine openly in revolt. The “wife guy” relapsed, broke up with his wife, may or may not have cheated on her in the process, and got Olivia Munn pregnant shortly after exiting rehab for the second time in his life. Is that it? Is there some new news that broke right as I type this?
I know there’s gender politics at play here. I know it can be a shock to the system to see a “wife guy” melt down like this. As of now, I don’t know all the details. As far as I know, no one knows all the details except for John Mulaney.
Nothing as of now indicates that John Mulaney is abusive or a predator. His behavior may have not been perfect, but most if not all of what’s been revealed, as of now, falls to me under “his business.”
As someone who’s been a fan of John Mulaney since 2009, and saw his evolution from his first album through his later specials, the news that John Mulaney has a dark side is not new to me. There was a dark undercurrent to his entire act early on, especially on his first album (and even more so in live sets I saw him do around that time, with jokes that didn’t make any of his specials). As a fan, I was thrilled to see his successful turn, but a little disappointed that he moved away from that dark undercurrent. I never wanted John Mulaney the person to relapse, see his marriage fall apart, become a scandal, and have to rebuild everything from scratch. As a fan, if I’m truly honest, part of me evilly rooted for it.
What I will say, first and foremost, is don’t trust any comedian’s opinion on the story. They are either far too bitter or jaded to form an objective opinion on the story, or far too defensive of their careers to form an objective opinion on the story. I say this as someone who until the pandemic pursued a path in comedy, so make of all this what you will.
I also had the privilege of seeing his new standup act two months ago, literally titled the “From Scratch” tour. He addressed his relapse, his destructive behavior to his friends, loved ones, and most of all himself, with the kind of brutal honesty I knew he was capable of. The evil fan inside me got everything he ever wanted. His closing joke (paraphrased here), which has been shared by others on social media, has rattled around my brain ever since I heard it:
When I’m alone, I’m with the person who tried to kill me. And nothing anyone can say about me is worse than what I’ve said or done to myself. What, you want to cancel John Mulaney? I tried to kill John Mulaney. Do you have the dedication to go through with that, Jezebel.com? (Or a more current website?).
He didn’t address any of his marital issues in the set. I have no idea if he’ll add that element by the time his new set is released as a special. But in any event, the inevitable special will answer a lot of questions. Not all of them, but a lot.