Fox's Mulaney: Did It Stand Up to Your Expectations?

Mulaney Series Premiere

Before we discuss John Mulaney, the fictional protagonist of Fox’s new comedy Mulaney, allow me to confess something about John Mulaney, the real-life comedian: I am a huge fan of his pre-sitcom work.

Ever since I saw him do a bit about Girl Scout cookies on Saturday Night Live — back when he wrote for the show and introduced us to Stefon, the gift that keeps on giving — I was hooked. I know his stand-up specials backwards and forwards (and regularly quote them). Needless to say, I was thrilled when Mulaney finally landed his own sitcom.

The sitcom itself, though… Well, I’ll let you make the final call on Mulaney‘s series premiere.

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In Sunday’s half-hour pilot, the titular comedian lands a writing job with game show host Lou Cannon (comedy vet Martin Short), who is a huge fan of all things Lou Cannon-related. He relies on virtual assistant Donna a bit too much, and even after he hires John to write jokes for his game show, he doesn’t seem to care much about John’s material (or the hours John spent writing it).

Lou’s ego really becomes a problem when he bails on a charity walk-a-thon, an event where John was supposed to be his opening act. (Though Lou’s admirers seem perfectly content to take a picture with his cardboard likeness, so it’s sort of a win, right?) After getting some sage advice from his across-the-hall neighbor, Oscar (Friends‘ Elliott Gould), John works up the courage to quit his gig with Lou — until he realizes that Lou has, in fact, planned to use some of John’s jokes during the game show’s next taping. And John is getting paid via money cannon. Who could ask for anything more?

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Rounding out the ensemble are John’s impulsive roommate Jane (played by fellow SNL alum Nasim Pedrad, who, despite being a weak link on NBC’s sketch show, is one of Mulaney‘s stronger players), comedian Motif (relative newcomer Seaton Smith) and drug dealer Andre (The Inbetweeners‘ Zack Pearlman).

Many of the jokes featured in Mulaney‘s premiere episode are pulled directly from the star’s previous stand-up routines, which is unfortunate for existing fans who were hoping for fresh material. If you’ve seen or heard Mulaney’s work before, you already know the prostate-exam-for-Xanax bit, and the Seinfeld-esque routines that John performs in his apartment are similarly recycled.

But the pilot does include a few genuinely funny moments — I particularly enjoyed Jane’s Christian Bale/Katherine Heigl comparison. The only problem? With so many fall comedies jockeying for first place, the standout moments in Mulaney‘s premiere episode may not be enough.

What’s your take on Mulaney? Did the premiere have you rolling in the aisles? Grade the episode via our poll below, then hit the comments to back up your choice!

Comments are monitored, so don’t go off topic, don’t frakkin’ curse and don’t bore us with how much your coworker’s sister-in-law makes per hour. Talk smart about TV!

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48 Comments
  1. DV says:

    I don’t want to judge the pilot because pilots are usually not the best example of the shows best product. There’s so much that has to be explained in the pilot and it almost takes you out of enjoying a show. I’ll definitely give the show a chance. I love John Mulaney. I wonder why he didn’t do weekend update. He would have been much better than Colin Jost.

    • Newo says:

      i would normally agree with you about pilots not usually being the best example of how a show will be, however this was episode four of the production so it really wasn’t the pilot and by episode four the actors/writers should be finding their grooves a bit more and yet this was still what we got…

  2. Tom says:

    I’m…not sure why FOX keeps trying with these terrible sitcoms. Did they learn nothing from Dads, Til Death of Brothers? Stick to the niche that works

  3. poindexter says:

    Was this show actively trying to be worse than Dads because they came really damn close…

  4. Christy says:

    I love love love his standup. I think he’s hilarious in other people’s shows! But his pilot? I couldn’t get through 15 minutes of it. I’m surprised it got greenlit, TBH.

  5. harry says:

    I had such big hopes, unfortunately most of the humor fell flat, much like the performances by supposedly star casting( I’m talking specifically about Elliot Gould, who’s wonderful in Ray Donovan, but really not clicking as the hippie aged queen.

  6. jenna says:

    this one was rough one :S but I think his stand up work is hilarious so i’ll probably check back in a couple episodes to see if the show has found its groove

  7. Sutton says:

    I hate his face and his humor. Fail!

  8. PattyStamps says:

    The laugh track really bothered me. Other than that I thought it was okay. I wont tDVR it but will probably give it another chance.

  9. Tran says:

    I give Mulaney an F. Talk about a horrible rip-off of Seinfeld.

    • B says:

      I only caught the first 30 seconds or so, which was a direct ripoff of Seinfeld’s monologue clips. Difference: Seinfeld’s were funny. This was not. This won’t last.

  10. Ben says:

    I gave it a C. I love John Mulaney though; he’s hilarious. I am hoping the show gets enough time to find its own voice. Right now it’s too easy to match characters from Mulaney with their Seinfeld counterparts: Mulaney is Jerry (the stand-up comedian), Motif is George (the hapless best friend), Jane is Elaine (the female one), Oscar is Kramer (the eccentric across-the-hall neighbor), Andre is Newman (the overweight one who no one wants around, but is always there anyway). I don’t know if Martin Short’s character Lou Cannon has a direct Seinfeld analog, but he is a carbon copy of Carl Reiner as Alan Brady on The Dick Van Dyke Show.

