The only topics that were taboo John Mulaney: Baby J were his divorce and his newborn son.

Otherwise, the highly esteemed comedian spent all of his time Baby J special for Netflix – his first in five years – in which he opens up about the “action-packed” time in his life when his friends staged a procedure before sending him to rehab.

At the moment his friends and family confronted him about his addiction, Mulaney wasn’t exactly focused on stand-up potential. “When I arrived I was pretty under the influence,” he told Deadline.

But after Mulaney got out of detox, she turned to her friend and comedian Joe Mande “to kind of come to grips with what had happened there.” He said it was extremely funny that I added notes to each person’s letters after they read it, and that after the talk I told him how I ranked the speeches. He immediately showed me how fun the dynamic was.”

Here, Mulaney talks about the making of the special, which is nominated for two Emmys and will likely compete for the new Best Performance in Television Stand-Up Comedy category at the Golden Globes, and why he didn’t expect it has that some people would feel this way. Bad about laughing at the lowest moment of your life.

DEADLINE Is it weird doing interviews for this particular special because it’s so personal?

JOHN MULANEY No. I have always been very personal and I understand that the subject matter is, for lack of a better term, darker or more intimate. But my approach to it honestly felt similar to the rest of my specials. So it wasn’t any harder for me to talk about it.

DEADLINE They called it a “far-reaching conversation.” Should that be code for “This might not be what everyone expects?”

MULANEY This was a throwback to the GQ article I ended the special with, which said, “We spoke to the comedian in an in-depth conversation.” I found it really funny that my drug addict self was like that in that interview was expansive, and I just thought it was a funny twist. I thought it would be a good subtitle for the special, but then I thought the conversation wasn’t that far-reaching. It’s pretty much one topic.

DEADLINE When did you notice the 11-year-old on the balcony?

MULANEY Oh, immediately, because Boston Symphony Hall is a rectangular room surrounded by balconies. It almost feels like they reach right to the side of your head. So I noticed him straight away. You see these kind of dark profiles of adult heads and then there was this tiny head and I thought, ‘Oh my God.’ He’s really young.’

DEADLINE Yes, but what a gift. The jokes were pure gold.

MULANEY I just had to address it for myself and the audience that night.

DEADLINE During the special, you talk about all the comedians who attended your act and how they told each other not to do routines. But while you sat through the intervention, you had one Aha moment about how this could become a great standup one day?

MULANEY No. I wish I had a smarter mind, but no, it was just a bad moment. And I’m someone who, with everything that’s happened in my life, I knew it was going to be kind of funny. It was more like chemical hell that took that away. When I arrived I was pretty under the influence. I was high and couldn’t continue using because they wouldn’t let me go to the bathroom. So I was in a very excited state.

DEADLINE: Did you feel like you had to work this out with your friends before you could attend the special event? Who took part in the intervention?

MULANEY [Laughs] I cleared it up by running it and then asking, “Hey, was that okay?”

DEADLINE And what did they say then?

MULANEY A friend of mine said, “How come you’re cool and we’re all lame when you tell the story?” And they were right. I said, “Because I’m telling it from this little bastard’s perspective, where I was the coolest guy in New York that night and you totally screwed me over.”

DEADLINE In some ways it seems as if the jokes wrote themselves. Did you feel like there were some of your friends on Zoom that you might get annoyed with later?

MULANEY After I finished the detox, I started thinking about the procedure and called my friend Joe Mande to find out what happened. He said it was extremely funny that I took notes on each person’s letter after they read it and that after the talk I told him how I ranked the speeches. He immediately helped me see how fun the dynamic was.

DEADLINE I went online again to look for some random reviews and every review is a little toned down, like people think they’re hilarious and they still feel like a terrible person for laughing, and they feel like it’s an emotional rollercoaster. “It feels unsettling,” one person said. Someone else wrote: “Please stay safe, we need your continued brilliance.” What feedback have you received?

