Two children of divorce review ‘John Mulaney: From Scratch’

Grace Pearson-Thompson and Holly Haney

Charlie Peeler (L) and Holly Haney (R) at “John Mulaney: From Scratch” (Grace pearson-thompson)

Our qualifications to write this article are numerous. As children of divorce, long-time fans of John Mulaney and avid participants in parasocial relationships that bear no significance to us in the long run, you will not find a better equipped duo to write this article. 

John Mulaney, former writer for Saturday Night Live and stand-up comedian best known for specials like “Kid Gorgeous” and “John Mulaney & the Sack Lunch Bunch,” has had an eventful few months. In December 2020, John Mulaney was checked into rehab for cocaine and alcohol addiction for 60 days. In the following months, Mulaney announced his divorce from Anna Marie Tendler, started and ended his relationship with Olivia Munn and announced that he is expecting a child. Like we said, a very eventful few months. 

Walking into the show on Wednesday night, the opening night of Mulaney’s stint in New Orleans, we didn’t entirely know what to expect. In recent years, we’ve witnessed the downfall of plenty of comedians, and we didn’t know what kind of experience we had signed up for. Our phones were locked in pouches as we entered the venue, so we were forced to talk about how uneasy we were feeling. Was he going to address the controversy of his divorce? We hoped so. We love divorce humor. 

A noticeable portion of Mulaney’s set focused on his experience in rehab and his intervention featuring the likes of Nick Kroll, Seth Meyers, Bill Hader, Natasha Lyonne and Fred Armisen. According to Mulaney, it was by all accounts “a star-studded intervention.” 

Mulaney approached the topic of his recovery with his characteristic sense of humor, balanced out with a deep sense of gratitude for his friends for their solidarity. Mulaney took the time to ask members of the audience about their experiences with recovery from drug and alcohol addiction; the entire Mahalia Jackson Theater seemed to applaud in the name of resilience for Mulaney and fellow attendees in recovery. 

Mulaney even directly asked a woman in the second row, very politely of course, about her experience in rehab, what she was there for and even joked with her about the “detox” process, as he called it. 

This brief moment during the set brought a distinctly human element to the struggle against addiction. This woman’s addiction wasn’t met with scorn or judgment but rather a deep sense of understanding. When she said she’d been sober now for over 10 years, the crowd erupted into cheers. 

Of course, a stand-up comedy set can’t cure the societal issue of the stigma attached to addiction. But Mulaney’s show did prove to be an eye-opener for how common addiction truly is and how people facing addiction issues should not be met with scorn but rather support from their community to get the help they need. 

The show seemed to go by quickly, but as the saying goes, time flies when you’re having fun. Mulaney touched on other topics briefly, like his rather wholesome relationship with the person who sold him cocaine and a rather comedic phone conversation with Pete Davidson

It was on-brand for Mulaney to approach normally tough topics with a casual, humorous tone. As two people who have used Mulaney’s comedy specials as a coping mechanism, it was comforting to see he’d still maintained some of his usual body language on stage: any fan of John Mulaney knows his signature walk and the way he waves his microphone wire around. 

Grace Pearson-Thompson at “John Mulaney: From Scratch” (Holly Haney)

To close out the show, Mulaney read an interview with “GQ” that took place right before he entered rehab — according to Mulaney himself, he was riding a cocaine high while on the phone with the interviewer, Frazier Tharpe

Walking out of the show, we agreed it was more than worth our time. Our stomachs hurt from laughing. While we were recovering from the shock of the show and taking pictures of our new shirts that read “I saw him right after he got outta rehab,” we’d realized how much of a full-circle moment it was. Our 16-year-old selves, obsessed with Mulaney’s special “New in Town,” would be proud.