How John Mulaney became a millennial icon in comedy

ccsu_mulaney_newintown_17By Erin Caine

Lifestyle Editor

Though he began his career behind the scenes as a writer for “Saturday Night Live,” it wasn’t long before John Mulaney shot into the public eye with the animated wit of his stand-up specials.

It seemed like overnight he became an internet sensation and a millennial cultural icon. So how did he get there?

Mulaney kicked off his stand-up career with a string of perfomances on late night shows such as “Conan,” “Jimmy Kimmel Live,” and “Late Night with Jimmy Fallon.”

In 2009, he released a comedy album called “The Top Part,” which Steven Shehori of HuffPost called “criminally overlooked.”

Even so, it wasn’t until 2012, when he put out his second comedy album, “New in Town,” that he seemed to gain real momentum and longevity as a performer.

The 2012 album features some of Mulaney’s most recognizable material, such as the eponymous joke about a homeless man who, unprompted, announces that he is “new in town.”

Mulaney soon landed a Netflix special with 2015’s “The Comeback Kid,” which became one of his more critically acclaimed routines, and even received an Emmy nomination.

David Sims of The Atlantic calls “Comeback” a special that reminds one of “everything that makes Mulaney so singular: storytelling rich with well-observed details, delivered with the confidence of someone decades older than 33.”

Mulaney finally got his Emmy with his 2017 magnum opus: “Kid Gorgeous.”

The tour for this fourth album lasted two legs, the second of which spilled over into 2018. The new special was recorded at Radio City Music Hall in New York City.

After the special was released on Netflix in 2018, Mulaney instantly cemented himself as the comedic darling of the year, perhaps even the decade.

As for what makes Mulaney so broadly liked, especially by those between the ages of 20 and 30, Brian Welk of The Wrap said, “[Mulaney]’s the butt of nearly every joke, but it’s astutely observational humor. Each of Mulaney’s stories are told with such prose and imagery.”

“[Mulaney] stands tall,” Welk said, “as he gallops around the stage and proudly declares everything he says even as he’s confessing his deepest fears and embarrassments.”

Perhaps it is this vulnerability — and his unassuming but colorful personality — that draws people to him.

In times of high tension, Mulaney is the guy who can declare that the president is “like a horse loose in a hospital” and then pivot to gripe about his “little monster,” four-year-old French bulldog Petunia.

It seems like Mulaney is at the peak of his craft as well as his popularity, though he may still have some surprises in store for future projects.

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