John Mulaney is the it guy of comedy at the moment. He spent a year taking his Kid Gorgeous tour all over the country which just wrapped up in Jacksonville last week. He went back to his old job and hosted SNL, and debuted a version of the KG tour on Netflix.
So if you feel like he’s everywhere, you’re right!
A Modern Classic
John cuts a classy look. Jacket and tie, clean-shaven, perfect hair, and the build of a 12-year-old that will likely let him wear skinny jeans well into his 40s (he’s 35). And that face. He’s likely to still get carded even at the venues he’s headlining.
But that innocent look (check out the picture at the top of the article, halo and all) belies an impish personality. That’s not to say he’s crude. He isn’t. While he will drop an F-bomb here and there, he doesn’t build his act around coarse language. But that just adds to its effect.
However, we wouldn’t say the look is a not-what-he-appears red herring. This look works for him and you can easily see him at a cocktail party with friends in the same outfit.
Hitting the Trifecta
We’ve seen all three (Netflix, SNL, and a live stop on the tour) and were entertained. Much of the material was showcased in each venue. But of course each holds its own risks, rewards, and possible pitfalls.
Up first: His stint on Saturday Night Live.
Saturday’s Alright for Writing
Nearly all of his monologue was bits from the Kid Gorgeous show. As we didn’t see the live show until after his SNL appearance, the material was fresh for us but the delivery made it apparent that it wasn’t custom written for the show. People who had seen the tour in its first 11 &1/2 months likely recognized the material.
However, he did talk more in-depth about his professional homecoming (he was a writer on the show for several seasons). He also gave a shout out to the writers/crew/support staff that you never see but make the show happen. HOLLA!
And, of course, he got to participate in several skits and introduce the musical act (Jack White). The skits were funny, and most of them landed. But none really felt like he was carrying them. Not that he was carried by the cast, but you get the feeling that most of his roles were plug-and-play.
The whole show had a ‘this used to be my playground’ feel, but you don’t believe he was ever the king of the playground.
On the whole, the show as Good.
(Radio) City Boy
To make his Netflix special, Mulaney did seven sold out shows at Radio City Music Hall. The whole thing is a well orchestrated production. Kudos to the continuity staff making sure he looked exactly the same from night to night. Hair, suit, pocket square, everything. You can’t tell when they cut from one performance to the other.
The stage is grand and from the set background to the lighting on the front and side of the stage, it has the vibe of an old skool venue, and compliments him well. He interacts more with the audience and customized some of the material to them.
Of course the camera work is superb, including a tracking camera that rolls at stage level from one end to the other. Cameras increase the level of intimacy and set a tone for each bit. You definitely feel closer to the comic.
So our verdict for this is: Better.
Of course, we’ve saved the best for last.
Look Who’s In Town
When Kid Gorgeous announced he was coming to a city near us, we were all in! Live comedy can be great in small clubs or in a 3,000 seat venue. Sure the latter isn’t nearly as intimate, but big screen TVs flanking either side of the screen help.
He had to reschedule original date because he accepted the opportunity to host SNL. We cleared our schedule for the new date and went day drinking on the original day instead. He apologized and thanked the audience for still coming out and there were no hard feeling from our side.
He opened the show talking with some material custom to the city. He would also come back to local material several times, often to help transition from one bit to the other.
John addressed neurosis that still follow him from childhood, his wife and their differing religious upbringings (him=Catholic, her=Jewish), and a little politics through the metaphor of a horse in a hospital.
He stays in character with his (we assume) normal voice. A few times he breaks into a different dialect to differentiate the voice of others in his stories.
But we laugh. Hard. Sure we were amused during SNL. Netflix was funny but you can stop, rewind, pause to mix another cocktail. But live you must stay engaged and it’s worth it.
John Mulaney works an audience, bonds with them, then holds them in the palm of his hand all the way through the final bow. Seeing as how he just finished a year on the road, we don’t look for another tour anytime soon. But if he pops up at a club in your area, we highly encourage you to go!
Live is definitely the Best.
More To Come
Kid Gorgeous joins two other Mulaney standup shows on Netflix,and that’s just the beginning. He’s inked a deal with the streamer for more shows, though he’s being coy about how many. We’ll do Snakebites with him when we’re in NYC and worm it out of him.
While he’s had a few cameo/supporting actor to the supporting actor type roles the time seems ripe for him to start seeking out more high-profile roles on the big screen. Yes, John did have a short-lived show on FOX a few years back. Its troubles, besides being clunky with jokes that just didn’t land, are too numerous to go into here. But that could be a case of getting that platform just a little too early. We look for him to have something noteworthy on the big screen by summer of 2020.
The Critic’s Cocktail Recommendation
The Manhattan. John’s from Chicago originally but lives in NYC now. And his whole persona makes you feel like he could bust out in a rendition of Sunday in New York at any moment. Plus, you know, BOURBON!