Armed with boyish charm and a sharp wit, the former “SNL” writer John Mulaney offers sly takes on marriage, his beef with babies and the time he met Bill Clinton
All right, Petunia. Wish me luck out there. You will die on August 7th, 2037. That’s pretty good. All right. Hello. Hello, Chicago. Nice to see you again. Thank you. That was very nice. Thank you. Look, now, you’re a wonderful crowd, but I need you to keep your energy up the entire show, okay? Because… No, no, no. Thank you. Some crowds… some crowds, they have big energy in the beginning and then they run out of places to go. So… I don’t judge those crowds, by the way, okay? We’ve all gone too big too fast and then run out of room. We’ve all made a “Happy Birthday” sign… Wait. You get that poster board up, and you’re like, “I don’t need to trace it. I know how big letters should be. To begin with, a big-ass ‘H’. Followed by a big-ass ‘A’ and… Oh, no! Oh, God! Okay, all right. Real skinny ‘P’ with a high hump, and then we’ll put the second ‘P’ below the hump of that first ‘P’, sort of like a motorcycle sidecar situation. And now I have no room for the ‘Y’, so I’ll do a kind of curled-up noodle ‘Y’. Block letters and cursive look good together.” And then you go to write “Birthday” and you totally forget the lesson you just learned with “Happy.” You’re like, “Yeah, but the past is the past. Big-ass ‘B’. Surely more letters will fit in the same space.”
You’re very friendly here in Chicago. I mean, we’re all violent here, but you’re very friendly. No, really. And I don’t like confrontation, ’cause I’ve never been in a fight before. Though, maybe you could tell that from the first moment I walked out on stage. I don’t give off that vibe. Some people give off a vibe of… Right away, they’re like, “Do not fuck with me.” My vibe is more like, “Hey, you could pour soup in my lap and I’ll probably apologize to you.” When I walk, for real, my feet go out like this. I’m so open and vulnerable. I look like a doll that you point out molestation on. “Show us on this white comedian where the man touched you.”
It’s been a while since I’ve been home to Chicago. I got married since then. Thank you. I married my wife. I love saying “my wife.” It sounds so adult. “That’s my wife.” It’s great, you sound like a person. I said it even before we were married. We were just dating, and we were once getting on an airplane, and Anna’s ticket didn’t say anything and my ticket said “priority access.” It doesn’t matter why. But we were getting on and I said, “Uh, can my wife board with me?” And they were like, “Yes, of course. Right this way.” And I was like, “Oh, that is so much better than all those times I was like, ‘Can my girlfriend come?'” And, yeah, I shouldn’t have said it that way, but still. “My wife” just has some kick-ass to it, you know? “Get away from my wife! No one talk to my wife!” Marriage is gonna be very magical. “I didn’t kill my wife!” That’s like, “Ooh, who’s that fella? I bet he did kill his wife.” Being married is so nice. I never knew relationships were supposed to make you feel better about yourself. That’s not really a joke, that’s just a little sweet thing I like to say. ‘Cause I’d been in relationships where I got cheated on, like, long ones. I don’t know if you’ve ever been in a long relationship where you got cheated on, but it changes your whole worldview. ‘Cause when I was a kid, I used to watch America’s Most Wanted. You know how kids do. And I would always think to myself, “How could another person kill someone? How could a human being kill another human being?” And then I got cheated on, and I was like, “Oh, okay.” “I’m not gonna do it, but I totally get it.” And I don’t mean in that way of, like, “No one else can have you.” I don’t care about that. It’s just creepy to have an ex out there after things have ended badly. They have a lot of information. Anyone who’s seen my dick and met my parents needs to die. I can’t have them roaming around.
