Let us get the big question out of the way – John Mulaney looks healthy. He was very funny. And he was nervous but also laughed at some of his own bits. After the year we have all had, it felt so good to laugh loud and hard.
Being fully vaccinated, I was finally feeling comfortable enough to start buying concert tickets again. The local venues have started sending me emails for their upcoming shows. Our regular concert-going group bought tickets for Poundcake in June at City Winery and I ate at Tom Colicchio’s new pop-up Vallata last week. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw the banner for an email from City Winery for another show – John Mulaney. That did not seem possible. I checked and he would be performing for five nights – his first shows since getting out of rehab. I immediately clicked on the first date and was put on a queue that would last for about an hour. While on the queue I thought about changing dates – what if he was really nervous the first night and maybe the fifth night would be the best when he had gotten more relaxed. But I was afraid of losing my place on the queue.
I emailed the group and Mrs. Devereaux and peg immediately said yes. Once again, rtb would have to miss out because she was not fully vaccinated yet. I had to buy four tickets (no single tickets available) and peg invited Mistress Manners to join us as our fourth. The tables nearest the stage were about twice the price of the tickets that I bought with the balcony (already sold-out) the least expensive.
I never thought I would be able to afford a ticket to see John Mulaney and certainly not a ticket in as intimate a venue as City Winery. I had not been to the new location yet and I was hoping that it would be similar to the original. I was very happy to find out that it was. About the same size but now with a balcony all along the wall. A glass wall faced the river (a curtain was pulled across it when the show started).
I had been to a few workshops of Eddie Izzard’s – anyone who knows me knows that I love process. I probably love process even more than the finished product. It was a lot of fun watching Eddie work out routines and seeing what worked and what did not and then see what he came up with and what he let go of for the big tours after the workshops. I was guessing this would be similar – that after these and other small shows, Mulaney would go out on the road on a big tour.
Because I knew I could not take photos inside, I took a few photos of the river before I entered and after I left.
Because of C19, the tables were not backed up against each other – there was plenty of room between the tables. I had gotten there first with Mrs. Devereaux not far behind me. We were the third duo to enter. Proof of a negative C19 test or vaccination was necessary and your temperature was taken. Before entering the room, we had to put our cell phones into a lock pouch that would not be opened until the show was over.
I was hoping we could manage to sit together and we were told we could take any of the four-tops. We choose one in the center in the second row of tables and then were told not that one – they were the more expensive seats – so we took the table right behind that one. So we were in the third row in the center – prime seating.
I ordered a glass of Chardonnay and Mrs. Devereaux got a cocktail. peg got there about a half-hour after us and she also got a cocktail. We all ordered salads – a lobster Cobb salad each for peg and me and a kale salad for Mrs. Devereaux. All of us were disappointed in the salads because they were basically tasteless despite the dressing (tarragon dressing on the Cobb salad). Mistress Manners arrived about a half-hour after peg and also ordered a cocktail and had one of the flatbreads. While we were eating, a familiar looking man was going around from table to table handing out buttons. He introduced himself as Michael Dorf (the owner of City Winery) and I was so surprised and caught off-guard that I did not get a chance to tell him how much I enjoy his clubs.
Earlier in the day I had found out that John Mulaney and his wife Anna Marie Tendler were divorcing. Your first thought is that she might have put up with as much as she could but the surprise was that he is the one who initiated the divorce three months ago. I saw a woman in the club that looked a lot like her but I am not as good as recognizing celebrities as rtb is.
Michael Dorf said there were 150 people in the room – the most since the pandemic – and then introduced Roy Wood Jr from The Daily Show. Wood was very very funny talking about subjects that normally you do not laugh out loud about like racism. He was a perfect warm-up act because everyone was laughing and in the mood to laugh some more. Then he introduced John Mulaney.
Mulaney came out dressed casually in a long-sleeved striped polo shirt, jeans, and sneakers. No expensive suit. He was carrying a big notepad that he frequently checked, sometimes talking out loud as he ticked off the bits that he had done. Because no recordings were allowed, I decided I would not write any of the bits/jokes down. Besides, they are never as funny written out and part of what makes the jokes funny are Mulaney’s delivery.
He started by telling us he had 141 days sober. Early in the night we found out that he had started abusing prescription drugs back in 2018 and that he was in rehab for 30 days in September/October, which no one knew about, and then went on to host Saturday Night Live (after saying that he laughed out loud).
