“I packed a lot into this... is it September?” People might forgive John Mulaney for having to take a beat—and do a bit—before publicly revealing everything he’s gone through this past year. Spending three funny, uncharacteristically heartfelt segments with his longtime friend and Saturday Night Live colleague Seth Meyers on Tuesday’s back-from-vacation Late Night, the comedian was forthright about his widely publicized fall out of sobriety, and his unlikely turn in the internet infamy meat-grinder. As Meyers put it when reminiscing about the younger Mulaney’s abstemious ways during their time on SNL, “You were a square.” Mulaney agreed, noting that nobody would have imagined that that straitlaced guy would have become “tabloid fodder.”
The tension between Mulaney’s signature, always-on stand-up persona and his desire to fill in the blanks left by the sensationalist nature of internet gossip ran throughout the extended interview, a dynamic that, Mulaney says, was only more glaringly evident during the intervention Meyers helped organize a year ago. Running through the timeline, Mulaney explained that his initial relapse with drugs and alcohol predated his SNL Halloween show hosting gig (he’d already been to rehab prior to the show, and had already left his wife of six years, Anna Marie Tendler), and that he relapsed again soon after hosting. Mulaney joked repeatedly about his unexpected tenure writing for Late Night after that, hinting that their freewheeling, Election Night chat (where Mulaney wore shades and an overcoat given to him by one of The Strokes) might have offered viewers some clue about where his head was at.
From there, Mulaney shared details of the much-needed intervention, where Meyers and “a We Are The World of alternative comedians over the age of 40" had to wait for two hours because Mulaney, thinking he was heading to dinner with a college friend, made the decision to go to the SNL offices for a free haircut. Explaining that it made perfect sense at the time to go back to a place he no longer worked to ask the award-winning hair and makeup people there for a trim, Mulaney joked that at least he looked great (“cocaine-skinny with a brand-new haircut”) when confronted with the sight of all his friends unexpectedly gathered, clutching carefully penned letters of sincere concern. Mulaney was forthright about his sweaty attempts to steer the intervention from the outset, confessing his on-the-fly strategy to steal everyone’s solicitous thunder by assuring his friends (and the recovery professional they’d brought in) that he “was the smartest person in the room.”
Thankfully for Mulaney, his friends weren’t buying it, with one participant’s unprecedentedly earnest plea for Mulaney to seek help making clear just how serious things had gotten. Noting how impactful it was to realize that the funniest people in his life were being somberly unfunny about his condition, Mulaney agreed with Meyers’ assessment that, “I think you know the gravity of a situation when Fred Armisen is not doing a bit.” Reaching out his hand to Meyers at one point, Mulaney fought down his own instincts to puncture the tension with a joke, telling his friend seriously, “I’m so grateful to you, and to everyone there, for saving my life, okay? That night—I was not grateful.”
For a comedian whose persona is all about being hilariously self-effacing, Mulaney’s appearance had the feeling of an extended reaching out, with Meyers providing his friend as much time as he needed to unhurriedly explain where he’s at. As to the most recent bit of personal news unexpectedly catching the public’s attention, Mulaney also confirmed his relationship with actress Olivia Munn, complete with the fact that the couple is expecting a baby. Calling Munn, “a lovely woman named Olivia,” Mulaney praised his partner for taking him on at his post-rehab shakiest. “She held my hand through that hell,” said Mulaney, breezing quickly past the implicit pain of that statement to joke that, should the couple wind up having triplets, he’s planning to name the “ugliest one” “Seth” in gratitude. (Munn is not having triplets.) Concluding their on-air, in-person reunion, Mulaney ultimately dropped the jokes entirely, telling Meyers, “You guys saved me from drugs, and maybe Olivia has saved me from myself.”
If you or anyone you love is struggling with addiction, there is help available.