Here Are the Comics John Mulaney Thinks Are Funnier Than Him

Hint: He wrote for three of them
Here Are the Comics John Mulaney Thinks Are Funnier Than Him

David Letterman sat down with John Mulaney on the latest edition of his Netflix show My Next Guest Needs No Introduction today, a mutual admiration fest in which the two comics traded war stories and self-deprecating jokes. Letterman contends this is a golden era for stand-up comedy, with Mulaney and peers like Hannibal BuressAli WongNate Bargatze and Chelsea Peretti leading the way. “In my group when I was back in California,” Letterman began, “I knew who the funniest person was, who the funniest two or three people were, funnier certainly than me. Do you consider anybody in (your) group to be as good as you or better than you?”

The question got an immediate “Yeah!” from Mulaney. Who’s funnier than the Baby J comic? “First off, when I was a writer (on SNL), I was writing for Bill Hader and Fred Armisen and Kristen Wiig.”

Letterman conceded the point. “No more questions.”

“There was no point,” said Mulaney, “where I ever looked at something I wrote for them and thought, ‘I could do this better.’” 

That’s not to say Mulaney lacks for confidence, now or even when he was a young man. Mulaney and Letterman visited the theater at St. Ignatius College Prep, where Mulaney attended high school. (Amazingly, so did Bob Newhart.) While it’s an impressive high school performing space, it can’t compare to Mulaney’s seven shows at Radio City Music Hall or his gig at the Hollywood Bowl, which seats 18,000. There’s no way, argued Letterman, that High School Mulaney could have performed in the St. Ignatius theater and imagined he’d one day play that kind of venue. Mulaney agreed — at first. But then on second thought …“Can you get one more thing?” he asked the camera operator. “Because I didn’t answer a question truthfully.”

Mulaney asked Letterman to repeat his question about playing the Hollywood Bowl. “I don’t want to sound arrogant, but yes, when I was in high school, I thought ‘I should be on stage at the Hollywood Bowl,’” he boasted with a laugh. “100%. I’m not kidding. I had high self-esteem about how funny I was. And I don’t know if this is obnoxious to say but I thought, ‘I should be on the goddamn stage at the Hollywood Bowl.’” 

In between sharing addiction stories (Mulaney to Klonopin, Adderal and friends; Letterman to alcohol), they discussed the comics who inspired Mulaney to begin his stand-up journey. Both collected comedy albums in their youths, but there is one record in particular that stood out to Mulaney. “Dave Attell’s Skanks for the Memories is an excellent comic at the absolute top of his game,” Mulaney gushed. 

“I really love doing stand-up comedy,” Mulaney said at the end of the conversation. “I wanted, from an early age, to be able to stand onstage at a theater and do comedy. And I remember realizing in 2017 in St. Louis that I was doing just that. It was my show, I was in a suit, talking to an audience at night. It was the best.” 


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