The Untold Truth Of John Mulaney

While John Mulaney might describe himself as "a slice of whitebread moving through New York City" (via The Wrap), he has gained national recognition as one of the greatest joke writers of our generation. David Letterman once declared Mulaney as "the future of comedy." In an episode of Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee, Jerry Seinfeld said, "[Mulaney] really knows his way around the comedy arts."

Mulaney's stage presence offers a mild-mannered, old-timey sensibility with sharp observations on the ridiculous markers of adulthood. His midwestern Catholic upbringing lends itself to the pending anxieties that have shaped his musings about the world. "I've been nervous for 35 years," he said on The Off Camera Show. Mulaney also joked about fears he's grown out of as an adult on his 2012 special, New In Town. "Some of the things I was anxious about [as a kid] don't bother me at all anymore. Like, I always thought quicksand was going to be a much bigger problem than it turned out to be."

After performing a set on Late Night with Conan O'Brien in 2008, Mulaney was asked to audition for SNL. "I auditioned one hundred percent knowing there's no way I'd never get cast," he told The Off Camera Show. Afterward, Seth Meyers called to offer him a writing position. "For my money, he's the funniest person in America," praised Meyers (via The New York Times). "He's this combination of great writing and great performing you so rarely see."

John Mulaney is laughing all the way to the bank

According to Celebrity Net Worth, at the time of this writing, John Mulaney's streak of whip-smart wisecracks have amassed him a net worth of $6 million. This comes as no surprise, given that Mulaney's critically acclaimed comedy specials sell out theaters nation-wide. "I've been very, very fortunate that doing specials and making albums has allowed me to do more and more stand-up," Mulaney told The Ringer.

Alongside his thriving stand-up career, Mulaney works on an array of successful projects. In 2015, he created the Broadway comedy-turned-Netflix-hit Oh, Hello with longtime friend and collaborator Nick Kroll. The act showcases Mulaney and Kroll as George St. Geegland and Gil Faizon, two cranky and unshakably entitled old men who complain about everything. In another project opposite Kroll, Mulaney voices Andrew, the resident nerd, paralyzed in self-doubt whilst dealing with the deep throes of adolescence on Big Mouth, an animated adult comedy also streaming on Netflix. In 2018, Mulaney then made his big-screen debut in the animated film Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, as Peter Porker, a.k.a Spider-Ham.

Then in late 2019, the comedy writer created John Mulaney & the Sack Lunch Bunch, a children's variety special on Netflix, because it's a show Mulaney says he wanted to see. The writer also lends his efforts to SNL comrades Fred Armisen, Bill Hader, and Seth Meyers' Documentary Now!, a mockumentary hosted by Dame Helen Mirren about stories that didn't actually happen.

He was in good company at Georgetown University

Before John Mulaney wrote for the stages for SNL, he marched the halls of Georgetown University, his parent's alma mater. "I got in because of the help of a friend of mine. I'll never forget his name. It was dad," the comedian quipped on Larry King Now in 2019.

Mulaney discussed Georgetown's political climate with the late talk show host. "You live in a dumpy row house, and two doors down would be Madeleine Albright ... It was a fun era to be in Washington D.C. They were arguing Bush v Gore my freshman year." The comedian also had a class with Ivanka Trump. "She was very nice, a good student," he said. "She left after one year, and I thought, 'Well, that's the last I'll ever see of her.'"

The golden boy of comedy studied English with a minor in theology. "I paid $120,000 for someone to tell me to go read Jane Austen. And then I didn't," Mulaney joked on his Kid Gorgeous special. Then, by way of Nick Kroll, Mulaney joined the campus' improv group. "Honestly when I met him, I was like, this guy's so funny, I'm going to hold on tight," said Kroll to The Washington PostMulaney also met fellow comedian Mike Birbiglia at Georgetown, who he toured alongside after college. "Not just doing stand-up in New York was very, very key, and Mike's really to credit for all that," Mulaney told the outlet.

John Mulaney received the call that Dave Chappelle went missing

Before he became America's favorite comedian, John Mulaney told Netflix that he worked as a temp assistant to the head of development at Comedy Central. Mulaney explained that he was the one who took the call that Dave Chappelle was missing and was instructed to interrupt the network executive's private boardroom conversation. "They were like, 'you have to interrupt the meeting and tell them'," Mulaney said about the person reporting the news to him. "I was like 'Okay.' I went in and was like 'So, Dave Chappelle's gone.'" 

Mulaney explained that initially, no one thought twice about the news, as Chappelle was routinely three to four hours late. But this time, Chappelle fleeted during the third season of The Chappelle Show, without previously mentioning where or why to anyone. Later it was revealed Chappelle migrated to South Africa due to a "crisis of consciousness" (via Entertainment Weekly).

In 2006, Chappelle told Oprah, "I felt like in a lot of instances, I was deliberately being put through stress. You know, when you're a guy that generates money, people have a vested interest in controlling you." In any case, Comedy Central then sent Mulaney on a really long errand. "They wanted to get season three of Chappelle — the tapes from production. They were going to put me on a plane that day and send me to L.A. to get the physical tapes, so that they couldn't be destroyed and fly back to New York with them." Beats making photocopies.