If you do not know this already – addicts lie. And they need a routine. I remember that episode of SNL and I thought Mulaney looked “off.” And I was wondering if he was drunk during his appearances on Late Night but I was hoping I was wrong. He had taken the job because being idle is not good for an addict but by then it was already too late.
He told us the story of his intervention. College friends invited him to dinner and then changed the location to another college friend’s parent’s apartment. To his addict mind, this was an opportunity to be even later than he was going to be since he decided to get a haircut (during a pandemic) before the dinner. And he had to go cop. There were digressions and then he would go back to telling us about the intervention. One was that he once had an interview on Today with Willie Geist and when Mulaney was supposed to be there, he was in Queens snorting coke (part of me wanted to shout out, “Where in Queens?”) laughing about the fact that he was supposed to be on Today. He did eventually show up about two hours late.
Stepping into the apartment, Mulaney saw Seth Meyers and realized he was not going to get dinner but instead he was getting an intervention. He had some very funny things to say about the intervention leader. Nick Kroll was on video from Los Angeles and Bill Hader was also in the room. There was another funny thing he said about how Hader had recorded a video because he did not think he could be there in person but I forgot what it was. The intervention leader had told everyone to be positive but Kroll did not get that email and he was the first to read his letter and his letter was very negative. Natasha Lyonne was also in the room and Mulaney had some of his funniest bits about her. Mulaney said he was the only one cracking jokes and could not understand why, being in a room with the smartest and funniest people he knew, that no one else was making jokes.
On the drive from NYC to Pennsylvania (he wanted to go to the rehab that he had done in the fall but they told him no because it obviously did not work) when they stopped at a gas station bathroom, he snorted some of the coke he had in a zippered pocket of his jacket that he thought would be “secret.” Bulging in his front pocket was a baggie of Adderall and some other prescription drugs bulging in his other pocket. He knew he would have to hand over all his drugs when he got to rehab but Mulaney was disappointed that they did not do a cavity search – had he known it would not happen, he could have hidden some drugs in those places. And then jokes about how bad it has to be to want to ingest any drugs that were in those places.
While he was telling us these stories, we are all laughing hysterically. Because Mulaney can take any situation and find the humor in it and make you laugh. It could get intense but he lifted us up so quickly and had us laughing so fast that it never felt heavy.
Mulaney also interacted with the audience. There were two young women who he would occasionally ask a question. And when he mentioned Klonopin, someone applauded and they got into a conversation about ADHD because the man and Mulaney both had taken a lot of the same prescription meds including Concerta. It turns out Mulaney does not have ADHD.
Then there were stories about the rehab itself. Seriously, he wanted to leave when it was reported in December in the New York Post that he was in rehab. But they convinced him to stay for the 60 days and it saved his life. More funny bits about how he has to get his blood drawn regularly at Quest Diagnostics. There is no fancy place for celebrities for their blood tests.
One client would not speak to anyone except for one employee. The client could not be coaxed out of his room for any meals. One day the employee has to switch jackets with someone else, so it had the wrong name on it. That is the day the client decides to go to the dining room and at this point the entire room goes, “Oooooh,” and Mulaney tries to tell us that this is very funny but we do not laugh at the poor client freaking out because he thinks he has been lied to by the one employee he trusts. Later, some women yelled out that they went to Georgetown (Mulaney’s alma mater) and Mulaney mentions that he was at Georgetown at the same time as the DC Sniper and the room bursts into laughter and Mulaney looks at us in shock – the other story we did not find funny but a murdering sniper is funny. When reading his list in the pad, he noted out loud again how the client/employee story does not work.
One of the funniest stories was about a call he got from his agent or manager, while he was in rehab, who told him that his GQ interview was out and was great. Mulaney had no memory of the interview. He pulled it up on his phone and read some of the Q&A and it was hysterical as you could hear that the reporter was trying to make sense of what Mulaney was saying.
Not every story was about drugs or rehab but that did take up most of the night. But he could also riff off the top of his head if there was a sudden turn because of something an audience member shouted or how a question was answered.
At the end of the night, Mulaney – very quietly and sincerely – thanked us and said he did not know if he was ever going to be able to do stand-up again. “When I’m alone, I realize I’m with the person who tried to kill me.” We gave him a standing ovation and threw as much love as possible towards him.
Reposts that don’t mention that I wrote this:
By Carene Lydia Lopez