Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

It's 3 p.m., let's watch Mr. Show make fun of J.J. Bittenbinder decades before John Mulaney

Recently, the world has come to rest its feverish gaze upon the work of J.J. Bittenbinder, a retired Chicago cop who was brought in to elementary schools to teach children how to stay safe, but who nevertheless terrified a young John Mulaney. Since Mulaney’s retelling of that story in his recent comedy special, Bittenbinder has fired back, saying he’d never wear a cowboy hat and a three-piece suit, while Mulaney has questioned this telling of events and also proven that he is still terrified of the grizzled ex-cop. The saga seems to be building toward a climax, perhaps involving Mulaney and Bittenbinder finally squaring off in some grisly, abandoned building in Chicago.


But Mulaney isn’t the first person to explore the comedic potential of Bittenbinder. In the second season premiere of Mr. Show, Bob Odenkirk took on the role of F.F. Woodycooks, a Bittenbinder-alike hosting a show called Take Back The Streets. Odenkirk’s version is still a largely nonsensical creation, shaking something called a “crime stick” (it has bells on it) and using weirdly affectionate terms for criminal activity, calling criminals “goofs” who were “horsing off.” Mulaney’s bit centered on the inefficient means of self-defense Bittenbinder espoused, while Mr. Show’s Woodycooks applauds the use of screaming until you pass out—or, as he puts it, “playing ‘the nap card.’” Then, because it’s Mr. Show, Woodycooks serves children ice cream.

In other words, if that fated meeting between Mulaney and Bittenbinder does occur, Mulaney can just throw a DVD of Mr. Show at him and run away. Or shake his crime stick at him. Or throw a loaded wallet at him. Street smarts?

Clayton Purdom is a writer and editor based in Columbus, Ohio.

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