John Mulaney: From Scratch

The award-winning comedian enters a new phase of his career (and life) showing us the realest, most raw version of himself.

The comedian is back on tour with “John Mulaney: From Scratch” (Photo from

Sahanya Bhaktaram, Life Copy Editor

Editor’s Note: All quotes are as recalled from memory.

John Mulaney has had an eventful year, but the Emmy-winning comedian—dubbed the Michael Jordan of comedy—is back on tour for his appropriately named show: “John Mulaney: From Scratch.” 

In September 2020, Mulaney checked himself into rehab but relapsed soon after, causing his close friends to stage an intervention on Dec. 18, 2020. His second stint in rehab, after he had openly talked about his struggles with addiction, made headlines as notable friends and fans alike wished him well. 

In light of the media frenzy and public scrutiny that surrounds his personal relationships, it’s important to note how hard it must be when the private, darkest moments of someone’s life are made public without their consent, and that celebrities do not owe us anything. However, Mulaney gave us almost everything we were looking for in his show, putting himself in the most vulnerable position he’s ever been. 

Those who have heard any of his work know that the comedian has been open about his struggles with addiction; however, most of his well-known work was made after his personal decision to stay sober in 2005. Since then, Mulaney has had quite the comedy career, working as a writer for SNL from 2008 to 2012, which he left to pursue his true calling: stand up. In addition to his first comedy album, “The Top Part” (2009), he has three specials: New In Town (2012), The Comeback Kid (2015) and Kid Gorgeous (2018). He even had his own sitcom for a short period of time from 2014-15. In 2019, Mulaney wrote and starred in a children’s comedy special, “John Mulaney & the Sack Lunch Bunch,” which he wrote with fellow SNL writer and work wife Marika Sawyer. He currently serves as a consulting producer on his longtime friend Nick Kroll’s hit show, “Big Mouth,” and voices the character Andrew Glouberman. He also wrote and starred in a wildly successful Broadway show with Kroll called “Oh, Hello,” is a voiceover actor and has hosted SNL multiple times. Needless to say, Mulaney has cemented his place as one of the most well known names in comedy—and he has done so by crafting a beloved persona: a personable, “clean” comedian who performs in suits. After seeing this show, it seems as though he is building himself a new persona … from scratch

The show itself was different from previous specials. It took place in a small, intimate venue where viewers had to check their phones and smartwatches in “lockboxes” upon entering, as opposed to Radio City Music Hall, where he taped “Kid Gorgeous.” While we were waiting for Mulaney to come on stage, music from his favorite band, Steely Dan, played from the speakers, which was a sweet touch. I wondered if he’d play it casual with a button-up and jeans like he did for his first leg of the tour in New York, but he appeared on stage in his usual uniform of a freshly-pressed suit.

“Here’s how problematic I am: I announced I’m having a baby and the reviews are mixed,” Mulaney said in his opening line. A few jokes in, the comedian made fun of how everyone likes Bo Burnham better now. 

Now that his life is the topic of public fodder, Mulaney decided to tell us his side of the story … in great detail. The first part of the show was what I expected to hear, based on reviews and his most recent interview on “Late Night with Seth Meyers.” He walked us through his intervention—which he recognized immediately upon opening the door of his college friend’s apartment to see Seth Meyers—making the audience feel like we were there. He name-dropped and we loved it, impersonating Nick Kroll, Bill Hader, Natasha Lyonne and Fred Armisen.

“Oh yeah, it was a star-studded affair,” Mulaney said. “It was like a ‘we are the world’ of alternative comedians over 40.”

Next, he shifted his focus to rehab, first letting us in on a little secret: Pete Davidson changes his phone number every month, which Mulaney saves under celebrity pseudonyms like Al Pacino.

“After I had finally been given medicine to fall asleep because I had been awake for multiple days and was being difficult, my nurse woke me up because she saw my phone ringing with five missed calls from Oscar-winner Al Pacino,” Mulaney said.

From there, there isn’t a clear outline I can walk you through, because he was taking us everywhere from hot takes like “I hate science. I mean, I know we’re supposed to believe the earth is round, but it sure feels like it’s flat,” to the insurrection at the Capitol to not always wanting to do the right thing to his thoughts on the “Aunt Becky Scandal.”

 The legendary performer no longer seemed like he was performing. Instead of parading around the stage, he casually talked to the audience, improvised and cussed a lot, which isn’t something he’s done much of in the past. No more perfectly rehearsed bits about Detective Bittenbinder and his “Street Smarts” or “I was over on the bench!” The jokes were dark and, honestly, kind of shocking, considering Mulaney didn’t seem to care about maintaining his “nice boy, likable” image, but his authenticity was charming. He leaned into the “asshole side” of himself that he played on an episode Pete Holmes’ “Crashing,” in which he acted as the Mr. Hyde side to his usual Dr. Jekyll. 

This is not to say that I think Mulaney is actually an asshole; he’s simply done caring about what we think and I loved it. Every joke killed. There was not a dull moment, and you could feel the captive energy as audience members clung to every single word, scared that each joke would be his last. It was brilliant. When it was time for the show to wrap up, the comedian concluded by talking us through a GQ interview he gave on Dec. 15, three days before he checked into rehab.

“When I received a call from a reporter asking if it was a good time to talk, the brain of a coked-out person immediately said yes. I have no recollection of this interview, but it was published,” Mulaney said, cracking up as he read quotes directly from the magazine.

He poked fun at himself the whole night, selling t-shirts with his childhood picture on them and ones that said, “I saw him right after he got outta rehab.” While Mulaney made light of more serious topics, as a comic is wont to do, he expressed his gratitude during an intimate moment with the audience. 

“In the darkest time of my life, I never thought I would have gotten out and I’m grateful that I can still be here and do this,” Mulaney said.

And he really seemed to mean it. Every aspect of the show felt like it was for the fans: those who have followed his journey, love him and care about how he’s doing. In the past, Mulaney has talked about his anxiety, and how his desire to be liked is such a driving force that he plays roles with everyone, including his family and closest friends. While I can’t say this for certain, last night really felt like he put at least part of the facade aside. 

Again, it’s important to remember that John Mulaney doesn’t owe us anything, especially as the public passes judgement on every aspect of his life, but I am grateful that he’s back on his feet, reminding us how much we love him.