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"I wanna tell you one more story before I get out of here..."
––from The Comeback Kid
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John Edmund Mulaney (born August 26, 1982) is a stand-up comedian, actor, comedy writer, Irish Catholic, and oh yeah, The Salt And Pepper Diner guy. Born in Chicago, Mulaney became a huge comedy fan at an early age, and he and his best friend would act out skits in junior high for his class. He is a graduate of Georgetown University in English Literature, and shortly after he moved to New York for a career in comedy.

After serving as an office assistant at Comedy Central, he auditioned for, and won the position of, a writer for Saturday Night Live, where he remained for six seasons. He occasionally cameoed on Weekend Update, and you can also thank him and Bill Hader for the character of Stefon gracing your screen. Mulaney is a Primetime Emmy Award winner for his SNL work. Unfortunately, his FOX sitcom Mulaney, which debuted in 2014 and co-starred Martin Short, didn't fare well in the ratings and barely managed a single season.

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Most of you reading this, however, probably recognize John Mulaney more for his stand-up comedy, which is characterized by a deadpan, matter-of-fact delivery and a real knack for storytelling. He has four specials thus far: The Top Part in 2009, New in Town in 2012, The Comeback Kid in 2015, and Kid Gorgeous in 2018. Famous bits include, of course, "The Salt & Pepper Diner," his love of Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, and his bits on his past as a blackout drunk.

John married make-up artist Annamarie Tendler in July of 2014, and he wasted no time joking about married life in The Comeback Kid.

In 2018, he broke into films by voicing Spider-Ham in Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse.

Not to be confused with Grant Gustin, with whom he shares a resemblance.


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Tropes associated with John Mulaney's career and his comedy numbers include:

