A much needed sigh of (comedic) relief

Photo Courtesy/ YouTube

Like everyone else, I’ve devoted a lot of my time to watching shows and specials on Netflix for more hours than I can count. No, I haven’t seen “Bridgerton” or attempted to rewatch “The Office” as many times as possible before it’s move to Peacock, but I have rewatched every John Mulaney special on Netflix more than once (and listened to his albums on Spotify, watched every YouTube video he is in and listened to recent podcasts he’s sat in on). Mulaney made a name for himself as a writer on Saturday Night Live from 2008-2012, and soon went on to create stand-up specials, co-star in a Broadway show and become the voice of Andrew on “Big Mouth,” a cartoon created and inspired by the life of Nick Kroll and his best friend Andrew Goldberg. 

All three of Mulaney’s specials are more than a year old at this point, but every time I watch one it feels like the first time, and the jokes hit differently each time. I’ve gotten so good at mimicking his cadence that I have started to think I’m a bit of a comedian myself too. I can’t recall the specific moment I started to fall down this rabbit hole, but I do know that everyone could use a bit of a laugh at this moment in time, and Mulaney’s specials are chock full of them. Whether you start off with “Kid Gorgeous” and end with “New In Town” or go straight for “The Comeback Kid,” you probably won’t feel like you’re watching anything outdated (this man does not age). 

If you’re still wondering why any of this is relevant, I think it’s because I’ve realized how much we could all use a sigh of relief and a laugh right now. Mulaney doesn’t try hard because he doesn’t have to – he’s got the voice of a 1950s broadcaster but caters to modern taste with his jokes without losing any sense of authenticity; afterall, his jokes hit somewhere between self-deprecation and intense observations that span throughout his lifetime. Below, I’ve gathered my thoughts on all of the John Mulaney content available on Netflix that you should add to your watchlist. 

1. John Mulaney: Kid Gorgeous at Radio City (2018)

Mulaney sold out seven nights in a row in one of New York’s most iconic venues, and after watching I wish I had been present for at least one of them. “Kid Gorgeous” sits at No. 1 on my list, and it was a critic-favorite too. Mulaney explores the depths of his childhood in a way that feels universal. This special is home to the iconic “Street Smarts” bit, where Mulaney brings us back to an assembly about stranger danger hosted by child homicide detective JJ Bittenbinder. “Street Smarts” isn’t my favorite bit from the special, but I enjoyed the subtle glimpses Mulaney gives the audience into his brain, such as a four minute bit in which he reminds us that most of the time in conversation we’re just waiting for it to be our turn to talk.

Photo Courtesy/ YouTube

2. John Mulaney: New In Town (2012)

Mulaney’s 2012 special feels timeless despite it already being nine years old and is home to some of his most quotable lines. From tales of the bullying he experienced as a child to the joke that is responsible for the name of the special, it’s impossible not to laugh while watching. While there isn’t as much of a “theme” with this special, all of the jokes and bits packed inside somehow work well together. Some jokes are deeply personal, such as stories about blacking out after drinking too much, while others don’t scratch as deep – like when you see a Mariachi band on the New York City Subway and ask yourself why you even took the train today.

Photo Courtesy/ YouTube

3. John Mulaney: The Comeback Kid (2015)

This special was Mulaney’s plunge back into the stand-up world after his self-titled sitcom on Fox, “Mulaney,” was … not deemed a success (I have not seen it so I am merely an echo of critics and Mulaney himself). After his failed sitcom (which he once referred to as “Hiroshima”), it was only right that he make a comeback, and this special didn’t come up short. Audiences are invited in on a reflection of his life, and his knack for observational comedy truly shines. Bits about his Catholic upbringing, family trauma and more self-deprecating humor are central themes in this special. Painfully hilarious stories about his parents feel relatable, like when he talks about the time he was on a family road trip as a kid and his dad pulled up to McDonald’s, ordered one black coffee and then kept driving. Overall, it’s a comforting return to Mulaney’s cadence and style that proved he was more than ready to keep chugging on.

Photo Courtesy/ YouTube

4. John Mulaney and the Sack Lunch Bunch (2019)

Okay, so this one isn’t a special, per se. It’s a children’s musical comedy special, made by adults for kids (though Mulaney says he hates the term “variety show”) that centers around fear, death and other dark things. It mimics children’s shows that Mulaney grew up with and is full of celebrity cameos and musical numbers that boast hints of Mulaney’s style without treading into typical Mulaney territory. While I think it is more geared toward adults that are Mulaney’s age and younger children, there was still plenty to enjoy and much to contemplate, such as “Do Flowers Exist At Night?” This show is much different than anything Mulaney has ever done and was picked up by Comedy Central last summer for two more specials, though it is not clear when production will actually begin given, you know, the world.


Once you’ve watched Mulaney’s specials, you can also check out “Oh, Hello,” which stars John Mulaney and Nick Kroll as George St. Geegland and Gil Faizon, respectively. The two act as old men in their 70s who are New Yorkers to their very core, and their humor is most definitely out of pocket. Whether you opt for a special or want to start out by watching a YouTube clip, anything with Mulaney’s name on it is bound to make you laugh, even on the days where you don’t want to.