When John Mulaney got heckled

Mary Grace Granito, Contributing Reporter

“I Saw Him Right After He Got Out of Rehab” T-shirt (Holly Haney)

I’m sitting in a back row at the Mahalia Jackson Theater with one of my closest friends. On my lap is a magnetized technology pouch with my cracked iPhone 8 locked inside. John Mulaney, the most talked about man of the year, wants to keep his comedy material under wraps. 

John Mulaney is one of my favorite comedians. Despite the ups and downs of public perception, his comedic talent is undeniable. He is a smart man with an astounding ability to connect with almost any group of people. But after a long pandemic-induced break and two stints in rehab, I couldn’t help but wonder if he would still have the same level of skill and charm. He did not disappoint. 

Mulaney strolled out to waves of thunderous applause that lasted for nearly three minutes. His first joke addressed the “mixed reviews” of his recent pregnancy announcement. He playfully ridiculed us, the audience and the general public, for not responding with pure enthusiasm, calling us “terrible people.” It’s a fair dig but carries an air of a desire to move on. Mulaney did not address the romantic part of his personal life for the remainder of the set.

Although his wit is as sharp as ever, there were key differences in his signature performance style that reflect the personal transition he’s experiencing. Mulaney talked and moved at a much slower pace — not the hyperactive, quick-tongued jokester of the past. 

His material is paced to match this change, covering a more narrow array of topics to give his full attention to the darkly funny story of his struggle with addiction. When he’s not buzzing about the stage wielding his charm and cadence, you get a better glimpse of his character: an aging man confronting his mortality the only way he knows how.

Other than that his intervention was hosted by my dream “Saturday Night Live” cast lineup — Fred Armisen, Natasha Lyonne, Bill Hader, Seth Myers and Nick Kroll — I’ll spare the details that Mulaney shared of his addiction and recovery. I will, however, go into detail regarding the infamous Tulane heckler.

The show came to a screeching halt after Mulaney made a comment about how every city thinks they drink more than any other city, and New Orleans was no different. A girl hollers from the audience, in a shrieking manner, “but we go to Tulane!” Mulaney rhetorically inquires what that could possibly have to do with anything and attempts to move on. 

The girl continues, as one of her friends joins in, “well we’re from New York, but go to Tulane!” Mulaney is incredulous at this point. After some more indistinguishable hooting and hollering about being 22 years old, Mulaney ends it with, “of course you’re in college, only a 22 year old would feel this entitled to people’s time!” 

Embarrassment washed over me. Although no one would automatically identify me as a student, I felt like I had “Tulane” written across my forehead. With a big cheer of support from the audience, Mulaney attempts to continue his set but not before another random lady rushes the stage to throw money at him, which only perplexes the audience and makes Mulaney believe he was about to be assassinated. 

Any other comedian would have been thrown off their rhythm — seasoned John Mulaney fans know the reference. But Mulaney recovered and delivered a stellar last 10 minutes in which he genuinely thanks his fans for their support and talks about how grateful he is to be able to come back to doing what he loves. There was an earnestness in his voice, a hint of choking back tears, that made me believe he meant it. 

This hour-long comedy performance showcased the fallibility of John Mulaney, the comedian and John Mulaney, the person. Though many have mourned the loss of the clean-cut boy genius they thought he was, fans of his comedy will only love him more for his vulnerability.

This article has been corrected.

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