With most everything in entertainment (and sports, and life) on the dreaded indefinite hiatus during this pandemic, sometimes the traditional late-night interview has turned into what those in the industry call by the technical term, “Just shooting the shit.” And there’s nobody better with whom to shit-shoot than comedian, actor, sort-of children’s show host, and now podcaster John Mulaney, as Stephen Colbert reaffirmed over video chat on Monday’s Late Show. Like all the best stand-ups, Mulaney can turn the mundanity of being stuck inside staring at the same four walls (and people) into wryly compelling comedy. His two segments knocked around with the similarly antsy Colbert (whose big project this week was parting his hair on the other side), touching hilariously on topics from the late Tony Curtis’ late-in-life hairpiece, to the reason why his theatrical smash with Nick Kroll, Oh, Hello On Broadway wasn’t eligible for a Tony. (“The Tony Award committee has a meeting to decide whether or not it counted as a play,” explained Mulaney, continuing in succinct deadpan, “And it didn’t.”)
And while Mulaney was pretty equanimous about that suspiciously technical snub, he did share with Colbert how the stress of being trapped inside with his thoughts (okay, and his lovely wife) has manifested in some unsettlingly ambiguous ways. Swapping recent anxiety nightmares with Colbert, Mulaney listened to his host’s dream about having to do The Late Show despite the fact that he was in hiding, possibly from unnamed individuals looking for some sort of late-night political commentary vengeance. (There’s a pretty obvious suspect there.) Then, pulling out his phone to check what can only be a pretty interesting nightly dream journal, Mulaney launched into the one he was saving just for us, a nightmare involving an awkward interview, subsequent cherry blossom-viewing road trip, and possible lost time incident with comedy legend Rob Reiner. (Note: John Mulaney has never met Mr. Reiner.)
Now while it might be just a workplace hazard for guys like Mulaney and Colbert to have famous figures inexplicably angry at them in their nightmares, each of them noted that it’s perfectly normal for everyone’s COVID-quarantined brains to incorporate all manner of inexplicable, invariably stressful nonsense. (You know, just to pick an example than nobody at all actually had immediately before getting up to write this piece, about Paget Brewster starring in a surprisingly lurid made-for-TV movie about the calamitously sex-and-violence-beset struggle to renovate the Cincinnati Reds’ baseball stadium. That old story. Anyone?) Mulaney went so far as to quote his therapist, whose twice-a-week online sessions recently provided the eyebrow-raising observation, “I think people with your brain are thriving right now.” Mulaney’s healthcare professional was talking about how he’s taking unexpected solace in the fact that the powers that be are telling him it’s okay to be unambitious and solitary, but pretty sure that extends to the ways that our human contact-starved minds are exploring some entertainingly weird corners, too. Let’s hope, anyway.