Why a ‘nice guy’ former drug addict is Netflix’s new king of comedy

Now here he is in the flesh: old, stern, dapper, but increasingly pained, as David Letterman probes how hard it must have been to have a son relapsing into addiction – as John had, spectacularly. At one point, John lays a cordial hand at his father’s back, and tells him: “I’m sorry you were so scared.” 

Reality is the font of comedy – as Chip confirms, The McDonald’s Moment actually happened. But comedy can sometimes come crashing back into reality – as with realising that Chip isn’t just a character, but a real person, a slightly ruffled old guy, who mumbles back: “Well, it’s the normal loving reaction, son.” 

This tension between comedy and reality is one John Mulaney has been wrestling for a couple of years now, ever since his formerly brush-clean image suddenly melted into rehab and divorce across an astonishing 12 months across the course of 2020. 

The Letterman interview is the mid-point in what you might call the Mulaney Career Revision Trilogy that began with his 2023 Netflix standup special Baby J. 

This weekend, Netflix will be broadcasting Mulaney’s third act of “comeback”: a six part series called Everybody’s In LA with John Mulaney. An ensemble special that includes Letterman, Jerry Seinfeld, Jon Stewart, Halloween director John Carpenter, Weezer, the Red Hot Chill Peppers bassist Flea, rapper Warren G, standup Patton Oswalt, podcast star Stavros Halkias, Sarah Silverman, Cedric The Entertainer, and Beck. The series premieres on May 3, with further episodes airing May 6 through 10.

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