John Mulaney Is Turning Sobriety Into Great Comedy on Netflix

May 21, 2024 - Movies

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  • John Mulaney’s new show showcases his ability to turn personal turmoil into comedy gold and highlights his journey to sobriety.
  • Mulaney’s openness about his addiction battles the stigma and brings awareness to a sometimes taboo topic with humor.
  • His evolving comedy style post-recovery proves that he never needed drugs to be funny, showing growth and personal development.

From May 3 to May 10, 2024, Netflix took one of its biggest swings by airing a six-episode live-television event with John Mulaney Presents: Everybody’s in L.A.. Netflix famously flopped hard when they attempted a live broadcast last year with Love is Blind’s Live Reunion, yet John Mulaney Presents: Everybody’s in L.A. went out without a hitch. Hosted by comedian John Mulaney, the six episodes brought in various comedians and experts to talk about the city of Los Angeles, California, in the style of a late-night talk show.

The episode received critical praise and, alongside Mulaney’s recent Field of Dreams monologue at the 96th Academy Awards, has continued an incredible hot streak for Mulaney where people call for him to get his own talk show. John Mulaney Presents: Everybody in L.A. also arrives a little over one year from the premiere of his last comedy special, John Mulaney: Baby J, which premiered on Netflix on April 25, 2023. That comedy special saw Mulaney recounting his life experiences surrounding his drug addiction, including his intervention and subsequent rehabilitation to strong critical reviews. Both John Mulaney Presents: Everybody in L.A. and Baby J show Mulaney has found a way to laugh at his personal past demons, spotlighting his sobriety and how he is just as funny as ever.

Being Able to Laugh at One’s Self

John Mulaney begins Everybody’s in L.A. by explaining to the audience why he is even doing this comedic talk show that will only last six episodes. He quickly says, “It gives me something to do, and structure is key for me.” The audience is immediately let in on the joke. Who knows Mulaney’s persona or anything about his personal life? Later, while interviewing Jerry Seinfeld, the introduction title card under his name reads, “Recovering alcoholic…and other stuff”. Mulaney invites the audience to laugh and share what they know about him.

Mulaney has made his sobriety a major part of his recent career pivot, as Baby J documents in detail his intervention and stay in rehab. He has found a way to turn his personal turmoil and addiction into comedy gold. He realizes how absurd it all is. Some of his best jokes are ones aimed at himself, mocking his behavior at a certain point in his life to contrast with the person he is now. A great simple observation from Baby J: “At one point, I’m standing at an open window chainsmoking in December, in New York City…you know, the way a sober person would.”

This is a running bit in many of the jokes in Baby J, where he is the butt of the joke. From being humbled by nobody in the rehab facility recognizing him to his own behavior during his intervention now being able to be laughed at, Mulaney has turned his personal turmoil into comedy gold. He also doesn’t downplay this part of who he was. This is not something he is ashamed of, but more a part of his journey. Like any person, he has had flaws and personal demons he needed to work through; he just had to do so on a more public stage.


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Oftentimes, those who have an addiction face scrutiny and hardship when recovering. Despite doing their best to be better, they have a hard time shaking the perception of others that they have an addiction. That is a very hard reality many face and often makes recovering harder. Fortunately, Mulaney has received love and acceptance from many, but for some audience members who can’t look past it, Mulaney has owned it and now made it all part of the recovery tour.

Hosting Everybody’s in L.A. shows just how far he has come, very similar to Robert Downey Jr. being cast as Iron Man, which helped shake the perception many had of him from his addiction days to being the star of one of the biggest movies on the planet. Now Mulaney is front and center on one of the biggest streaming platforms in the world, hosting a traditional talk show set up that has been a staple for generations that anyone alive watching knows the layout of, with some of the greatest comedians working in the industry as his guests. Mulaney’s star power has never been higher, and the audience he has been given has never been greater.

Bringing Comedy Through Awareness and Battling Stigma

There have been a number of great comedic voices who sadly lost their lives to battles with addiction, from the great Lenny Bruce (age 40) to John Belushi (age 33) to Chris Farley (age 33) to Mich Hedberg (age 37). These are all people who went far too soon. Mulaney is one of the many lucky ones who received help and is still alive today, much to the joy of his fans, friends, and family.

Addiction is a sensitive topic. At times, being too light can come across as glib, but at the same time, taking it far too seriously and not being able to highlight some of the absurdity of it can actually have the negative impact of overselling it. There is a reason audiences today laugh at the overt hysteria of movies like Refer Madness or why nobody takes after-school specials very seriously because they treat it as such a taboo that must be taken seriously when sometimes mocking something can rob it of its power. This has been a key to Mulaney’s recent routine, highlighting its absurdity while not downplaying it.

Mulaney being open about his battles with addiction is a personal choice and one that he is allowed to make. If someone struggling with recovering from addiction is not comfortable telling their story, that is within their right. Yet Mulaney not only has no problems talking about it, likely as it can be a tool to help others feel less alone in what they are going through, but he has also used his experience to redefine his comedy persona.


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This is apparent in a segment during the second episode of Everybody’s in L.A., where a team of psychiatrists analyze and diagnose various comedians‘ standup routines. One of the segments is John Mulaney’s hilarious $120,000 college bit from his 2017 standup special The Comeback Kid.

The diagnoses range from Peter Pan syndrome, autism, histrionic personality disorder, and compulsive behavior (that final diagnosis is particularly funny when, in Baby J, Mulaney details the lengths he would go to in order to get money for drugs because of limits he put on his own money to curb his habit). Mulaney hinted in Baby J during the opening segment that his sporadic movements in The Comeback Kid and high-energy stage persona were a result of his drug addiction.

Since recovering, Mulaney’s stage persona has altered a bit. He is still just as funny as before, but now he is a bit more laid-back, with a keener eye for observation and much more self-reflection. Obviously, the observational humor was always there. Still, his opening monologue during the first episode of Everybody’s in L.A. about the city of Los Angeles was some of the best work in his entire standup, putting a comedic voice to various feelings many residents of the L.A. county and likely anyone who has ever visited it, has felt.

This shows that Mulaney never needed drugs to be funny. Sure, a lot of his comedy during that era still holds up as being hilarious, but he is just as funny now as he was back then. It wasn’t the drugs that made him funny; it was Mulaney’s natural comedic instincts. His standup style has evolved, but that is a good thing. Growth is a part of being human, and Mulaney’s comedy special Everybody’s in L.A. is a great example of personal growth and comedic growth. In just one year from the release of Baby J on Netflix to Everybody’s in L.A., Mulaney has found himself as one of the most in-demand and popular comedians in the world and still knows how to deliver one hell of a punch line. John Mulaney Presents: Everybody’s in L.A. is streaming now on Netflix.

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