  • Actually Pretty Funny:
    • From "The One Thing You Can't Replace."
      John: So a Chicago police officer walked down the stairs, and got to the bottom in the basement, and looked out over a sea of drunk toddlers, yelling "Fuck da police", in his face. [beat] ...And he was almost impressed! He was like, "Wwwwwwow..."
    • John had the same reaction to his father pulling into a McDonald's drive-thru with four kids in the back of the car all begging to go to McDonald's... and ordering one black coffee for himself, and nothing else.
  • Alcohol-Induced Idiocy: Before he quit drinking. He laments no longer being able to fall back on this excuse for his bad behavior:
    John: When you give up drinking, be prepared to lose the best excuse you'll ever have, which is, "I'm really sorry about last night, I was just so drunk." Now when I apologize, I have to say, "I'm really sorry about last night, I'm just mean and loud. ...It probably will happen again."
  • Ambiguously Gay:
    • Self-described as such. Specifically, when he was younger, he says that he was the spirit of an old gay man in the body of a nine year old.
    • A concern of John's father, who once took him aside and explained that Leonard Bernstein wrote some of his finest material when repressing his homosexuality; John admits he's not sure if his father was more concerned about him being gay, or if he wanted him to be a composer.
  • Aluminum Christmas Trees: Let's just say a lot of people were surprised to find out that not only are JJ Bittenbinder and his classes on "STREET SMARTS!" real, but John was not exaggerating.
  • Arson, Murder, and Jaywalking: The titular bit from New In Town where someone comes up to him on the streets and says he's homeless, gay, has AIDS, and is new in town. Lampshaded by Mulaney.
    John: You're gonna close with "new in town"? That is not the most dramatic thing that you just said.
  • Art Evolution/Vocal Evolution: He's refined his stand-up style in every special since "The Top Part", especially regarding his impressions, pacing, and even his normal speaking voice, which are all much more energetic and show more variety in tone and pitch.
  • Aww, Look! They Really Do Love Each Other: The conclusion of his "Buying the Cow" routine from The Comeback Kid, almost word-for-word, where he pokes fun at the phrase "why buy the cow when you can get the milk for free?"
    John: Let's be real: why buy the cow? Because you love her. You really do.
  • Awesome, but Impractical: John describes most of detective Bittenbinder's self defense tips as such. Like throwing money clips full of cash as a distraction to get away from muggers. Or trying to fend of assailants by lying on your back and kicking them with your feet.
    John: Bittenbinder, he didn't want us to not get kidnapped. He wanted us to almost get kidnapped, and then fight the guy off using weird, psych out, backroom, Chicago violence.
  • Bait-and-Switch Comment: A favorite of John's.
    John: [I don't care for] these new Nazis, "oh, Jews are the worst, and Jews ruin everything, and Jews try to take over your life". Well, you know what, motherfucker? My wife is Jewish. I know all that, how do you know all that?
  • Break Them by Talking: John says that he's terrified of 13 year olds because they're mean in an accurate way, finding the thing you hate most about yourself and using that against you.
    John: They don't even need to look at you for long, they'll just be like "Ha ha ha! Ha ha ha! Look at that high-waisted man, he got feminine hips!" and I'm like "No, that's the thing I'm sensitive about!"
  • Brick Joke: He uses this one a lot.
  • But for Me, It Was Tuesday: Subverted. John's parents went to college with Bill Clinton but he's a bit older than them. Since it was in downtown Washington DC, the school liked for the guys to walk the girls home at night. Bill Clinton walked his mom home a couple of times. His dad didn't think Clinton would remember her; as it turns out, he did.
    John: We land at Bill Clinton's feet. Bill Clinton turns, looks at my mom and says "Hey Ellen". Cause he never forgets a bitch ever.
  • Camp Straight: John believes he is this, more so when he was a child. He also imagines that when God was making him, he meant for him to be gay but forgot the last step before sending him to Earth.
  • Corpsing: You can hear John fighting to control his laughter during New In Town when he describes how Ice-T handles New York's "most sensitive cases" in Law & Order: Special Victims Unit.
  • Could Say It, But...: In his bit concerning "garbage airlines", John decides against naming an actual airline and chooses to make up a name. The name he chooses is "Delta Airlines".
  • Culture Clash: referenced in Kid Gorgeous; John's wife, being raised Jewish, thinks that The Last Supper portrays the disciples eating Thanksgiving.
  • The Danza: On Mulaney.
  • A Deadly Affair: Discussed in The Comeback Kid:
    John: I would always think to myself... how could a human being kill another human being? And then I got cheated on and I was like, "Oh, okay. I'm not gonna do it, but I totally get it." And I don't mean in that way of, like, "no one else can have you." It's just creepy to have an ex out there after things have ended badly. They have a lot of information. Anyone who's seen my dick and met my parents needs to die.
  • Deadpan Snarker: He wouldn't be John Mulaney without it.
  • Dedication: Sitting through the credits will show that The Comeback Kid is dedicated to his wife Anna.
  • Drives Like Crazy: Despite his best efforts.
