In Baby J, John Mulaney’s excellent new stand-up special (now on Netflix), he ends his 80-minute set with perhaps his biggest self-own. This comes after a hilarious (and harrowing) recounting of his rock bottom: A life-threatening coke habit that resulted in a trip to rehab in December 2020. In typical Mulaney fashion, he spins this story with a sense of humor that softens the blow of the relentless darkness.
But after stories of buying—then immediately pawning—$12,000 watches at a loss in order to fund his habit, enduring mild sexual harassment to get phony prescriptions, and his preteen attempts at copping drugs and alcohol on the Chicago streets, the most damning piece of evidence of his all-time low comes at the very end. Mulaney reads from an interview he gave to GQ on Dec. 15, 2020; he went to rehab on Dec. 18, 2020. This was, he tells us, him at his absolute most coked-out, and the transcript proves it.
Since Mulaney first started telling this story on his From Scratch tour in 2021, where he began workshopping the special, it’s brought a lot of attention to GQ writer Frazier Thorpe. Now that Baby J is out, Thorpe has given his side of the story in a new piece for that publication.
“Our conversation was as loose, wide-ranging and whimsical as I hoped it would be—but for the wrong reasons, as I’d soon learn,” Thorpe writes, in a piece called “I’m the Guy Who Did John Mulaney’s Infamous GQ Interview.” “I spent most of the interview (done over the phone, not Zoom) thinking Mulaney was lightly trolling me—having a little fun with the idea that he was doing an interview about voicing an animated superhero pig.” (Mulaney was doing a clearly ill-advised press tour for his turn as Spider-Ham in an immediately forgotten Marvel mobile game.)
From Thorpe’s point of view, Mulaney’s off-the-cuff answers—made-up stories about haunted vacuum cleaner stores in Union Square; a pitch about a talk show that would essentially be a talk show—were just part of the joke. There were even times that Mulaney came across as introspective, he writes, like when he reflected on his position as an apolitical comic in a politicized era.
GQ ended up publishing the interview sooner than expected, after the news of Mulaney’s admittance to rehab broke in mid-December. A note about the timing was appended at the top, coloring the story. But when Thorpe ended up seeing From Scratch himself, after Mulaney was released from rehab and back on the stand-up circuit months later, he got to see his interview recontextualized live.
In fact, Thorpe even called out to Mulaney during the bit, letting him know that he was there.
“He proceeded to tweak the set in real time, asking to interview me about how he seemed during our 2020 conversation—and if I could tell anything was off,” Thorpe said. “Not knowing John Mulaney personally, I could only yell back that I thought he seemed fine, as the audience roared with laughter. He finished reading the interview, saluted me one more time, and was gone.”
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