John Mulaney Could Have Been The Lead In 'Home Alone'
“You seen this Home Alone 2: Lost in New York s—? It’s a grid system motherf—! Where you at? 24th and 5th? Where you wanna go? 35th and 6th? Eleven up and one over you simple b—!”
That was one of my favorite bits from John Mulaney’s smash hit 2012 special New in Town. The Netflix taping propelled Mulaney into standup superstardom, making him quite possibly the most ubiquitous stand up comic of the last decade.
It’s only fitting that the comedian with the best riff on the Home Alone franchise also happened to be a candidate for the lead role of Kevin McCallister. As Mulaney revealed in a 2012 interview with Vogue, everyone’s favorite tall child was invited to audition for the part, very possibly by John Hughes himself.
John Mulaney grew up in Chicago’s swanky Lincoln Park neighborhood, raised by his father Chip, a successful lawyer, and his mother Ellen, herself a professor of law at Northwestern University. Anyone who is already a fan of Mulaney knows exactly what a childhood raised by lawyers is like, since it comes up in just about every special. We also know a little bit about how Bill Clinton was in college for that reason.
Mulaney realized he had a future in show business at age 5 when he discovered I Love Lucy and decided that Ricky Ricardo lived the perfect life. Said Mulaney about America’s favorite band leader, “I thought, ‘I wanna do that. I wanna be in my apartment all day if I want and then at night go to the club and do a show.’”
Obviously John was too young to understand that there are thousands of open-mic comedians living that exact life minus the beautiful wife, the success, and the happiness.
Chip and Ellen Mulaney nurtured their son’s budding talent, enrolling him in a local children’s sketch comedy group called “The Rugrats” (which predated the Nickelodeon show of the same name). He honed his talents in performances across Chicago through the late 80’s, right around the time when legendary writer/director John Hughes was solidifying his legacy as the definitive Chicago filmmaker.
Hughes himself moved to Northbrook, Illinois when he was 13 years old. His midwestern upbringing heavily colored his lens as a filmmaker, as almost all of his biggest hits took place in Chicago’s suburbs. His directorial debut, Sixteen Candles, takes place in the mythical “Shermer, Illinois,” an amalgamation of numerous suburbs on Chicago’s North Side. Hughes would go on to use Shermer as the backdrop for The Breakfast Club, Planes, Trains & Automobiles, Weird Science, Ferris Bueller's Day Off, Pretty in Pink, Uncle Buck, the Home Alone films, of course, and the National Lampoon's Vacation films.
Kevin Smith, another defining cinematic voice of the 90’s, paid homage to Shermer in his 1999 film Dogma.
At one of John Mulaney’s performances with the live-action, not-in-any-way-affiliated-with-Viacom-inc “Rugrats”, John caught the eye of an audience member who was in a unique position to make one lucky seven year-old an international star. According to John, “Someone saw it—maybe they said John Hughes, I think they did say John Hughes—but I didn’t know who that was.” Whoever it was, they invited Mulaney to audition for the part, but Chip and Ellen Mulaney had different plans.
Unfortunately for kid John Mulaney, his parents had no interest in raising a child star and wouldn’t let him try out for the part. Even if they had let him go to the audition, there’s no way of knowing if he’d actually be able to wrest the role from Macaulay Culkin, who had already worked with Hughes in Uncle Buck and was, at that point, a bona-fide child star with all the accompanying realities.
Home Alone propelled Macaulay Culkin to superstardom, but the personal life of the biggest child star of the 1990’s was marred by exploitation and abuse to the point where he famously sued his parents for control of his trust fund and ended up cutting his father out of his life entirely. His friendship with Michael Jackson, himself a formerly exploited child star, was also highly publicized in the following years.
Chip and Ellen Mulaney probably made the right choice when they told John that he wasn’t going to brutally torture Joe Pesci and Daniel Stern after all. It’s hilarious to think about a parallel universe where Mulaney, who described his younger self as a “gay little boy,” lands the part and launches the franchise that failed to understand New York’s grid system, but in that universe, there is no New in Town, no Comeback Kid, heck, there might even be no “Stefon.”
We’ll never know what a Mulaney-led Home Alone would look like. Would it be an even bigger hit? Would it flop like John’s underwhelming sitcom Mulaney? Would he ever meet Bill Clinton? It’s tacky to say “everything happens for a reason”, but I think we’re better off with John’s body of work in our universe.
Maybe, right now, in some parallel dimension, Macaulay Culkin is walking down the street not knowing that he's about to get pushed by someone who’s new in town.
Top Image: Hughes Entertainment
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