With his dapper wardrobe and old-timey showbiz affectations, John Mulaney often seems like he just stepped off of a vintage Esquire cover. Now the impression has become reality, with the Emmy-winning Big Mouth star featured on the front of the magazine’s “What’s So Funny About 2019?” issue and in a profile where he wears the hell out of some suits, shares the lessons he learned from his short-lived eponymous Fox sitcom, and provides a preview of his next Netflix special, which sounds like a departure from Kid Gorgeous, in that it’s a “children’s variety show” inspired by the likes of 3-2-1 Contact and Sesame Street that puts the Comeback Kid comedian through classically Mulaney indignities and exasperations opposite literal kids.
“It’s something I’d like to watch,” Mulaney tells Jonah Weiner in the cover story. “And I don’t wanna do anything anyone else is doing.” That not wanting to do anything else anyone is doing extends to a musical number in which one of Mulaney’s school-aged co-stars begs him to “play restaurant,” only to inform him that her eatery is closed for a private event. It also includes multiple nods to every child’s favorite orchestrator of finely tuned literary journalism sentences, Joan Didion—but not as many as it used to. Describing a sketch in which one of the kids does a book report on Didion’s A Year Of Magical Thinking under the mistaken impression that it’s a guide to magic tricks, Mulaney relates a piece of feedback:
“Someone said to me, ‘You know you mention Joan Didion three times in this special, right?’” He shakes his head. “We probably have to cut one of those.”
Just as long as they don’t cut all the Didion gags. It’s never too early for today’s youngsters to start reading Slouching Towards Bethlehem.