John Mulaney struggles with addiction

John Mulaney has been vocal about his struggles with addiction. "I drank for attention," he told Esquire. "I was really outgoing, and then at 12, I wasn't. I didn't know how to act. And then I was drinking, and I was hilarious again." The comedian admitted that alcohol and substances gave him a sense of invincibility that physical sports gives athletes. "I wasn't a good athlete, so maybe it was some young male thing of, 'This is the physical feat I can do. Three Vicodin and a tequila and I'm still standing. Who's the athlete now?'"

Mulaney explained that the habitual activity led to a chaotic lifestyle. "Routinely blacking out," friends would later inform him of wild antics: "slapping drinks out of people's hands [and] downing a bottle of perfume once." Mulaney recalled the bender that led him to sobriety as "fading in and out of a movie." He added, "I'm never going to tell you. That's mine. I didn't kill anyone or assault anyone. But yeah, I was like, 'You're fu**ing out of control.' And I thought to myself, 'I don't like this guy anymore.'"

Mulaney remained sober for years. "I stopped drinking and doing all sorts of genuinely fun things when I was 23. And then I started to become like I was when I was eight or nine," he mentioned to Netflix. "I felt funny in a way I hadn't in decades." Unfortunately, in December 2020, Page Six reported Mulaney entered a 60-day recovery facility in Pennsylvania.

John Mulaney revealed his inspiration behind Stefon

Even if you don't tune into Saturday Night Live each week (suit yourself), there's a high probability you still know the variety show's most beloved character, Stefon — who was brilliantly played by the ever-talented Bill Hader and was co-created by John Mulaney. Decked in Ed Hardy apparel and enough hair gel to set Carrot Top straight, Stefon is a downtown club kid who gives tourist tips for the most bizarre activities in New York. 

Mulaney explained Stefon's origins to Seth Meyers (via HuffPost), saying, he "knew a guy" who was trying to open an open space club in New York. "And he would list things... 'This is gonna have everything, this is gonna have jacked old men... people dressed as babies... farm animals.' He would just list and stare." Hader also chimed in on Larry King Now about his inspiration for Stefon. "The joke is really that I think he's on a lot of drugs. And that what he's saying may not be real." 

But perhaps Stefon's most notorious quality was not being able to finish a sentence without bursting into hysterics, which was to Mulaney's credit, a tidbit he mentioned on Larry King Now. "Bill's a real professional. He's from Tulsa, Oklahoma, so he's like salt of the Earth, he wants to do a good job and stuff, so I said, 'Well, I want to derail all of that,' So I would add new lines to trip him up and make him laugh."

John Mulaney tricked his way to winning his first Emmy

At the time of this writing, John Mulaney has been nominated for 18 Emmys and took home the gold twice. In 2018, he won Outstanding Writing for a Variety Special for Kid Gorgeous. Before that, he snagged the win for Outstanding Original Music and Lyrics for the SNL monologue he wrote for Justin Timberlake in 2011.

How deserving was the win? No doubt Mulaney is an exceptionally talented writer. The skit he wrote for Timberlake won plenty of praise, as it evoked all the charm a boy-band survivor could give, especially for one audience member, in particular, a female whom Timberlake serenaded much to her delight. Timberlake belted all the notes, highs and lows, did some light dance number, and all-around slayed his SNL moment. We can't say the stylist won any awards because Timberlake still managed to incorporate his signature fedora, which should've retired with 1952.

In any case, Mulaney admitted to some clever penmanship antics on Wired – he and co-writer Seth Meyers perhaps shifted the win in their favor. "Seth Meyers and I called the song that we wrote for Justin Timberlake's monologue, 'Justin Timberlake's Song' just as a short-hand so that when the Emmy voters were voting for it — they thought that it was 'Dick In A Box' or 'Mother-Lover' so we actually got their votes, and we were fine with it. We took the award." Savage.

His failed TV sitcom led him to Broadway and Netflix success

Mulaney was a 2014 semi-autobiographical sitcom based on John Mulaney's life. "I thought it was a very funny show, but I didn't wrap the package and tie the bow in a way that people enjoyed it all," Mulaney told The New York Times. Produced by Lorne Michaels, with a star-studded cast, including Martin Short, Elliot Gould, and Fortune Feimster, the show was canceled after just one season. "I take full responsibility for the funny jokes and for the stuff everyone hated. It was so enervating," he declared to The Washington Post. "I don't like to say I'm glad it didn't work' because a lot of people lose a job," he said. "But I'm glad it didn't work. It was like, the best thing that ever happened." 

Mulaney went on to create the beloved sketch premise Oh, Hello, with Nick Kroll, which ran on Broadway for 15 weeks, then got picked up by Netflix. The comedy features Mulaney as George St. Geegland, opposite Kroll as Gil Faizon — a pair of proud and entirely pompous Jewish Upper West Siders who rattle off into their fondness for tuna sandwiches and hysterical hangups on nearly everything else. "George is an outlet for John to express some of the stuff that doesn't fit nicely into his polite young man persona," Kroll told The New York Times. Mulaney agreed. "It was cathartic to play a Robert Durst-ian, angry white male who's furious about losing his place in the world."

