Watching the pilot of Mulaney was not unlike going to see your crush perform at a talent show and realizing that they take too much creative advice from their friends.
John Mulaney is incredibly likable. He is the kind of comic who manages to tell a slightly dirty story but remains self-deprecating and adorably affable. If you’ve seen his stand-up routine New in Town on Netflix, you are probably a fan. The problem is that if you are a fan of New in Town, you will recognize a lot of the jokes in Mulaney since they are the exact same jokes used in his act.
Surely, a lot of comics have recycled their own material. Mulaney is an Emmy-winning writer from Saturday Night Live, so I assumed he wanted to show more of his voice. I was particularly excited to see this guy dole out a nice, bite-sized comic morsel every week even though the phrase “filmed in front of a live studio audience” induced cringes immediately.
John Mulaney plays…John Mulaney, a comic writer who lands a gig working for Martin Short’s Lou Cannon, a comedian turned game show host. Mulaney (the show, not the man) wants you to believe that Short is this crazy, over-the-top loon, but the show doesn’t allow to go as bonkers as we might like him too. Perhaps the creators were just deathly afraid of Short running around on set (anyone who saw him as a player on Hollywood Game Night knows Short can be slippery to take grab hold of). I was hoping for some Stark Raving Mad-level difficultness, but maybe I am the only person that remembers Stark Raving Mad.
Nasim Pedrad and Seaton Smith play Jane and Motif, John’s roommates who are WHAAACKY! as well. In the pilot, Motif (also a comedian) tries to get a joke off the ground (I guess he tries his material one punchline at a time), but it’s Jane’s introductory storyline that is a bit concerning. The first time we see Jane, she slams the door closed behind her and exclaims, “I’m not crazy!” She then goes on to explain that it’s socially acceptable for a man to be branded as crazy, but “she’s crazy” is a two word phrase that changes the entire perception about a woman (“There’s a rumor that Katharine Heigl is difficult, so she’s, like, DEAD!”). Jane spends the rest of her time in the pilot running around and acting incredibly irrational over her ex-boyfriend.
When Mulaney (the man, not the show) is allowed to perform rants, he’s funny, because it’s like he’s on a stage by himself with a microphone. When he actually has to act with some of the other actors, he can come across wooden and unfunny, but that can be remedied over time. Pedrad is adorable, but she deserves better material. Did she really leave SNL for this? On SNL, she was never singled out as being a weak link, but she’s more exposed on this show. She’s game and fun, though. Elliot Gould randomly pops up as Mulaney’s gay neighbor (limps wrists and all), and Zack Pearlman plays Mulaney’s pot dealer. On a complete side note, I am personally calling for a moratorium on schlubby, stupid male characters this fall season. Pearlman is one and A to Z’s Henry Zebrowski is another. They aren’t real people, and they are wasting everyone’s time with their “look how outlandish and loose I am” presence. It’s insulting.
The recycled jokes feel lazy, and the entire show feels dated. I want the best for John Mulaney, because of my not-so-subtle crush on him. I only say this out of love: work harder or your show will get the axe. For everyone else out there, fire up your Netflix and watch New in Town.