It has been three very long years since John Mulaney graced our television screens with his first Netflix stand-up special, “The Comeback Kid.” However, the time has come and he has once again descended from his golden throne of comedy to bestow upon us another gift from the gods of humor.
Is that too much?
Mulaney, now 35 and married, would almost certainly think so. His character on and off-stage is based around a persona of self-consciousness and nervous anxiety, but he should feel anything but.
Though he’s had some missteps, like his short-lived 2014 sitcom “Mulaney” on Fox, Mulaney has consistently delivered clever, unique and original comedy in both the content of his jokes and their delivery. This past year saw Mulaney depart on his new tour, “Kid Gorgeous,” and the release of his and Nick Kroll’s subversive and wildly inappropriate animated show “Big Mouth” on Netflix.
We are reaching that dreaded time of the year at Drexel where it feels like every other student in the nation gets their freedom to go drink on sandy beaches while we sit in anguish in the core classes we are forced to take because Drexel refuses to offer a wider variety in the summer term. It’s not an easy time, but John Mulaney is here to make it better and to help us through it with the release of his new Netflix special, “Kid Gorgeous at Radio City.” It was worth the wait.
The special opens with some dramatic tracking shots of the halls of the illustrious Radio City Music Hall in New York City accompanied by some cartoonishly operatic music. A woman welcomes Mulaney and leads him to the stage where he walks out to a massive crowd and a large, bright set of lights as his back drop. It’s obvious from the outset that this is a big show for him.
In true Mulaney fashion his first joke of the show is about how he feels he doesn’t belong there, like he’s not good enough for the stage. This tips the audience off that this is the same insecure, self-deprecating comedian they know and love. What follows is an hour of great jokes, funny voices, impressions and a sore face from smiling.
It’s been a while since I’ve gotten that feeling of slight pain in my gut from laughing so uncontrollably hard, but this managed to pull it off. The set consisted of a series of stories detailing his childhood misadventures, family experiences and his new life as a married man.
Comedy specials tend to be hard to review because so much of what makes a comedy set good is its ability to surprise the audience and be funny. I could write about all the jokes that really hit and those that missed the mark ever-so-slightly but that would take away from the enjoyment of going into the special fresh and ready to immerse yourself in a world of jokes.
In an era where comedians are trying to get more and more offensive and equating controversy with comedy, it’s nice to have someone who can be funny without trying to be edgy. I believe there is a space for that kind of comedy but it’s a nice change of pace to see a comedian like Mulaney who doesn’t feel like he’s trying way too hard to elicit some kind of shock value from his jokes. He just puts on voices and characters and tells funny stories.
My one gripe about this set is that sometimes it felt like he was almost always in one of these “characters” using some kind of exaggerated voice of slight accent. The more grounded, sincere jokes of his previous specials were more sparse in this one. In the end, however, this detracts very little from the overall experience and is compensated for by his venturing into some light political humor. This is a topic that he has avoided in the past for the most part but his take was clever and may have been the highlight of the special.
I cannot recommend this special enough and I would sincerely recommend exploring his backlog while you are at it.