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Explosive. Shameless. Raucously Sober: John Mulaney Delivers a Long Island Special

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Few standup comedians exemplify “rockstar” status— John Mulaney is one of them.

Before a sold-out UBS Elmont Arena crowd on November 11, the charged-up comedian captivated with thoroughly scripted vigor – wiggle room left for off-the-cuff improvisations, courtesy of audience enrages at his regrettable “great to be here in Long Island!” remark. 

For his 2-hour From Scratch set, Mulaney took a nonlinear approach to hyperfocusing on the obvious— his very public relapse and subsequent rehab stint from December 2020 to February 2021 for cocaine abuse, amongst other substances. His storytelling fervor never better (and hair never longer), no one performing today roasts themselves with self-deprecative superpowered wit on the level of Mulaney. His put-downs register as endearing, too— even more so as he docks his fleet in the ultra-relatable port of addiction, disarming and damn-near enchanting the audience with one anecdotal zinger after the next. And yet, he never comes across as a pity solicitor, nor the egomaniac he admits one can become in his post. Mulaney’s set, and the tour itself, serves as a public service announcement— one with timely resonance amid Men’s Mental Health Awareness Month for people to seek help so they can one day laugh about their baggage in reflection instead of the bleaker alternative. 

Clearly, the former Saturday Night Live head writer-turned-punchline showman has never had more fun than when he is simultaneously thanking and mocking the “star-studded lineup” of interveners who saved his life. Though Seaton Smith didn’t quite work with the Long Island crowd, Mulaney’s best pal Dan Levy – not of Schitt’s Creek, the other comedian Dan Levy – also killed before turning the stage over to the main event. Levy lit riotously into his adjustment to marriage and fatherhood. He also pointed out the hypocrisy of being asked by a popular TV show that fired him as a staff writer not to gossip, his all-time favorite activity, about it afterward. When Levy passed the mic onto Mulaney, he opened up with the 1950s Space Race, of all topics, and never passed his political limit – “Name a time Russia was nice, you can’t it doesn’t exist!” – throughout the night. 

His first official “sober” tour in quite some time, Mulaney ironically had a reputation as more of a cleaner comic when he was still using, as opposed to the phone-locking sensitivity his Seinfeld comparison-repellent second act requires. 

More akin to leather-suited 1980s Eddie Murphy, Mulaney is pushing his material to its boldest and raunchiest plateaus. However, he does so while still adorned in his traditional suit of choice and by predominantly making fun of himself to dark extremes without intimating he is any present danger. 

Mulaney lifts societal veils with silliness without likening himself the voice of a generation, a master commentator or the satirist’s second coming. He knows only two things to be true and spares no moment to remind you: he is otherworldly funny, and he’s addicted to drugs. 

He used his literally unique voice to deliver a Long Island special to a Long Island crowd, sending the whole joint into absolute stitches. 

“Walking into a ‘post-rehab’ Mulaney, I had no idea what to expect,” said Paul Bisono, 27 a Hauppauge native who attended Friday’s show. “What could have been a very sad attempt to reclaim his former glory quickly faded as he immediately addressed the elephant in the room head-on. His openness about his addiction and recovery accompanied by his unique brand of comedy created a hilarious experience that confirms that Mulaney is here to stay.” 

That this was no one-time thing, either, rather an every-night instance per the nature of his vocation and the creative intent of this, the tour of his renewal and reckoning, is a testament to the nobility of those who choose this career path. It’s especially evident when considering Mulaney’s rehab brethren who didn’t recognize him one iota were shocked to learn he makes a living doing stand-up. 

But we know better and recognize Mulaney as the funniest person in any room he is in or in any room where he has been put on the TV within. Stay tuned for 2023 when From Scratch jettisons to the No. 1 spot on Netflix’s comedy special slate immediately upon release. It’s only a special by default, as the argument can be made that the picture-painter of cinematic proportions’ latest charismatic rendition of “Show and Tell” shows and tells more than any current movie. 

John Mulaney: From Scratch is the tale of the boy who lived – the new kid in town’s gorgeous comeback – despite his past designs. To his demons and ghouls, he’s appeared to bid an emphatic adieu. John Mulaney is here to stay, selling out shows worldwide and on the local front, whether at UBS Elmont Arena or MSG in the city, “15 miles and 2 hours away.”

Michael J. Reistetter
Michael J. Reistetter
Editor-in-Chief for The Messenger Papers.