I talked to a lot of people before I got engaged, you know. And I heard this expression about whether or not you should get married. This is an old expression. People say this. They say, “Why buy the cow when you can get the milk for free?” You ever heard that before? It’s a bananas insulting expression… to an entire gender. But also, it makes no sense. “Why buy the cow when you can get the milk for free?” You’re not allowed to milk a cow that you don’t own. That’s not even a situation. Was that a problem at one point? Like, in the dairy community? Was that happening a hundred years ago in some village? Some Dutch prick was sneaking in at night being like, “Ah-ha-ha, I take your milk.” And the farmer was like, “Well, then, this is your cow now.” And he was like, “No, no proof of purchase.” And he ran off into the night. That sounded Dutch, right? You know what that… you know what that expression means? It means, “Why would you marry a woman if she’s already having sex with you?” Which has nothing to do with what relationships are even like anymore. Now, it’s like, “Why buy the cow?” Uh, maybe because, every day, the cow asks you when you’re gonna buy it. And… … you live in a really small apartment with the cow, so you can’t avoid that question at all. And also, the cow is way better at arguing than you are. And the cow grew up in a family that knows how to argue. “Why buy the cow?” Uh, maybe because every time another cow gets bought, you have to go to the sale and you have to sit next to your cow at the sale, and your cow looks over at you the entire time like… And does not enjoy the sale at all… even though she’s the one that wanted to go to the sale. And she’s especially mad because that farmer and cow met, like, eight months after you guys met. “Why buy the cow?” Well, let’s be real here. You’re very lucky to have the cow that you do have. “Roping in cows and getting milk out of them was never anything you were known for, John.” By the most liberal of estimates, there have been about eight cows total, several unmilked, and… a lot of people think that you like bulls, and if you just bought… They assume it. When you search your name, the third thing to come up is like, “John Mulaney bull?” And if you just bought the cow, nobody would say that anymore. They’ll still say it. ‘Cause there are those guys who, they buy a cow, and then on the side, total matador, but… But, for real, Chicago, why buy the cow? Let’s be real. Why buy the cow? Because you love her. You really do. And, yeah, yeah… Sure, she’s a bossy little Jew, but… … she takes care of you. And you don’t wanna be some old man stumbling around, like, “Hey, you seen any loose milk?”
My wife is Jewish. She’s a New York Jew. I did it! Now, I was raised Catholic. I don’t know if you can tell that from the everything about me. My wife is Jewish, I grew up Catholic, so we got married by a friend. Being married by a friend is a beautiful ceremony that alienates both families’ religions, while confusing the elderly people at the wedding. “What’s the name of the bishop?” “That’s actually stand-up comedian Dan Levy. He was the host of MTV’s Your Face or Mine?” I saw a lot of Catholic weddings, though, because I was an altar boy… And a hush falls over the room. Isn’t it weird how that became a scandalous thing? That was just some boring shit I had to do on weekends. But now, it’s like saying, “I was a French maid for a period of time. I was treated well in my day. I worked for a variety of sirs.” No, being an altar boy was just a boring gig, you know? You’d serve Mass and then you’d serve weddings sometimes. My brother was once an altar boy at a wedding, and he was standing there with another altar boy in this big, packed church in Chicago where we grew up. And the bride was coming down the aisle, and the organ was playing, and all the pews were filled, and the bride got all the way to the altar, and the groom lifted the veil off of the bride, and right at that moment the other altar boy said, “Aw, she’s ugly.” And then they looked, and they were right next to the video camera. And I know that’s awful, but wouldn’t you give a million dollars to see that wedding video? It was the best moment of this stupid woman’s life, and she’s walking down the aisle, and the organ’s like… And she gets all the way to the altar to her betrothed, and he unveils her to the world and to the eyes of God. And right at that second, for no reason at all, some Cheeto-fingered, rat-mustached, 13-year-old prick decides to go, “Aw, she’s ugly!” Hopefully the videographer knew some sound editing so he could fix it to be like, “Aw, she’s beautiful. She’s enchanting.”
