JFL42: John Mulaney

As hundreds of comedians rolled into Toronto for the Just for Laughs festival, Spindle vowed to sit in the back row swigging beer, howling hysterically whilst simultaneously peeing our pants (with laughter).

Let’s be honest – kicking proceedings off with comedy deity John Mulaney was always going to be a hard act to follow. Mulaney is a former Saturday Night Live writer, and a supremely talented one at that. The 31 year old co-created the character of Stefon with Bill Hader. (Stefon is a post-hipsterite New Yorker who fills us in on the hottest underground events in NYC for Weekend Update.)

For his 5,000 seat sold-out Queen Elizabeth Theatre show in Toronto’s CNE grounds, the Chicago-born comedian started off with a charm offensive and dropped in a few local references. “What is Bloor? I see it everywhere I go here. Is it some kind of monster that’s coming to Toronto?”

When he hits his stride, which is pretty much the minute he opens his mouth, it’s just like you’re having a conversation with an old friend. Mulaney’s brand of comedy is mainly observational and consistently sharp as a tack. Each joke is lean and perfectly executed: with no room for unnecessary words or rambling sequences.

The majority of the material is made up of tales of the comedian’s childhood. (Did we mention he’s still only 31? Give the man a break won’t you?) It’s all served up with a healthy dose of Catholic guilt and neuroses on the side. “My parents loved me very much, but they didn’t like me”. Therefore, he explained, the Mulaney siblings saw their parents as “the cops” who were out to get them.

And as you would imagine from such an interesting fellow, his was an eventful childhood. It’s also one that makes for some hilarious stories.

Mulaney’s parents attended the same Law School as Bill Clinton and attended many fundraisers for Clinton’s presidency rallies. His mother’s “embarrassing” crush on Bill got slightly out of hand when she dragged her young son along with her to meet the former US president (much to the annoyance of Mulaney’s bitingly sarcastic father). But we won’t spoil the story for you.

The rest of the show ran the gamut from the legislation of marijuana, to email accounts being hacked by herbal Viagra companies and how truly absurd the film ‘Back to the Future’ seems when one looks back as an adult.

In one hilarious segment Mulaney reimagines the classic film being sold to a movie company executive.

“So we had this great idea, we thought it would be great to send this kid back in time so he could try to fuck his Mom.” “Yeah and get this, his best friend is a nuclear scientist who might be like 40 or 80.”

Other clever segments of the show gave us glimpses into Mulaney’s day-to-day life in NYC. He goes to great detail to recreate scenes vividly for the audience.

A notable NYC encounter was when one day when he turned a corner and found himself being stared at by a 7 foot tall drag queen, casually smoking a cigarette in a doorway. She surveyed the comedian before advising him loudly: “Eat ass. Suck dick. Sell drugs.”

The comedian ruminates: “And in the end, isn’t that all we all really want in life? To start off at the bottom, then graduate to sucking dick and by the end you’ve got your own business model.”

With his utterly likeable demeanour and clean cut looks, it’s wasn’t long before John Mulaney had every single member of the audience eating out of his hands. Heck if he had just run out of the show with half the audience’s wallets, they’d still be howling with laughter.

One thing that strikes Spindle as we are watching this relatively young comedian perform is how tight his show is. Nothing seems forced. No jokes fall flat. Sometimes, he’ll even let his bullet-like jokes hang in the air as he takes a sip of water and waits for the audience to catch up. This is an airtight show that is effortless, charming, outrageously funny and thoroughly entertaining. It’s all killer, no filler baby.

Do yourself a favour and grab the chance with both hands to go see one of the sharpest stand-up comedy acts in the world right now.