Fans Can’t Stand That John Mulaney Isn’t Innocent, but He Never Claimed to Be

It’s been an eventful few years for comedian John Mulaney. After a very public battle with addiction, the star is fresh out of rehab for drug and alcohol abuse, and many fans feel like their image of him is absolutely shattered. The comedian’s (now) ex-wife, artist Anna Marie Tendler, had become a pretty central part of Mulaney’s shows, which often involve self-deprecating jokes juxtaposing his wholesome demeanor with his struggles in the past. His sudden and unexpected split with his wife, as well as his abrupt beginning of a relationship with actress Olivia Munn, frankly has left many fans feeling betrayed. Mulaney has never hidden his complicated past with drugs and alcohol or his sometimes rocky relationship with Tendler on stage though, so perhaps fans who don’t personally know John Mulaney don’t have a right to feel any way about his personal life.

John Mulaney’s big year

John Mulaney
John Mulaney | Mike Smith/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank

John Mulaney has been in headlines a lot this year, and not for the best reasons. It all started when a noticeably “altered” John Mulaney showed as a guest up on Seth Meyers’ show last November wearing a large trench coat and dark sunglasses. According to The Daily Beast, Mulaney would end up in rehab for cocaine and alcohol abuse shortly after that, prompted by an intervention that Meyers also helped organize, according to AV Club.

After his stint in rehab, Mulaney came back on the show to talk with Meyers whose been friends with the star for two decades since they worked on Saturday Night Live together. He reminisced about the fateful interview right before his stint in rehab, saying “I had been under the influence the day before, and the day after I was probably under the influence. But while on the show, trying to update the audience on the royal watch, at your insistence, I was more sober than not. However, a lot of people were saying ‘Something’s wrong with John Mulaney.’ And I was at home saying, ‘Indeed something is.” 

Mulaney then went on to update Meyers on how his year had went so far. “I went to rehab in September, I got out in October, I moved out of my home from my ex-wife,” he said. The star has still been very quiet on his split from Anna Marie Tendler, but he did mention that he is now dating Olivia Munn, someone who Mulaney met at Meyers wedding. Not only are the two dating, but they are expecting a baby together already.

Dark humor coated in wholesomeness

When John Mulaney’s relapse, and later, his split from Tendler came to light, many fans felt like their entire image of the star was shattered. John Mulaney was a success story to many fans. In his act, he talked about recovering from alcohol abuse in his younger years readily, and when he discussed finding and marrying his wife, many fans became invested in his success.

One of Mulaney’s jokes begins, “I used to drink a lot– which surprises people because I don’t look like someone who used to do anything a lot.” The star always knew that his baby face and Midwest suburban-style painted him as innocent and non-threatening. His humor always played to this strength, categorizing him as a bit of a buffoon in many stories, but never failing to capture the audience’s surprise.

That doesn’t mean that his humor wasn’t always a little dark. If fans really listen to his routines, there’s a lot of complexity and pain that goes behind his art, albeit coated in some self-deprecation and wild hand gestures.

Let John Mulaney be John Mulaney

For a standup comic who shares so many personal stories on stage, it can be tough for fans to differentiate between the John Mulaney that is on stage in front of them and the John Mulaney who is a real person with real problems. Mulaney’s strength as a standup comedian is that he makes stories from his past seem like casual conversation as jokes, but like most comics, all his routines are carefully and painstakingly crafted by real John Mulaney.

When seeing a performance that an artist has scripted behind closed doors, a viewer only marginally gets to know that artist. They are letting the audience into whatever parts of their life they want to cultivate an enjoyable experience. So before fans pretend to know John Mulaney and are hurt by directions his personal life takes, it may be best to remember that when he’s on stage, the audience only sees what he wants them to of the real him.

Mulaney has been talking about his very real and complex problems on stage for years, so is it so hard to believe that his life needed to change after recovering from his latest relapse? Fans shouldn’t get hung up on whether John Mulaney is living the idyllic life that they want, and instead, realize that it’s pretty hard to argue that he’s not doing better. Everybody should let the John Mulaney who’s a real person offstage try to find the best life he can.

RELATED: Olivia Munn’s Baby Bump Makes John Mulaney’s Relationship Timeline Even Less Believable, Argue Fans