John Mulaney’s Real Rolex Story Is 50 Percent More Bleak Than the One He Told in ‘Baby J’
“Why don’t you name a better way to make $6,000 in five minutes by only spending $12,000?” John Mulaney cracked in his latest special, Baby J, about a convoluted plan he executed to acquire quick cash to buy drugs. Incredibly, though, there’s an even darker true story hidden behind the punchline — one about how he turned $6,000 into $3,000 in about the same amount of time.
Baby J represented a seismic tonal shift in how Mulaney handles personal struggles in his stand-up work, and many reviewers praised his stark earnestness in discussing the ugly and absurd realities of his life as a high-profile, medium-functioning drug addict. Between his rehab stint, his divorce and his new family, Mulaney’s personal life was all-too-public knowledge during the gap between his 2018 special Kid Gorgeous at Radio City and his latest entry, but the decision to bare his struggles and shortcomings onstage was met with massive acclaim.
However, in a recent episode of The Hollywood Reporter’s podcast Awards Chatter, the Chicago-born stand-up revealed that, despite his openness in Baby J, there were still dark details that he elected to hold back – namely, how that six grand in cash he scored from the Rolex scheme was cut in half because he literally threw $3,000 in the garbage.
The story is, obviously, better told by Mulaney himself, but the bullet points from Baby J are this: In an effort to curtail his out-of-control spending on various prescription and non-prescription drugs, Mulaney instructed his accountant to bar him from withdrawing cash from his savings. Immediately, Mulaney resents the restrictions that he himself instituted, and he concocts a clever con to steal his own money at 50 cents on the dollar — Mulaney buys a brand new Rolex for $12,000 using his credit card, then immediately takes the timepiece to a disreputable jewelry store in order to sell it at half the original price, receiving cold, hard, drug-buying cash. If the world’s dumbest money-laundering scheme wasn’t embarrassing enough, here’s the part Mulaney left out: Shortly after, he again halved his return by accidentally dumping $3,000 in the trash.
“I put three grand in an Apple shopping bag,” Mulaney told The Hollywood Reporter of the moments following the sale. Minutes later, the bag, and the cash inside, were nowhere to be found. “I thought, ‘I must have thrown that Apple bag away.’ I was in a 20-floor apartment building in the West Village back then, and I went through almost all the trash in the basement… Didn’t find it.”
Though it may seem surprising that Mulaney could forget where he put his hard-earned and heavily reduced drug money, memory loss is a consistent theme throughout Baby J — in one of the best bits of the special, Mulaney retold the story of how he decided to “break up” with his drug dealer upon entering rehab, only to discover that the man whom he thought was his street connection wasn’t a drug dealer at all and was simply procuring pills and powders to prevent Mulaney from going to an untrustworthy source. In fact, Mulaney couldn’t even remember how he ever met is non-dealer, or how he convinced his connection to enter the trade in the first place.
As for his reasoning behind omitting the second part of the Rolex story from the special, Mulaney said that, although he wanted to explore his darker moments in his comedy, he was afraid to weigh down the hour with the absolute bleakness of addiction and desperation, saying, “I did want to make this as laugh-heavy as possible. I didn’t want to tell that story of, you know, ‘And there I was, selling a watch I had just bought, and I felt so small.’ I didn’t want to have that tone, you know?”
Instead, Mulaney packaged the memory with his signature silliness, explaining, “I really wanted to present these stories almost as if I was proud of them. Because, at that moment, I was! I made six grand in cash by only spending twelve grand. ‘I’ll put it in this Apple bag — don’t worry about that!’”