I grew up Catholic. I don’t go to church anymore. But I went on Christmas Eve with my parents, ’cause you know how you lie to your parents. So… we go into the church and I was like, “I got this under control.” And then I got schooled because they introduced a bunch of new shit. No, I was going through Mass and I was batting, like, .400. And then in the middle of Mass, the priest said, “Peace be with you.” And everyone said, “And with your spirit.” And I was the one pre-Y2K asshole going, “And also with you. What? Huh? What? Huh? What? When? When?” For those of you that aren’t Catholic, I don’t mean to exclude you, even though we love to exclude you, but… There’s a part in church where the priest says, “Peace be with you.” And for many, many years, we all said… – “And also with you.” – Very good. But they changed it to “And with your spirit.” Because that’s what needed revamping in the Catholic Church. That was the squeaky wheel that needed the grease. In Rome, they were like, “Let’s see. What problems can we solve? Problem one. No.” I’m actually glad they changed that, though. I never liked “And also with you.” I always found that clunky. “And also with you.” That’s not how you talk. – “Have a nice day.” – “And also you having one.” It’s just a little bit wrong, isn’t it? It’s just a little off. Like, when someone’s like, “How are you?” And you’re like, “Nothing much.” And it sort of makes sense. Never begin a sentence with “And also.” You just immediately sound caught off-guard. It sounds like if at the first church ever, like, they weren’t expecting it. Like, the priest was like, “Hey, this is the first time we’ve ever had church. I just wanna say, ‘Peace be with you.'” And they were like… “What? Oh. Uh, yeah. And also you should have some.” “Hey, that’s good. Let’s keep that for 2,000 years. And then change it to trick John.”
My wife and I don’t have any children, we have a dog. We have a little puppy named Petunia. She’s a tiny little French bulldog puppy. I like having a puppy that’s a bulldog, ’cause it’s like having a baby that is also a grandma. Her body is young, her face is as old as time. She definitely saw the Nazis march into Paris. She always gives me this look of like, “Oh, the things I have seen, you cocksucker. You have no idea. The Gestapo threw my printing press into a river. But, go, tell your fucking jokes. Bring me my dish.” She said that. Petunia… Petunia is my best friend in the world. I give her a million kisses a day. She does not like me, and barks at me and bites me all day long. We had to get a dog trainer into the apartment because Petunia is a bad dog. We tell her that every day. We go, “Hey, you’re bad at being a dog.” So, the trainer came into the apartment. Sorry, didn’t even walk into the apartment, walked into the threshold and went, “Oh, okay.” Like she was an exorcist or something. She said, “I see what the problem is.” She said, “Petunia has become the alpha of the house.” And then she pointed at me, she said, “You are no longer the alpha of the house.” And in the back of my head, I was like, “I was never the alpha of the house.” I turned to my wife, I was like, “Let’s pretend. It’ll be fun. Yes… My title of alpha, which I once had, how can I reclaim it? Because that was a thing that existed at one time.” She said, “You need to show dominance over your puppy.” These are things people say to me. I said, “How do I do that?” She said, “Well, let me ask you this. Who eats dinner first, you or Petunia?” I was like, “Petunia eats dinner first. She eats dinner at 5:00 p.m., ’cause she’s a foot long and two years old.” She said, “No, you need to eat dinner first. Because the king eats before anyone else eats.” Oh, yes, and what a mighty king I will be, eating dinner at 4:45 in the afternoon. “Look upon your sovereign, Petunia, and tremble. My lands stretch across this entire one bedroom, and I eat dinner whenever I choose, as long as it works for the schedule of a dog.” She said, “Now, you don’t actually have to eat dinner before Petunia. You just have to convince Petunia that you’ve already eaten.” So… for the past month, I shit you not… before my wife and I give Petunia her dish, we take down empty bowls and spoons, and in front of her, we go, “Mmm, dinner. Mmm, good dinner.” Like we’re space aliens in a play about human beings that they wrote, but they didn’t work that hard on. “Mmm, we’re eating dinner.” Meanwhile, Petunia’s just staring at us with her Paul Giamatti face, like… “You’re not eating dinner, cocksucker. Dish, now.”
I have a wife and a dog, and we just bought a house. We have a new house. It was built in the ’20s, but it was flipped in 2014. Which means it’s haunted, but it has a lovely kitchen backsplash. Actually, we didn’t buy a house. A bank bought a house, and I’m allowed to keep my shirts and pants there while I pay it off for 30 years. The woman from the bank came over and she showed me my mortgage broken down month by month for 30 years. And she said, “So, for instance, this is what you’ll pay in July of 2029.” And I burst out laughing. I was like, “2029? That’s not a real year. By 2029, I’ll be drinking moon juice with President Jonathan Taylor Thomas. I’m not gonna be writing you a paper check.” I like having a house, but I loved looking for a house, ’cause I love real estate agents. I mean, they are the true heroes. They really are. Have you ever watched HGTV? Real estate agents have to deal with the dumbest people in the world making the biggest decisions of their lives. Every episode of HGTV is like, “Craig and Stacia are looking for a two-story A-frame that’s near Craig’s job in the downtown, but also satisfies Stacia’s need to be near the beach which is nowhere near Craig’s job. With three children and nine on the way, and a max budget of $7… let’s see what Lori Jo can do on this week’s episode of You Don’t Deserve A Beach House.”