MULANEY I was intrigued when I saw one couple that was dark. It digests as darker than I thought. And I know this sounds strange given the subject matter, but my goal was to make this as funny as possible and without dramatic pauses. I’m going to lighten up the room and speak really honestly and be vulnerable, meaning, I guess, no jokes. And I didn’t want to do that. I wanted it to be a funny special about something that was complex, sad and a little scary, but with a lot of very specific details. It was an action-packed time. That’s what I wanted to convey. People might say, “That’s harder, sadder, darker, more disturbing.” I’m really flattered and pleased that it’s been reviewed and discussed. What I like most is that people talked about it.

DEADLINE You must have known that some people would be sorry if they laughed at you, because this is obviously a very serious topic.

MULANEY I don’t want to sound naive, but I didn’t do that because I’m standing on the stage of a beautiful symphony hall. For the first time in several years I am healthy again. And in my thoughts The is the attitude. I wear a suit that creates a permission structure for me like, “Hey, I’m fine now.” That’s how I felt. You can all see that this is okay and you can carry on and laugh. But I understand that with an addiction, when I live with it, it’s difficult to say, “Now he’s fine and there are no problems because it’s something you live with day by day.” In that regard Maybe I was a bit naive.

DEADLINE Speaking of the suit, was that fuchsia?

MULANEY Well, I’ll look into fuchsia because I’m not a big color person. Fuchsia is a bright, pink-purple color named after the color of the flower, the fuchsia plant. Okay, so we have the suit and then we have the right color. And then we have your own screen. So I don’t know, I won’t say you haven’t experienced Fuchsia. Maybe you have. I don’t know your color settings. It’s like a lighter burgundy red. I really love this suit. I got this in England at this place called…well I won’t say where in case you don’t want me to share this. But they make pajamas for King Charles and he likes very colorful jams. He goes to bed looking like a big bowl of fruit.

DEADLINE Do you think humor helps people better understand or sympathize with addiction?

MULANEY I actually don’t know the answer to that. That would be something that maybe other people could answer. I know that in every rehab I’ve been to, every meeting with other addicts, or every group therapy session I’ve been in, it’s extremely important and very common that we can sometimes laugh hard at these things.

DEADLINE You haven’t talked much about being a new father. Why did you make this decision?

MULANEY I’m still hesitant to talk about it because I’m his father. It’s a very, very easy relationship. The crazy thing about this guy is that I almost feel like I’m talking about him behind his back. He is my main boyfriend. There’s something I just shouldn’t talk about. It’s just something new and completely pure and special, and a lot of the comedy comes from some kind of dissatisfaction or grievance, and I don’t have one. A child is not a sober companion. He just happens to be this amazing gift that I was given when everything else changed. And if I said straight out, “Now I’m going to daddy,” it felt a bit like I was wrapping it up in the kind of bow I didn’t want.

DEADLINE The same applies to your divorce?

MULANEY It was just something I didn’t want to get involved in.

DEADLINE There’s another great joke in your special, which is that even as an addict, your athletic build made you look better than so many people and looked great. I’m assuming everyone else looked like shit or something?

MULANEY Well, I’ve never had anyone, let alone a journalist, say that I have an athletic build. I can’t thank you enough for that. And congratulations on being the first person to ever say that. I’m on the air right now. It was in the middle of the pandemic when a lot of people had gained some weight and also a lot of people were at home and I was out and about. So I just dressed up a bit and stayed slim through pretty unhealthy means. Everyone there was charming in their own way. This was more of a joke than making them look like shit.

DEADLINE Earlier this year you made a surprise appearance in the now infamous family dinner scene from Season 2 of The bear. How did that come together?

MULANEY We shot that in April 2023. [Creator] Chris Storer, who I knew, sent me this role and I was already a big fan of the series. I can’t tell you how exciting it was to be asked to do anything on the show, let alone a really funny character, let alone an episode full of talent. It was crazy to sit at the same table with these other actors.

DEADLINE What were those days of filming like? Was it a barrel full of monkeys?

MULANEY Bliss, total bliss. Chris leads the most beautiful, fun and lively set. Everyone has the best attitude, loves the show and really makes the days fun. For the kitchen and living room scenes, we were on location in a house in the suburbs of Chicago. And then the dining room was on set because a car had to drive through.

DEADLINE One last thing: Did you really drink coke off a koala baby changing table in a public restroom? You talked about this in the special.

MULANEY Naturally. And not just once. I mean, it’s a good idea. The ideas of many addicts are good ideas.

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