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On The Tonight Show, John Mulaney talks Spider-Ham, Pete Davidson's Steely Dan rebellion

John Mulaney, Jimmy Fallon
Screenshot: The Tonight Show

On Monday’s Tonight Show, Jimmy Fallon asked guest John Mulaney if the Emmy-winning comic, former Saturday Night Live writer, Broadway star, and now animated superhero pig-man would be interested in hosting the now-hostless Oscars. “I mean, yeah, but, like, you know, you’ve gotta think about the ratings,” was Mulaney’s response, a perfectly reasonable assessment that, yet, ignores the fact that John Mulaney would be outstanding at the job, with or without his Oh, Hello partner Nick Kroll. (Honestly, if George St. Geegland and Gil Faizon were to turn the broadcast into a 3-plus-hour showcase for their own, bottom-dwelling insider takes on show biz, it would likely break all TV ratings-measuring apparatuses, one way or another.) Fallon insisted he’s seen Mulaney’s name “on a list,” although it turns out he seems to have been referring to the always reputable internet, so don’t get your hopes up.

Still, why the hell not, as Mulaney—there ostensibly to promote his scene-stealing supporting role as improbably porcine superhero Spider-Ham in the animated Marvel mash-up movie Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse—was as effortlessly hilarious as ever. Relating a recent outing to a concert by his beloved Steely Dan (“Hold for applause,” Mulaney quipped every time the venerable pop-jazz fusion outfit was mentioned), Mulaney explained pal Pete Davidson’s perhaps understandable bafflement over just what sort of aging Baby Boomer event the pair found themselves at, turning his anecdote of the evening into a funny little mini-masterpiece of exquisitely delivered incident. (The bored Davidson, irritated at the concertgoers’ grumpy prohibition on dancing, apparently fomented a rebellion of sorts.)

As to the pig portion of his burgeoning career, Mulaney similarly turned his top-secret audition for the part of a 30-year-old comic book parody character into a laughter-filled joyride, culminating in him showing the profanity-filled ad-libs he tried out before the filmmakers told him about the mandated PG rating. “We just wanted you to have fun,” is how Mulaney explained the filmmakers’ indulgence of the comic’s initial spate of irreverent improvs, explaining his own foul-mouthed choices on the nerves of being whisked away to the top-secret audition without any knowledge of just what he was trying out for. “Do you want to be in a movie? We can’t tell you anything about it, and we can’t send you a script,” is how Mulaney says the first contact with the Spider-Verse went, explaining, “Which is how a lot of kidnappings begin.” Sounds like a job for Spider-Ham, all right.

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Dennis Perkins

Contributor, The A.V. Club. Danny Peary's Cult Movies books are mostly to blame.