Baby J is Back


Rachel Lovinger | Flickr

Inga Keselman

On April 25, John Mulaney’s comedy special “Baby J: A Wide-Ranging Conversation” premiered on Netflix and detailed Mulaney’s struggles with addiction, his time in rehab and how it affected his reputation.

Since his last special in 2019, Mulaney has been through a lot. Through his work on Saturday Night Live and his other comedy specials, Mulaney developed an innocent and likeable public persona. From his previous work, he seemed to be a “boyish sweetheart in a scene full of creeps, the wife guy who doesn’t need children to be happy, [and] the aspirational theater kid,” as described by The New York Times.

This reputation he upheld drastically changed through the pandemic. Mulaney struggled with addictions to cocaine, Adderall, Xanax, Klonopin and Percocet. His friends held a star-studded intervention for him in December 2020. Some of the people in attendance included Nick Kroll, Fred Armisen, Bill Hader, Natasha Lyonne and Seth Myers, among others.

After leaving rehab, John Mulaney filed for divorce from his ex-wife, artist, Anna Marie Tendler, and began dating actress Olivia Munn. They welcomed their first child in November 2021.

The last few years have undoubtedly changed Mulaney’s reputation and likability. His personal battles were fought on a very public stage with people all over social media weighing in. “Baby J: A Wide-Ranging Conversation” touched on just that.

“Likeability is a jail,” Mulaney said in his new special.

This candid and humorous conversation opened the world to what Mulaney was suffering with. Addiction has always been taboo within mainstream media. Mulaney was able to start a conversation about it through his work, a feat he has been commended for.

Mulaney poked fun at the wild and incoherent things he released while he was struggling with addiction, including a segment on Late Night With Seth Meyers called “Royal Watch: News from the Real Life Crown.”

“This was a weird segment when it first came out, but now that the news is out about John’s substance abuse struggles, it’s enormously obvious that he was not…completely sober when they filmed this,” concerned fan Helen Kay commented under the video on YouTube.

Mulaney ends his new special by commenting on an interview he did with GQ while he was in the thick of his substance abuse struggles in December 2020, just days before he checked into rehab. During this interview, he brought up his less than successful sitcom and discussed ghosts in a chaotic and somewhat worrisome matter, all while eating a bowl of fruit loops.

The reporter, Frazier Tharpe, described his phone interview as a “wide-ranging conversation,” ultimately giving Mulaney the title of his next special.

Recently, Tharpe released a piece for GQ discussing his reaction to being mentioned in “Baby J.” He retrospectively described how he felt during the interview,

“I spent most of the interview thinking Mulaney was lightly trolling me,” Tharpe said.

“‘Baby J’ is a fitting, and funny, reconciliation with a turbulent time in his life — and he doesn’t owe anyone any more words on the matter that he doesn’t care to say. But if John Mulaney is interested in doing an interview he’ll actually remember, I’m here whenever he’s ready. I’ll bring the Froot Loops.”

Ultimately, through this special, Mulaney was able to reflect on the last few years and start to rebuild his public persona free from the confines of likeability. Like the name suggests, “Baby J” is about finding yourself after personal hardship and failure as an adult.

Although addiction is no joking matter, by telling his story through a comedic lens, Mulaney was able to level with his audience on the brutal and hard-to-hear reality of what it means to be an addict and how that affects your relationships and career.