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John Mulaney Talks New ‘Kid Gorgeous’ Special; Future of ‘Oh, Hello’

After months of touring, John Mulaney is bringing his latest hour of stand-up to one final stop — Netflix. 

Kid Gorgeous at Radio City,” which hits the streaming service May 1, follows one of Mulaney’s seven sold-out shows at the iconic venue and is part of a multi-special deal with Netflix he signed earlier this year. He says the rest of the specials “will be coming out spaced out enough that you won’t get sick of me, but close enough that if you’re a fan [you won’t] worry [that] I’m working on new stuff. I won’t bother anyone too much, but I’ll be around if you need me.” 

Mulaney built a career as a writer on “Saturday Night Live,” creating Bill Hader’s famed Stefon character, and has gone on to become one of comedy’s most in-demand stand-ups. After starring in short-lived Fox sitcom “Mulaney,” he went on to create “Oh, Hello” with Nick Kroll, a tongue-in-cheek performance about two old men from New York. The show became so popular that it landed a stint on Broadway, something the comedian says “felt like we just got to go to the moon.” 

Fresh off of his first-ever hosting gig on “SNL,” Mulaney talked to Variety about his new special, Trump’s influence on comedy and his “Bachelor in Paradise” aspirations.

How does this special compare to your past specials “New In Town” and “The Comeback Kid”? 

The previous specials that I did were at amazing places like the Chicago Theatre, which is beautiful. With this special, not only was it the culmination of the longest tour I’ve ever had, but it was at Radio City Music Hall. Myself and Alex Timbers — who directed it, Scott Pask — our set designer, and Jon Brion — who did the theme, the scoring, and played live on the Wurlitzer organ there — we were all just really conscious of, outside of capturing the stand-up as it was, really playing the building. We were so excited to be in Radio City that we wanted to show off Radio City and use as much of it as we could. The beginning of the special starts with the walk I had to do through the halls down into the hydraulic lift that then raises to stage level. I put the venue name in it, it’s called “Kid Gorgeous at Radio City,” because it was really a very special weekend at an extremely special place.

What is the meaning behind “Kid Gorgeous”?

The short answer is it has no meaning. I wanted a name kind of old-fashioned sounding, like a boxer. I was trying to find something like a boxer name or the name of like a wanted gangster from the ’30s or ’40s, back when they called people like “The Bachelor Bandit” or whatever. So I was looking at “Kid” names, I also liked the name “Kid Charlemagne” by Steely Dan a lot. I thought it was very funny to refer to myself as a kid at age 35, especially because I have this tear in my hip and I had it throughout the tour. And then “Kid Gorgeous” itself is a deep, deep cut mention from “The Simpsons.” They once mentioned a bunch of names that the bartender Moe boxed under and one of them was “Kid Gorgeous.” I had a list of titles and I read them to my wife at a restaurant and that was the one she laughed the hardest at, so we went with “Kid Gorgeous.”

What is the focus of this stand-up?

They are all this sort of life and time adventures of this idiot and this one I would say is similar, in the beginning. I think this one is a lot more about just squarely being 35, which is young but no one says I’m young anymore. There was a time when I would do stand-up and people who go “How old are you?” and I’d say my age and they’d go “Wow!” Now I say 35 and they go “Uh huh.” I’m still young to be the president but I’m in the “uh huh” stage.

Speaking of the president, how has the Trump White House influenced your comedy?

There’s a mention of the state we’re all in. I would say there’s a — what I detect as a strange vibe over the whole country in large part due to that person is visible, I think. It certainly affected the year and this was a tour of 150 shows all around the country, from the winter of 2017 to 2018, so it couldn’t not be.

With your resume of TV and stage projects, where does stand-up rank for you in terms of what you like doing most?

I’m very lucky in that I’ve been able to do a lot of comedy for live audiences, from “Saturday Night Live” to Broadway to stand-up. I would say stand-up is kind of — I can’t think of anything that makes me happier. But Broadway and “Saturday Night Live” were such almost equally special experiences that lumping it all together, I’d say performing for live audiences is just the absolute greatest. Working without an audience isn’t even in the same —  you can’t compare the two, it’s got nothing on it.

You were one of the early adopters of the Netflix special  how has that impacted your career?

The craziest thing is from “New In Town,” which I first did at Comedy Central and is on Netflix, and “Comeback Kid,” which I did as an original with them, it’s kind of the greatest thing because it’s like your work premieres every day to someone. There’s a date that it comes out and you do press for it and you look forward to that date, but when it’s on Netflix, every day might be that premiere to somebody because it’s just there and it’s available. After the “New In Town” special went up on Netflix, I was working at “Saturday Night Live,” then working on the Fox show, and it was out there available to so many people and spreading my stand-up to so many people I didn’t even realize it until I went on tour. It’s incredible. 

You’ve been a part of a lot of collaborations, recently with Nick Kroll and your “Oh, Hello” show. How is it for you to write and be on stage by yourself?

It’s interesting — after having done “Oh, Hello,” I started pretty much working on the tour slowly in February, right after we closed “Oh, Hello” in January. I really missed having a partner on stage but I had learned so much from Nick because he’s such a dynamic actor and performer for audiences that I think he’d helped me grow a lot through the show. That really informed the stand-up I was writing and performing. I think I just got comfortable doing “Oh, Hello,” being on the funny side of angry. I missed him a lot throughout the tour, I was so grateful having worked with him. 

Will there be any more reincarnations of the “Oh, Hello” characters or is that chapter closed?

George and Gil would never close that chapter. I’m pretty sure they would like to be on “Bachelor in Paradise” but I think you have to have been on “The Bachelor” or “Bachelorette” first in order to qualify. But we’re trying to find a way to get them on “Bachelor in Paradise.” [After appearing on “The Bachelor” in 2016] we loved it. George and Gil are available, we haven’t been asked back yet. That was so fun and you know, a good, chaotic public reaction is really fun, I’ve got to say. Sometimes vitriol is just the funniest thing in the world. As it should have been, it would be like in the middle of “The Bachelor” you saw George and Gil, I guess there’s no other comparison.

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