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Comedian John Mulaney opens up about addiction and new family

Graphic by Kyle St. John

In a lengthy appearance on his friend and former employer’s talk show “Late Night With Seth Meyers,” famed writer and comedian John Mulaney took to explaining his tumultuous year.

To say that a lot has happened in his life this past year would be a severe understatement. While most lives were put on pause by the pandemic, Mulaney has been in high gear. 

In addition to attending rehab more than once for cocaine and alcohol addiction, Mulaney also divorced his wife of seven years and announced that he and his new celebrity girlfriend Olivia Munn are expecting a child together.

Watching the nearly 19-minute interview with all of that in mind was … weird. 

Seeing him going back to making dumb jokes with his friend while also acknowledging all that had happened made for a conflicting viewing experience. As a fan of his stand-up specials and all the sketches he wrote for his tenure at “Saturday Night Live,” I want to be able to still like him. I want to believe that, even through all of this, he’s largely the same.

However, all of Mulaney’s recent behavior has sharply contradicted the public persona he has built up thus far in his immensely successful career. Large portions of his prior stand-up work were dedicated to how much he loved his wife and how they didn’t want kids.

Perhaps the most troubling part of all of this isn’t the relapse, the divorce or the quick pregnancy announcement. Maybe the worst part about this is celebrity culture itself.

We’ve gained access to whatever passes as unfiltered these days through social media. We can scroll through Instagram or Twitter and say, “Look, these celebrities are just like us! They have pets, too!” while they go off leading completely different lives from the ones we’ll ever experience.

But following celebrities on social media only provides fans a window into the lives celebrities want fans to see. It doesn’t translate into real life. Therefore, when marriages break down or unexpected relationships form, fans are shocked by the cognitive dissonance these scenarios cause. 

It’s hard to go on YouTube without seeing multitudes of compilation videos like “john mulaney representing me as a person for [insert length of video]” and “[insert popular media] as john mulaney quotes.” An incredibly popular man, Mulaney has become an icon bordering on obsession for many people.

What happens when stars fall? How do we then reconcile the fact that the voice of the funny cartoon pig from “Into the Spider-Verse” had also left his wife of seven years and is having a child with a woman he started dating right after getting out of rehab?

This whole situation begs yet another question: What about all the people struggling with addiction that don’t have “a ‘We Are the World’ of alternative comedians over 40” to stage an intervention?

If John Mulaney wasn’t famous, he would be in jail right now, not getting interviewed on his friend’s talk show. After all of this, I doubt the children’s variety special “John Mulaney and the Sack Lunch Bunch” is getting a reunion episode.

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