April 17th, 2015
Murat Room, Indianapolis, IN
Much of the talk surrounding Chicago comedian John Mulaney over the past year has been about his much-maligned FOX sitcom Mulaney, a show that looked the revive the multi-cam glory days of Friends and Seinfeld but fell tremendously short in its first season and was cancelled despite an incredibly talented cast (including Martin Short, Nassim Pedrad, and Elliott Gould among others). However, what can’t be forgotten is Mulaney, still only 32 years old, remains one of the finest stand-up comedians on the scene. Like Louis C.K. and other comics before him who have experienced failed sitcoms and movies, I wouldn’t quit on Mr. Mulaney anytime soon. Seeing him live in Indianapolis proved his complete command of the stage, standing as maybe the best stand up I’ve seen live.
John Mulaney had his TV roommate from his FOX show, Seaton Smith, open for him as a way of loosening up the mostly white and likely fairly conservative audience. Smith proved a good high energy and surprising opener, even if it pushed the boundaries of what many of the crowd probably expected for coming to a John Mulaney show, who is generally recognized as a pretty clean comic.
Indiana had just been through the national media ringer with its controversial Religious-Freedom law which infringed on LGBT rights, so of course this made for perfect fodder for both Smith and Mulaney. Mulaney amusingly introduced the show on behalf of Governor Mike Pence and the Indianapolis LGBGT alliance, and also touched on the difference between legalizing marijuana and same-sex marriage.
Beyond the Indiana-specific jokes, Mulaney touched on plenty of universal subjects that specifically hit me since I’m at the same lifestage as him: getting married, buying a house, and training a dog. This, in addition to his reliving childhood memories (especially the time he met Bill Clinton), were the best bits of the night. He also took plenty of shots at his own cancelled TV show, which was a good way to deflate the elephant in the room.
Mulaney’s ability to think on his feet based on audience response was also equally impressive. It’s just mind-blowing how someone can be that quick and funny on their feet. He also offered up bits on some of his signature areas: his Catholic upbringing as an altar boy, pop culture nods to random 90’s movies (i.e. The Fugitive) and TV shows (a bit on Donahue), and consistently making fun of his wimpy, boyish demeanor. I’m pretty sure no comedian does a better job at making fun of the childhood version of himself as well as Mulaney.
So if you love clean observational comedians like Jerry Seinfeld and Brian Regan, you’ll certainly love John Mulaney. You can catch his most recent special, New in Town, on Netflix. If you like Mulaney already, I encourage you to catch him live if you haven’t, as everything is twice as funny live.