I loved our real estate agent. It was so fun to hang out with her. It was like hanging out with my mom. ‘Cause, you know, real estate agents always look like your mom. And they have various Chico’s accoutrements. They always have kind of fun mom energy. And they’re always, “So excited to see you two.” We would have little conferences before we walked into a house. She’d go, “Let’s talk. Let’s talk before we go in.” We’re, like, two feet from the door. “So, there’s no toilets. And I know that was on your list. But I think I can get him to budge. Let’s go.” So, we’d have a real estate agent, and then, like, the house would have a real estate agent who’s just some guy sitting in a big chair. And these two always hated each other. They’d be like, “Hi, Tony.” “Hi, Kim.” It’s like, “Jesus Christ! What, were you two in the Eagles together? What is the animosity about?” Our real estate agent wanted us to have a baby more than anyone else in our lives, more than anyone in our family. She hinted about it constantly. Every room she walked into, she’d be like, “So, this could be an office.” “Or maybe a nursery.” “Yeah. No, like we said, we don’t know if we’re gonna have… ” “No, no. I know, I know, you know. You don’t know if you’re gonna have ’em, but you know. You know, you never know. Sometimes you don’t know what’s gonna happen, and then… you know, something happens.” “Well, yeah, that’s how all of life works.” “Okay, all right. Okay. Uh-huh. Mmm. This is an on-fire garbage can. Could be a nursery.” She showed me a backyard once. She goes, “I don’t even like this backyard for you.” I was like, “Oh, do tell.” She said, “It’s all pavement. I think you should have some grass out there. You know, in case you have a couple… little guys… running around in the grass.” And I got offended on behalf of my imaginary kids. I was like, “Hey, lady. I went outside about as much as Powder from the movie Powder. My children are not gonna be playing out on grass. They will be up in their rooms playing violent video games and catfishing pedophiles. These are my children. And that’s my wife!”
I didn’t mean to make it sound like we don’t want children. We don’t, but I didn’t mean to make it sound like that. See, I just don’t think babies like me very much. Sometimes babies will point at me, and I don’t care for that shit at all. Like, I’ll be on an elevator, and a baby will be there in its big, like, stroller activity tray, just, like, working on one Cheerio with Bobby Fischer-like intensity. And it’ll look up at me and go… I like to lean in and go, “Stop snitchin’, motherfucker.” And then walk off. ‘Cause you’re never too young to learn our national no-snitching policy. My friends have babies and I don’t do so well with them. I had a run-in with a two-year-old girl. I know there are better ways to start that story, but… My friend, Jeremy, has this two-year-old girl, and I really like her. She’s a sweet kid. I really like his daughter a lot. But I was over at his family’s house for the Fourth of July, and he had his daughter on his knee. And it was a very lovely day. His whole extended family was there. And he was bouncing his two-year-old up and down, and he pointed at me and he said to his two-year-old, “Do you know who that is? That’s your Uncle John.” And I was like, “Oh, my God. That’s so sweet. I’m her Uncle John.” And then the baby pointed at me and said, “Uncle John has a penis.” I thank you for laughing, because no one did that day! Fell deadly silent, is what they all did. Hey, do you know what you’re supposed to say when a baby points at you and knowingly says, “He has a penis”? No, I’m asking, ’cause I don’t know what to say in that situation. Here’s what I went with that day. I said, “Oh, come on!” I don’t know. I thought that’d be good. But then it just made it worse, ’cause it sounded like the baby and I had an arrangement not to talk about it, and she had violated my trust. Like, the baby had been like, “Do you have a penis?” And I was like, “Yes, I do, but you’re a baby, so discretion is key.” And then the next day she goes, “He has a penis,” and I go, “Oh, come on! Someone can’t keep a secret!” Luckily, Jeremy’s wife saved the day. The baby’s mom saved the day. She came in and she picked up the baby, and she was like, “It’s okay. She’s just going through that phase where she says penis and vagina a lot.” Aren’t we all? And, by the way, it would’ve been a totally different situation if the baby had said vagina. Like, if a grown woman had walked in the room, and the baby had been like, “She has a vagina,” the woman could be like, “Yes, I do, and it’s magnificent.” And we would all be like, “Hooray! You are brave!” No one wants to applaud the penis of a 32-year-old weirdo.