    There were some very funny moments in the Pilot, and, like I said, given some time, I think the show can be its own thing. I’ll at least watch it next week.

  11. hipster says:

    “Many of the jokes featured in Mulaney‘s premiere episode are pulled directly from the star’s previous stand-up routines, which is unfortunate for existing fans who were hoping for fresh material.”

    Exactly. Also, the execution is VERY VERY stiff.

    • Patrick says:

      Yeah, Mulaney himself was a very stiff actor. I can see why he didn’t get on screen at SNL unless he was doing a standup style bit. He was not in the flow of conversation. Outside of his previously done “bits” his inflection was all over the place.

      That said, I think this show was OK. Pilots are always tricky because there is so much that has to be set up. Hour long dramas can do it because of the time they have. Comedies are so short that Pilots have to do too much sometimes.

  12. jo jo jo says:

    And we wonder why SNL has been unfunny these past couple of years… I can’t watch that again

  13. John Davis says:

    This show had no focus, no central idea, no competence and no laughs. I love John Mulaney’s standup routines but they do not hold up when performed by an ensemble, especially this one. At first I thought that this show was meant to be a parody of a bad show like “When the Whistle Blows”. But it was just really really bad in its own right. I feel bad for Martin Short. Jimmy Glick wouldn’t review this sad little show.

  14. Joe Moore says:

    Come on people it’s only going to get better. Great episodes coming up with cool guest stars . Stories are hilarious . Don’t walk away from john after one pilot. That’s just not far. The show is evolving and is fantastic!

  15. Joe Moore says:

    Gonna get better & better

  16. Joe Moore says:

    will get better & better & better. Screw those critics

  17. Joe Moore says:

    will get better & better & better. Screw those critics. Give john a break

  18. The material was decent but the performances were so wooden

  19. jason says:

    I too, love, Love, LOVE John Mulaney’s stand-up routines. He’s clever, has a great delivery, and always has that little twinkle in the eye like a “Dennis the Menace” but for adults. I had such high hopes for his show, but man, I don’t think I can stomach a series with such wooden characters, and worse of all, a show with Martin Short. Ugh.

  20. Nan says:

    I have never seen his standup, though I’m sure he’s a very funny guy. What he is not is an actor. I can’t remember when I’ve seen a performance so stiff and wooden. I may give the show one more shot, but he’ll need to have done a complete 180 because that was just too painful to see again.

  21. jim says:

    just awful

  22. Bella says:

    I was looking for something to watch on Sunday night, and there aren’t enough good comedies out there. This one has potential. I’ve never heard of John Mullaney. It wasn’t bad. It wasn’t great, but I’m certainly willing to watch more episodes and see if it gets better.

  23. crocks67 says:

    Painful to watch. the stand-up is spot on, but then again, Mulaney is known for his stand-up. His on-screen abilities, however? Pass.

  24. So I couldn’t figure out if Mulaney was supposed to be acting like he couldn’t act or if he really can’t act. He was very stiff and very monotone when he was in character but the parts where he was doing stand up were great. Sadly I’m thinking he can’t actually act.

  25. Olga says:

    I’m mainly disappointed that it used so much recycled stand-up material. Most of the people who tuned in were probably John Mulaney fans who already knew those bits. He’s a comedian who now has a team of writers so why couldn’t there have been NEW stand up?

  26. Andrea says:

    John mulaney makes me laugh on my way to work via pandora comedy radio. I have a station that is based solely off his work. He is exceptional at making people feel joy and finds humor in everyday life. I like how he has a sense of humor about his own (what he believes to be) “shortcomings”. It makes us all laugh at ourselves In a positive way. His silliness needs to be more accessible. I pray his show takes off and is in every home like Seinfeld was.

    Dr Vitz

  27. Andrea says:

    John mulaney makes me laugh on my way to work via pandora comedy radio. I have a station that is based solely off his work. He is exceptional at making people feel joy and finds humor in everyday life. I like how he has a sense of humor about his own (what he believes to be) “shortcomings”. It makes us all laugh at ourselves In a positive way. His silliness needs to be more accessible. I pray his show takes off and is in every home like Seinfeld was.

  28. Greg says:

    Show stinks like skunk

  29. Amy says:

    First new show of the season to get shut off without completing. Really, really bad. Funny guy and great writer but poor (over)acting and awful timing.

  30. Sheila says:

    I love Mulaney as a standup, but this was not a good show. His delivery was so weird! It was almost like an adult version of Disney Channel acting!

  31. dexys says:

    I’m a huge John Mulaney fan and the pilot was beyond awful. I would say, without exaggeration, more than 90% of the lines in the first 10 minutes were lines taken from his pre-existing stand-up routines, but put into conversations. So, since he is a much better comedian than an actor, it was like watching someone not nearly as talented copy his stand-up routine.

    What boggles my mind about this is that you put off both people who have never seen him—because the show was awful—as well as his fans who feel ripped off that they are devoting time to a re-hash of his old stuff.

  32. Clayton says:

    I think, if given enough time the show will get better. I laughed a few times. They need to have normal conversations that are funny. It seems to scripted. John needs to just think of how his conversations with his real friends go and emulate them. That’s how seinfeld was.