John Mulaney demonstrated orgasmic acting-chops

Acting is one pursuit this Emmy collector claims to know anything about. "I've auditioned for maybe a couple of hundred things. And I've only been cast twice; that's on my show and my best friend's show," John Mulaney stated on Speakeasy. And thank god for that because Big Mouth, the wildly popular Netflix animated adult series created by Nick Kroll is a dream job for the comedian. "I'm not an actor — I took this because I didn't have to get dressed," the actor explained while on Jimmy Kimmel Live. "I'm not someone who knows how to talk while running." Still, Mulaney's, um, carefully crafted mouth noises prove to be an art form all their own. Mulaney plays Andrew, an adolescent who endures the many painful but hilarious pitfalls of adolescence and puberty. 

As the comedy series has plenty of episodes behind it, the voice-actor mentioned on Jimmy Kimmel Live his skepticism as to why he's still expected to, well, use his voice. "Because he is a horny child, he is often achieving satisfaction ... But we're in season four now and I've been making climaxing noises for like three and a half years and now when they ask for them I'm like, 'Don't you have a bank of these already? Don't you have like a hundred of these you can choose from?'" Authenticity is everything, John. Godspeed.

John Mulaney dabbles in the crime detective department

John Mulaney has long been a fan of crime documentaries. "I went on a date once with a wonderful young lady who halfway through the date revealed that her dad had worked on the JonBenét case and I was just like, 'Woah,' and then I asked her a thousand questions," Mulaney explained on Late Night with Seth Meyers. "And we didn't have a second date, but I have always wanted to solve a crime." 

It wasn't long before Mulaney got the opportunity to solve a case of his own. While the windows were spared, Mulaney noticed his vehicle had been broken into. Mulaney saw a baseball cap was left behind on the passenger seat, and given his extensive interest in the detective arts, the comedian knew just what to do. Before tainting any of the evidence, he gathered a Ziplock bag and plastic gloves from his apartment.

"And then I remembered, during the OJ case, that Dennis Fong ... he ruined some of the DNA because it got too warm outside ... I'm no Dennis Fong. I put it in the fridge. Then I called the authorities." Mulaney informed the LAPD of his thorough investigative expertise. "Fellas, don't worry, it's under control ... I've done the sleuthing and the forensics already." The LAPD didn't file a report because Mulaney didn't know if anything had been stolen. But Mulaney wants it to be known that the trespasser messed with the wrong guy.

His wife describes him as 'running for the mayor of nothing'

John Mulaney's marriage to Annamarie Tendler is well-documented throughout his comedy routines. "When [my wife] walks down the street, she does not care what anyone thinks of her in any situation. She's my hero," Mulaney stated in his 2018 SNL monologue. "When I walk down the street, I need everyone to like me so much. It's exhausting. My wife said that walking around with me was like walking around with someone who's running for mayor of nothing."

The pair met during an outing to Martha's Vineyard with mutual friends. "John rode shotgun while Anna drove a carload of people home," the couple wrote on their wedding site (via Us Weekly). They married in July 2014 at the Onteora Mountain House in Boiceville, New York. Instead of wedding gifts, the couple asked friends and family to donate to The Innocence Project, which uses DNA testing to exonerate the wrongly convicted.

The duo has even worked together. While Tendler's resume boasts a wide variety of endeavors, from author to Victorian lampshade craftswoman, it was her professional makeup artistry that transformed Mulaney and Kroll into their Oh, Hello characters. "It was hands down the most rewarding thing that I did in makeup in my entire makeup career," she told Nylon. As for children? Well, it's a French bulldog, named Petunia. "It's fun to have a French bulldog puppy," Mulaney joked on The Ellen Degeneres Show. "It's like having a baby that's also a grandma." 

John Mulaney was investigated by the not-so-Secret Service

During John Mulaney's return to SNL as a host in February 2020, he made a political joke recalling when Caesar, "a powerful maniac," got stabbed to death by senators for going crazy. "That'd be an interesting thing if we brought that back now." Scandalous. But Mulaney made sure to cover his bases. He never mentioned any specific political names, and he also informed the audience that he did his homework by running the joke past lawyers before telling it on live television. Still, his joke caught the attention of comedy enthusiasts, The Secret Service. "Am I stoked there's a file open on me? Absolutely," Mulaney said on Jimmy Kimmel Live. "Did I enjoy it in the moment? Not so much."

Mulaney made light of the situation, considering his general tall child disposition. "In terms of risk assessment, no one who's ever looked at me has thought I registered above a one." Nevertheless, the Secret Service had some questions for Mulaney. "You don't have any postings about Donald Trump anywhere online that we would find, rants or manifestos?" Mulaney recalled. "No, I have bad writing habits. I could pound out a manifesto." 

Strangely enough, Mulaney's wife simultaneously happened to be working in Washington D.C., which required them to rent an apartment there. It just so happens that the apartment sat directly across the street from the Secret Service's building — a location that Mulaney would like to inform the Secret Service — it's "not so secret."