    John: I just want you all to know that if you're ever on the highway behind me, I hear you honking, and I also don't want me to be doing what I'm doing. I don't like that I'm in that lane either, but I sure would like to get out of it.
  • Exact Words:
    • When John's dad wanted his kids to calm down during a long road trip, they said they wanted to go to McDonald's. John's dad agreed, pulled into a McDonald's drive-thru, then ordered a small black coffee for himself and nothing else. After all, he didn't say he'd be buying them anything.
    • How he argued with his attorney father as a child when asked if he brushed his teeth before bed. He answers yes, and his father counters by showing him his "bone-dry" toothbrush. John counters that he never specified when he brushed his teeth, and that he did not perjure himself.
    • In Kid Gorgeous, John mentions that his wife Anna said that John could make jokes about her, as long as he didn't say that she's a bitch and that he hates her. After the initial shock, he declares on stage "my wife is a bitch, and I love her!"
  • Extreme Doormat: To his dog and Delta Airlines.
    John: You could pour soup in my lap and I’ll probably apologize to you!
  • Feeling Their Age: discussed in Kid Gorgeous. John says he feels a lot more damp than he used to.
  • For the Evulz: The end of his "The One Thing You Can't Replace" routine. His friend would go to parties at other people's houses and steal family photos because they couldn't be replaced.
  • He Knows Too Much: Parodied when he discusses his exes, saying that he wouldn't kill one to keep her from falling for someone else, but because they "have a lot of information."
    John: Anyone who's seen my dick and met my parents has to die. I can't have them running around.
  • Hope Spot: How do you make 21 consecutive plays of "What's New Pussycat?" even more torturous to the listeners than it already is? Replace #8 — and only #8 — with "It's Not Unusual", giving them that small hope that the ordeal is over only for it to start right back up again in a couple of minutes.
    John: And the sigh of relief that swept through the diner! People were ecstatic! It was like the liberation of France! You know, for years, scientists have wondered: Can you make grown men and women weep tears of joy by playing Tom Jones’s "It’s Not Unusual"? And the answer is: Yes, you can, as long as it is preceded by seven "What’s New Pussycat?"s. [beat] And on the other hand... when we went back... holy shit...
  • I Ate WHAT?!: Chugs an entire bottle of perfume in "Whiskey or Perfume?" because he's too plastered to bother smelling it first.
    John: He said "Hey, is this whiskey, or perfume?" And I grabbed it, drank all of it, and said "It's perfume!" And it was.
  • Iconic Outfit: all three of his Netflix specials (all of them except "The Top Part") were performed in a suit and tie; their widespread availability cemented the look as part of Mulaney's brand.
  • Irishman and a Jew: When he and Nick Kroll perform together, he's the Irishman to Kroll's Jew. And of course, his wife is Jewish as well.
  • Judgment of Solomon: invokedParodied, when he talks about the Fridge Logic required to make that story work.
    John: ...What kind of awful bitch has just stolen a baby —she stole a baby— and the first time she's asked about it, she's like "Look, I'll take what I can get!"?
  • Keet: Effeminate to the point of Ambiguously Gay, and so energetic he practically runs across the stage in Kid Gorgeous.
  • Manchild: Self-described as such.
  • Matzo Fever: In his act, he states that he likes to date Jewish women because they say exactly what's on their mind and encourage him to stand up for himself. True enough, he married a Jewish woman in the Catskills Mountains.
  • Missing White Woman Syndrome: John notes that the media loves to play up the attractiveness of female murder victims to enhance the sensationalism. He then notes that sometimes the hype doesn't live up to the reality. "'Beauty Slain'. Hmm... How about 'Body Found'?"
  • Mistaken Nationality: One routine from New In Town describes his childhood being bullied for being Asian-American.
    John: And the biggest problem with that... is that I'm not Asian-American.
  • Not What It Looks Like: His bit about being mistaken for a sex criminal in a subway. He started running after a woman in the subway, thinking it was because she heard a train coming, only to realize that she was running from him because she thought he was a rapist.
  • N-Word Privileges:
    • "The Worse Word" skates around this one. John recounts the time he was told that the word "midget" is just as bad as the N-word.
      John: First off: No. No it's not. Do you know how I know it's not? It's because we're saying the word "midget", and we're not even saying what the N-word is! If you're comparing the badness of two words, and you won't even say one of them... that's the worse word.
    • Parodied in "Horse in a Hospital," where the "horse" is a clear analogue to US president Donald Trump:
      John: And then other people are like "if there's gonna be a horse in a hospital, I'm gonna say the N-word on TV!" And it's like, those don't match at all.
    • As seen under Bait-and-Switch Comment, he also makes a lot of jokes about Jews he would never get away with if he wasn't married to one.
  • Older Than They Look: Very much so. He himself takes note of this.
    John: I was hoping I would look older. But it didn't happen. I just look worse. I don't think people are looking at me on the street and going, "Hey, look at that man!" I think they're saying, "Wow! That tall child looks terrible!"
