John Mulaney “Baby J” Netflix Special Report

John Mulaney has never been a particularly self-deprecating comedian. For most of his career, he’s styled himself as the kind of generally appealing retro showman who was smarter, funnier, and better looking than everyone else in the room and wanted you to know. That was before everything collapsed.

honey jOut today on Netflix, Mulaney is Mulaney’s first stand-up special since he revealed to the world that a return to cocaine (and various other pharmaceutical drugs) fueled a turbulent 2020 that ended in an intervention by his famous friends and a longer one Stay in rehab culminated.

The 80-minute special contains some of his darkest and most compelling material yet. The laughs may come a little less and further apart than in his previous work, but Mulaney’s willingness to pull back the curtain on his inner turmoil in a way he’s never done before adds a new depth that just ends up making the special funnier. No wonder he’s not sure how to follow it.

This darker tone for Mulaney begins even before he addresses the elephant in the room. Before we see him on stage at Boston’s Symphony Hall in an impeccably tailored red suit, we hear him tell the audience that he’s put “a lot of work” into himself over the last few years. “And I’ve realized that as long as I get constant attention, I’ll be fine,” he jokes.

This line leads to an opening piece about how he spent his early childhood secretly wishing that one of his “unimportant grandparents” would die so that he could get special treatment at school. He soon explains that he started out on such a “somber note” because he didn’t want things to feel “way too upbeat,” and easily pokes fun at the overly energetic showbiz style that influenced previous specials like Kid Gorgeous at Radio City.

The subtitle for honey j is “a wide-ranging conversation” — revealed in Mulaney’s hilarious closer to be a nod to a GQ He cannot remember an interview he gave a few days before his intervention. And the comedian spends most of the special delving deep into the very real struggles he was trying to hide at the time.

Mulaney has spoken publicly about the December 2020 intervention before, but never with so many harrowing details. And he manages to maintain his confident personality while joking that given his fresh haircut and cocaine habit, he was easily the best-looking person in the room of comedians who sat on their sofas for nine months during the COVID lockdown had.

He continues by expressing how unsettling it was to be in a room full of the funniest people on the planet, none of whom had anything to do. “Fred Armisen meant business,” says Mulaney. “Do you know how disgusting that is?”

Like Armisen, Mulaney isn’t known for his sincerity, but he takes a moment to acknowledge that his friends’ actions “totally saved” his life. Seconds later, however, he ends the applause by joking that he’s still “mad” at them for putting him in their debt forever.

Over the next hour, Mulaney delivers some brilliantly constructed set pieces about his time in rehab, including the multiple missed calls he received from Pete Davidson, who was stored on his phone as “Al Pacino,” and an even more disturbing breakdown of the effort , which he undertook to get money for drugs after asking his business manager to interrupt him. That segment in particular, which involves buying an enormously expensive watch and then pawning it, is so vivid it feels like watching the opening scene of a heist movie.

“Don’t believe the person,” he says at one point, almost casually, in response to the intervention leader, who “heard he was nice.” In many ways, it feels like the project of honey j reveals the chasm between the Mulaney people they thought they knew before his rehab stint and the man who hid beneath the surface the whole time, only emerging in brief flashes like when he was disjointed in a trench coat and a pair of sunglasses on Seth Meyers’ couch.

Mulaney may look as slick and put together as ever in this new special, but through the stories and details he shares about his deepest moments, he reveals a deeper truth about himself that fans have never seen with such clarity.

“I used to care so much what everyone thought of me. It was all I was interested in,” Mulaney admits towards the end of the special. “And I no more.”

This thought stems from the realization that no one could do anything worse to him than what he was trying to do to himself through his addiction. And it leads to what might be the best joke ever about the futility of “abandon culture” in a medium where comedians love to complain about how powerful it can be.

“What, are you going to cancel John Mulaney?” he asks. “I’m going to kill him. I almost did it.”

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