John Mulaney Is “Never Relevant, and Therefore Never Irrelevant”

I guess we’re catching them a little older than four, but in similar ways, trying to timestamp some of the emotions they have at that age. I’d love to interview a four year old, see how they’re thinking and feeling, and then interview a 94 year old. And we as an audience and me as a talk show host would identify the differences, but also maybe there’s similarities.

Going back to SNL, you came in right before the election when there was a surge of anxiety in the air. What was it like for you stepping away from that once everything hit in those two weeks of, as we were talking about earlier, electoral college chaos followed? You faced a little criticism of your monologue too.

Totally warranted criticism. Watching [the election play out] I assumed that would happen. I did not think there’d be a winner announced on Tuesday night. And I think I wrote this as a joke for Seth on Late Night, but seeing it, I thought, “Shouldn’t it take this long every time, maybe? Like, why do we try to Santa Claus this and do them all in one night?” It suddenly seemed very bizarre to me that we expected it. Like, “I want same-night results before 11:00 PM!” I think, with the executive branch right now calling shenanigans, it seems like that would be more of a recipe for shenanigans than taking the time to do it.

Any time you’re hosting an SNL episode I always look forward to what’s become a series, the Broadway-inspired ode to some New York City minutiae. Would you ever blow that concept up into a larger special-type deal?.

Where someone, namely Pete Davidson, violates a New York City faux pas and then we comment on it by doing parodies of existing Broadway musicals?

Exactly.

If Lorne Michaels were to dedicate a whole episode to it, good Lord, that’d be a lot of work. But yes, I would absolutely do it. If we were to take it anywhere else and make it like an hour film, we would run into the very real problem of not owning the rights to these songs. And parody law, which I became a student of while in Saturday Night Live, is tricky. It’s not just singing fake lyrics to a song. You have to specifically be parodying the content of the song.

So for example, let’s say back in 2008 or 2009, you had Hall and Oates on Weekend Update and they sang “Privatize,” I-Z-E, to “Private Eyes.” “Privatize my healthcare now.” That does not meet parody standards because it doesn’t parody the content of the song “Private Eyes.” A song called “Public Nose” would be closer to meeting those standards of parody law, like “Public Nose is living with me.” That is more a direct parody of Private Eyes. I love how I’m speaking about this so academically and my example is garbage. It’s very interesting. I enjoy all the legal standards and practices and ramifications of comedy. I learned a lot working in network television.

Speaking of network television, you had the sitcom that didn’t pan out, but that was such a long time ago. We’re in an era where networks and all these different streaming services are less picky about concepts and creators, seemingly, have more room to make the show that they want. Given that, would you try it again?

A multi-cam, live audience sitcom, the way I did it?

Not necessarily.

I would do the exact show I did before and maybe make a few changes with the audience. I’m not being defiant about it. There were some things I could have done to let the audience in on how I was viewing the show as opposed to being so at face value, which is not how I meant it to be perceived. But there’s a lot of editing cuts, takes, the way stuff plays on the floor. I lost the thread a little sometimes. But I meant to make a multi-cam, live audience sitcom that was stupid, that didn’t deal with dating, that dealt with things like haunted houses and losing a three legged dog and figuring out how to replace it and does that mean buying a four legged dog and doing anything terrible, or does that mean getting a three legged gerbil, and through the use of forced perspective, building a miniature version of the apartment to trick the person.

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