It’s fun to be married. I’ve never been supervised before. I’m supervised. She studies what I do. Like an anthropologist. She’ll be like, “Sometimes, he will watch a movie on TV even though he already owns that movie on DVD. Pointing this out to him confuses and upsets him.” I had no supervision when I was a kid. We were free to do what we wanted. But also, with that, no one cared about kids. I grew up before children were special. I did. Very early ’80s, right before children became special. Like, I remember when milk carton kids became a thing. When they were like, “Hey, we should start looking for some of these guys. I don’t think they’re just blowing off steam.” No one cared about my opinion when I was a little kid. No one cared what I thought. Sometimes, people would say, “What do you think you’re doing?” But that just meant “Stop.” They didn’t actually wanna know my thought process. They didn’t want me to be like, “Well, I was gonna put this bottle rocket into this carton of eggs, so that when I lit off the bottle rocket, the eggs would explode everywhere.” “Oh, well, that’s very interesting. And what brought you to this experiment?” “Oh, well, thank you for asking. Well… you know how I’m filled with rage? I’m so horny and angry all the time… and I have no outlet for it. So… eggs.” Your opinion doesn’t matter in elementary school either. It matters in college. College is just your opinion. Just you raising your hand and being like, “I think Emily Dickinson’s a lesbian.” And they’re like, “Partial credit.” And that’s a whole thing. But in elementary school, it doesn’t matter what you think, it just matters what you know. You have to have answers to questions. And if you say, “I don’t know,” you get an X on your test, and you get it wrong and that’s not fair, ’cause your brain has never been smaller. Also, that’s not how life works. I’m in my 30s now. If you came to me now and you were like, “Hey, John, name three things that the Stamp Act of 1775 accomplished.” I’d go, “I don’t know. Get out of my apartment,” you know? But when you’re a little kid, you can’t say, “I don’t know.” You should be able to. That should be an acceptable answer on a test. You should be able to write in, “I don’t know. I know you told me. But I have had a very long day. I am very small. And I have no money. So you can imagine the kind of stress that I am under.” Or if it’s one of those true or false questions, you should be able to add a third option which is, “Who’s to say?” Kids are much more supervised now, but also, they have a lot of rights. Like, that’s the biggest civil rights increase I’ve seen in my lifetime. The rights of children have gone through the roof. I had no rights when I was a little kid. I remember, one time, I walked into a supermarket by myself, and I walked in through the double doors, and the woman behind the register just looked at me and she went, “No!” And I went, “All right.” And I turned around and left. That’s how broken I was.