  • Once per Episode: All three of his stand-up specials include bits about pop culture (such as Back to the Future in The Comeback Kid), dissections of others' words (New in Town's titular routine), and all three of his finales are storytelling routines starring himself ("The Salt and Pepper Diner" in The Top Part). Kid Gorgeous, however, seems to avoid all three.
  • One Steve Limit: Averted in "The Salt and Pepper Diner" and "The One Thing You Can't Replace", in which his best friend John plays major and minor roles, respectively.
    John: Now, I go into this place one day, when I'm eleven, with my best friend John. I should say that his name is also John. I'm not calling myself my own best friend. It's a separate human being.
  • Raised Catholic: He's no Stephen Colbert, but he's still practicing in a classic American Christmas and Easter sense. In The Comeback Kid he even jokes that contrary to not being particularly churchgoing, he had all the words and steps to the service memorized and was "batting .300" till they changed the response to the Priest saying "Peace be upon you." In Kid Gorgeous, he says that while not religious himself (and even joking about it), he gets defensive when people make fun of religious people because his mother still is.
  • Random Passerby Advice: A woman John passed when he was walking down the street told him to "Eat ass, suck a dick, and sell drugs." completely unprompted with no explanation.
  • Refuge in Audacity: Lampshaded in "The One Thing You Can't Replace." The image of a bunch of white, drunk teenagers chanting "FUCK DA POLICE!" in a Chicago police officer's face with complete and total confidence is so impudent, that the officer is, in John's words, almost impressed. And then you learn that John went to a Catholic school.
  • Rhymes on a Dime: referenced in New In Town, when he encounters an old gay man in a public bathroom:
    John: He went, "I'm either having a drink or I have to pee; you're living the golden years, kid, not me." He spoke in rhymes, it was crazy!
  • Saved for the Sequel: Of a sort; during his time as a writer for SNL, John wrote a sketch parody of Les Misérables about two guys ordering lobster in a diner. The sketch was never used until he came back to host many years later, which allowed him to play the role of the waiter.
  • Sharp-Dressed Man: Wears a suit and tie in New In Town, The Comeback Kid, and Kid Gorgeous.
  • Skewed Priorities: One of the jokes he makes about Law and Order is how some witnesses will continue working, despite being questioned by detectives.
    John: Some of my personal favorites? There's guy-who-while-being-questioned-by-homicide-detectives-will-not-stop-unloading-crates. Doesn't matter to this guy! Double rape and murder? Naaaaaah. He's gotta unload that van!
  • Take That!:
    • John's made up "garbage airline" is Delta Airlines.
    • The "horse in a hospital" routine is an unsubtle parody of both the Trump administration and the media circus surrounding it.
  • The Teetotaler: Now that he's a Recovered Addict, John tries avoiding alcohol.
  • Those Two Guys:
    • With his best friend since childhood, John O'Brien,
    • With Bill Hader during his time on SNL,
    • With Nick Kroll when they appear together to either promote or portray their Oh, Hello characters Gil Faizon and George St. Geegland.
  • Troll:
    • The "Salt and Pepper Diner" routine.
    • Changing Bill Hader's lines on the Saturday Night Live teleprompter at the last minute to get him to break character and laugh.
  • The Tyson Zone: Discussed in New in Town, using the example of Michael Jackson. He also mentions that when he drank heavily, he would believe any story he heard about himself.
  • Unfazed Everyman: He describes the waitstaff in "The Salt and Pepper Diner" as this.
    John: And we're surrounded by this seemingly indifferent staff, you know? (mimes cleaning) Just like, "Yep, same shit as always."
  • Very Special Episode: Referenced in "The Comeback Kid", in his brief segment on marijuana.
    John: We'd be sitting here, watching Saved By The Bell, and we'd be having a great old time. And then... a character we had not seen before would show up with some weed, and the episode would stop cold in its tracks!
  • Wild Teen Party: One of his routines involves him recounting when he once went to one hosted by a high school student who is the son of a Sadist Teacher.
  • What Do You Mean, It's Not for Kids?:
    • invoked He has a lengthy routine in Kid Gorgeous about Detective JJ Bittenbinder, who would come to John's school and describe what might happen to them if (or rather, the detective seemed pretty convinced, when) they were kidnapped or murdered. John says of it:
      John: Yeah, you're not laughing, and he's not even in the room! Imagine he's three feet away, and you're seven!
    • Mentioned on the Tonight Show that when he was recording lines for Spider-Man: Into the Spiderverse, he was told to "have fun with it". This, being John Mulaney, resulted in him cursing up a storm. People who saw test screenings have reported that the language wasn't censored in the versions they saw and he was dropping f-bombs. It wasn't until he was done when he finally asked what the movie was rated. In his defense, he was told to have fun with it:
      John: ... and then I pause, I went "What is this movie rated?" And they said, "PG". And I said "Oh, so uhhhh... nothing I just said is usable."
  • You Have Got to Be Kidding Me!: John's reaction upon receiving a letter from his college asking for alumnus donations, after already having given them $120,000 in tuition.
    John: What kind of coke head relative is my college? You spent it already? I gave you more money than the Civil War cost, and you fucking spent it already?!

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