John Mulaney Zooms in on the funny things in life

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John Mulaney answers questions posed by UConn students at a SUBOG event. The questions ranged from Mulaney’s inspiration to his favorite “Real Housewives” city. Photo provided by author

SUBOG and USG held a hilarious question and answer session with John Mulaney on Thursday, with Catherine Casey, SUBOG’s comedy chairwoman, acting as moderator. As Casey read out the questions students had submitted earlier in the week, fans were able to get a peek into the mind of the comedian they love. 

Inspiration:  

Mulaney said he decided to become a comedian when he was five-years-old. He joked that he was inspired by Ernie from “Bert and Ernie.” As time went on, though, he said he also liked the idea of only having to work an hour a day and somehow make a living out of it. Much of his influence outside of “Sesame Street” comes from older comedians, which he said he thinks comes through in his comedy shows. 

“He [Ernie] reminded me of me and my older brother,” Mulaney said. “My older brother was taller and had a longer head, and I was laughing all the time. And so I dug Ernie a lot.” 

Favorite “Real Housewives” city:  

Mulaney said his favorite show is “Real Housewives of Beverly Hills.” He joked that he related to the women in the show, and felt they had really made progress. He said the show packs a lot of power. 

“I was really ‘Real Housewives of Orange County’ for a while,” Mulaney said. “I would be ‘Beverly Hills’ now. Ever since LBP left ‘Real Housewives of Beverly Hills,’ the show has gotten more interesting to me.” 

What Broadway show he would want to be in:  

Mulaney said he would like to be in “Sweeney Todd.” Although he likes the show, he doesn’t think he can sing. Casey asked whether he would prefer to be Sweeney Todd or Mrs. Lovett in his rendition of the show. After a little contemplation, Mulaney declared that he refused to fall into gendered social constructs and would play Mrs. Lovett. 

Catherine Casey, SUBOG’s comedy chairwoman, acted as moderator during this event. Photo provided by author

Quarantine hobbies:  

Mulaney said he isn’t very good at hobbies. He lamented that he’s bad at puzzles, and that tennis doesn’t count as a hobby. He asked Casey if she has a hobby and she said no. They both agreed it’s not fun to do things you’re not good at, even if Mulaney did admit he has some hobby goals, such as piano. 

“No, I don’t have hobbies,” Mulaney said. “I painted something for the first time and it wasn’t good, but I did enjoy it. I don’t think I would do it again.” 

Advice for an English major: 

Mulaney said he wishes he hadn’t worried so much about his grades and his GPA because it made him sacrifice some of the books he was meant to read. He said that an English degree is worthless unless you plan to teach English. The best thing you can do with it is enrich your mind while you’re in school. He said he took classes that were less popular and he enjoyed those a lot, and would recommend taking classes like that instead of searching for easy As.  

“I would read all the books,” Mulaney said. “It goes a long way. I regret the ones I didn’t read.” 

How Petunia is doing: 

Casey said almost every student who had submitted a question had inquired about how Mulaney’s dog is doing. 

“She is very good,” Mulaney said. “She is 23 pounds now, the most she’s ever weighed. There’ve been less walks since quarantine started, from March till now. And she’s hilarious.” 

Live performances vs. voice acting: 

Mulaney said he prefers performing in front of a live audience. He complained that he feels his energy is much lower in the first couple takes of voice acting because he doesn’t have the rush of a crowd. But by the third take, he gets into the swing of things. 

Opinion on Crocs and socks: 

Mulaney pointed out that people wear Crocs and socks because life is hard and they’re comfy. He said he personally doesn’t wear them, but he appreciates why others do. 

“Whoopi Goldberg wears Crocs and socks and she looks very comfortable,” Mulaney said. “Don’t yuck someone’s yum.” 

Viewers enjoyed this last sentiment, in particular. 

“When he said, ‘don’t yuck someone’s yum,’ I really felt that,” Sophia Arruda, a seventh-semester biological sciences and French major and copy editor for The Daily Campus, said. 

“Don’t Yuck someone’s yum.”

Favorite conspiracy and whether he agrees with it: 

Casey joked that it would be the conspiracy that Mulaney killed Princess Diana, to which Mulaney said, “I do not want that mentioned” in a (fake) stern voice. He said his favorite theory is that Lee Harvey Oswald did shoot JFK in the neck, but a secret service agent panicked and shot JFK in the head in the chaos that ensued. This theory explains why the bullets came from two different angles.  

“I don’t know why I like it,” Mulaney said. “One, it’s a new conspiracy. And two, I don’t think the government can pull off big conspiracies. Look at them right now. If they wanted to do something to secure the nation, I wouldn’t go for that.” 

Favorite comedian: 

Mulaney said Ali Wong is his favorite comedian. He loves doing comedy with her. And even though he usually says one of the comedians that inspired him growing up, he said he has to go with her this time. 

“I totally agree with Ali Wong being chosen as a great comedian in the modern space, she’s truly wonderful,” Josh Stanavage, a seventh-semester digital media and design major and sports designer for The Daily Campus, said. “I predicted it, like the Emmys.” 

How to get into script writing: 

Mulaney said it’s hard to get into script writing because the people you submit your scripts to are lazy and won’t really read them that hard. He recommends finding a way to stage your play if you’re a playwright and perform your comedy if you write comedy. 

“People are inherently lazy and there are a lot of writers already,” Mulaney said. 

“People are inherently lazy and there are a lot of writers already.”

Writing process: 

When Casey said a girl named Jennifer wanted to know about Mulaney’s writing process, he struggled to answer. 

“Oh Jennifer, you’re hitting my Achilles heel,” Mulaney said. 

Mulaney explained that his ideas are disorganized. He said he can write a lot when he works with someone else, but not so much when he’s alone. His ADHD causes him to have trouble focusing and developing good work habits. He said his therapist compared him writing with his phone around as the equivalent of trying to eat kale in a bakery. Impossible. And so, oftentimes his work gets turned in a little late, but clearly, the quality is still top-notch. 

Rumors about him: 

Mulaney said he saw that he is an orphan on Wikipedia, and that his parents died in a fire. Casey also brought the Princess Diana conspiracy back up, causing Mulaney to laugh. He also heard a rumor that people think he purposely never shows his feet, and so he said he is determined to never show his feet again. Casey suggested they restart the rumor about him being an orphan, and Mulaney agreed on the condition that his parents were eaten by a rhino instead of burned in a fire. 

“I always liked in Roald Dahl books when the parents are eaten by a rhinoceros,” Mulaney said. 

Mulaney and Casey ended the night by wishing their viewers good luck with their assignments and the rest of their semester. 

“UConn, thank you for tuning in, thank you for listening,” Casey said. “You can all log off now. Go back to Blackboard and finish your paper that’s due at midnight.” 

“Or don’t,” Mulaney joked. 

Ultimately, the Q&A was a nice way to unwind at the end of a busy week. Fans enjoyed learning a little more about their hero and getting a look inside his residence — a very calm, homey space, with lots of pictures on the walls. Hopefully SUBOG and USG will hold more events like this in the future! 

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