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John Mulaney's one-season sitcom was originally supposed to be about sobriety

Mulaney was originally titled Mulaney Don't Drink, John Mulaney reveals in a new interview

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John Mulaney's sitcom was supposed to be about sobriety
John Mulaney
Photo: Cindy Ord (Getty Images)

As infamously ill-fated as it was, John Mulaney’s one-season sitcom has become a mere blip on the radar of his successful career. He’s much better known as a blockbuster standup comedian than he ever was as the creator and star of Mulaney, but he’s nevertheless frequently asked about that chapter of his life. (Including in that GQ interview referenced in his new special Baby J.) More than a decade later, the comedian finally reveals that the FOX show was supposed to be much more revealing.

“There was another version at NBC called Mulaney Don’t Drink, which was about me getting sober at 23,” he says in a new Hollywood Reporter roundtable discussion. “It was based on the time in my life when I got sober at 23 and had two roommates and was just trying to figure out: What does a good person do? That was an actual part of my life, or a pointless gauntlet I threw down in front of myself.”


Mulaney admits that “there was really something lost when I, on the advice of others higher up, took that out.” However, he takes “full responsibility,” saying, “I lost the thread that made it something.”

Comedy Actors Roundtable: Jason Segel, Steven Yeun, Tyler James Williams, John Mulaney & Mo Amer

Despite coming from Saturday Night Live, Mulaney shares that he didn’t have much experience navigating notes from executives. The sketch show is “the most protected environment in entertainment,” according to the former writer. “We don’t get notes. I saw Jeff Zucker maybe once when he was the president of NBC. Nothing reached us, so to suddenly be the writer, producer and star of a network pilot, let alone a series, it was suddenly being the captain of a cruise ship,” he says. “I was like, ‘I have to worry about personnel, menu binders, meals for people, hours, how late everyone’s there.’”


Asked if he’d ever consider a different kind of semi-autobiographical comedy (a form that his peers have really latched onto in the years since Mulaney), “My immediate thought was, ‘Oh, should I?’” Mulaney laughs. “But I’m not sure. I’ve enjoyed doing it through stand-up. And one thing I learned from doing it was that I wasn’t sure what my story was. Like, what exactly am I bringing to everyone and do they need it?” You never know until you try!