What a peculiar cocktail of emotions this Vulture piece has stirred up in us. On the one hand, it’s an interview in which the interviewer is a 10-year-old John Mulaney devotee and the interviewee is 37-year-old John Mulaney. It is impossible for us to be anything but delighted by the existence of such a thing. That would be great any day, any time, for any reason; that its existence is further justified by Netflix’s impending John Mulaney & The Sack Lunch Bunch is just the cherry on top. Well, it just so happens that editor Christopher Bonanos’s son, Alex, is “a John Mulaney superfan who at the drop of a hat will impeccably reproduce every line of Kid Gorgeous over breakfast.” Alex wrote his questions himself (“with some very light coaching from me,” the elder Bonanos added) and sat down with Mulaney after school one day.
Some highlights. First, the opening:
John Mulaney: “In a Sentimental Mood,” by John Coltrane, is playing. You can add that.
Alex Bonanos: I’ve heard this song about 47 times because they always play it in school.
J.M.: They do? When and where?
A.B.: When we’re working. Our teachers are allowed to put on music while we work. This happened a lot during second grade, and for some reason they think second-graders are interested in jazz.
This bit, on the inspiration for Jake Gyllenhaal’s character in the special, is pretty great:
A.B.: You know how one of the segments is Mr. Music with Jake Gyllenhaal? I have to say that was amazing — did you also think that his performance was the most amazingly over-the-top thing?
J.M.: I wanted [laughs] — he was my No. 1 wish, because when he hosted SNL, and in this movie I saw, Okja, he made very strong choices, which not a lot of actors do. And we thought Mr. Music has to be a bit of a lunatic, and it’s a calypso song, so we needed someone who would own that enthusiasm. When I talked to him on the phone, he said, how do you want me to play it? And I said I can’t stress enough how much I want you to make your own choice. And he started laughing and said, “Oh, mmmkay, all right.” I didn’t say anything about Okja. And we were on the set after shooting Mr. Music, day two, and he wandered over and said “I feel like this is Okja II.” And I said, “Funny you mention that, because this to us is like the drunk guy from Okja but he’s been sober for two days.” There’s a moment near the end when he’s staring off and I say “Mr. Music …?”
A.B.: That’s one of my favorite lines, “Is Mr. Music okay?”
J.M.: “No, he’s having a lot of trouble.” Also the kids are really laughing in that shot, which I enjoyed. We did a take, only one, where Camille de la Cruz calls him “Dad.”
A.B.: I was wondering about that.
J.M.: Some jokes make no sense and are just so stupid.
A.B.: Like when one kid calls you “Mom.”
J.M.: Well, a few of us in our childhood accidentally called our teacher “Mom.” I don’t know if you’ve ever done that.
A.B.: I accidentally called one of my best friends “Mom,” and he gave me a look.
And here, young Mr. Bonanos really goes for it:
A.B.: In the show, you asked other people how they want to die. How do you want to die?
J.M.: I asked other people how they want to die?
A.B.: Yeah, how they wanted to die.
J.M.: I did? Oh, well, I asked everyone their biggest fear —
A.B.: Yeah, but you also asked …
J.M.: Oh, Natasha Lyonne! I think she was talking about ways she didn’t want to die, and I did ask her. You know, there was a time when I would have answered “Assassination,” because then I’d be forever immortalized at this age, and I don’t mean that in a dark way, I mean it in a kind of Lincoln-Kennedy-esque way, where there’s a lasting image of me at 44, hopefully still looking okay. And everyone would go “He was perfect, a great great person.” I used to think that. I really like what I do, and I really like my life, so I do hope to go very old. Also stand-up comedians can keep performing into their 80s and 90s, so I hope I get the chance to do that.
A.B.: I also hope you can do stand-up for a really long time.
J.M.: Thank you very much. I think my persona will make a lot more sense when I’m 80.
As should be very obvious by now, the whole thing is worth reading in full. So that’s the one hand. A 10-year-old interviewed Mulaney; we love it, a lot.
John Mulaney & The Sack Lunch Bunch premieres on Netflix on December 24. Keep an eye out for Erik Adams’s review; he is, full disclosure, not a 10-year-old.