And there weren’t special things for kids the way there are now. Like, we would just go see movies. Any movie. Like Back to the Future. That was a movie everyone could see. Kids could kinda see it. Great movie, right? I rewatched it recently. It’s a very weird movie. Marty McFly is a 17-year-old high school student whose best friend is a disgraced nuclear physicist. And, I shit you not, they never explain how they became friends. They never explain it. Not even in a lazy way, like, “Hey, remember when we met in the science building?” They don’t even do that. And we were all fine with it. We were just like, “What, who’s his best friend? A disgraced nuclear physicist? All right, proceed.” What a strange movie to sell to be a family movie. Two guys had to go in and do that. They had to be like, “Okay… we got an idea… for the next big family-action-comedy. All right, it’s about a guy named Marty, and he’s very lazy. He’s always sleeping late.” “Okay. Is he cool like Ferris Bueller?” “No. But he does have this best friend who’s, you know, a disgraced… nuclear physicist.” “I’m confused here. This best friend, this is another student?” “No, no, no. No, this guy’s either, like, 40 or 80. Even we don’t know how old this guy’s supposed to be. But one day, the boy and the scientist, they go back in time and they build a time machine. Whoa!” “Okay. I think I see where you’re going here. They build a time machine, and they go back in time, and they stop the Kennedy assassination.” “Ah! Oh, wow, that’s a really good idea, I mean, we didn’t even think of that.” “All right, well, what do they do with the time machine?” “Well, now I’m embarrassed to say. Ah, well, all right, all right, all right. We thought… We thought it would be funny, you know, if the boy, if he went back in time and, you know, he tried to fuck his mom.” “I don’t know. We thought that’d be fun for people. But, no, good point. No, he doesn’t get to, he doesn’t get to. ‘Cause this family friend named Biff, he comes in and he tries to rape the mom in front of the son. The dad’s gotta beat the rapist off of her. And also, we’re gonna imply that a white man wrote ‘Johnny B. Goode.’ So, we’re gonna take that away from ’em.” “Well, this is the best movie idea I have ever heard in my life. We’re gonna make three of them. Now, you say they go to the past. How about we call it Back to the Past?” “No, no, no. Back to the Future.” “Right, but they go to the past.” “Yeah.”
Kids have it very good now. My friend’s a teacher. She told me that, uh… the parents will take the kids’ side over the teacher now. That’s insane. That never happened. My parents trusted every grown-up… more than they trusted me. I don’t mean coaches and teachers. Any human adult’s word… was better than mine. Any hobo or drifter could have taken me by the ear up to my front door and been like, “Excuse me! Your kid bit my dick.” And my mom would be like, “John Edmund Mulaney, did you bite this nice man’s dick?” And I would be the only one who’s like, “Hey, doesn’t anyone wanna know why… his dick was near my biters… in the first place? Isn’t anyone curious… as to how I had access?” Don’t get me wrong, my parents love us. They just didn’t like us. We weren’t friends. People are now like, “My mom’s my best friend.” I was like, “Oh, is she a super bad mom?” My parents didn’t trust us, and they shouldn’t have trusted us. We were little goblins. We were terrible. I remember, one time, we were going to this resort for a vacation when we were little kids. Three weeks before we went to the resort, my dad sat us down and he said, “All right, we’re going to a resort, and I’ve just been informed that the man who owns the resort only has one arm.” And we were like, “Oh, yes! Yay! Yes!” “Now, I’m telling you three weeks in advance, so that you will not freak out when you see that he only has one arm.” “Oh, we’re gonna freak out so bad!” “Yes, John, you have a question?” “How did he lose his arm?” “That’s exactly what you won’t ask.” And then I did ask. I went into the kitchen one day, and I was like, “So, how’d you lose your arm?” And he was like, “Well, I was born with only one arm.” And I was like, “Nah.”
No, my parents loved us. It’s just, like, they were the cops, you know? And we were criminals. So, we didn’t get along. We only got along in that way that, like, cops will sometimes be chummy with criminals. Like, when my dad and I would talk, it was like that scene in the movie Heat, when Robert De Niro and Al Pacino sit down in that diner. We kind of had that rapport of, like, “Hmm, we’re not so different, you and I. You have your law practice, and me, I have all these fucking markers.” “I guess we both have responsibilities when you look at it that way.” My dad would respect it if I could get away with breaking a rule. We had a rule in our house, you were not allowed to watch TV on a school night. So, every school night, I would 100% be watching TV. And I would hear my dad coming, I would immediately turn the TV off and grab any book, magazine, periodical, anything. And I’d open it and pretend to be doing homework. My dad would walk in the room and he would go, “What are you doing? Are you watching TV?” And I’d go, “No, man. I’m not watching TV.” And the TV wouldn’t even be dark yet. It would still have, like, a neon green halo around it. It’d be sizzling like a glass of Pepsi. And I would look my dad in the eyes and go, “No, I’m just reading this Yellow Pages.”
My dad loved us. He just didn’t care about our general happiness or self-esteem. I remember, one time, we were really little kids. I have two sisters and a brother, and all four of us were in our family car ride for three hours going to Wisconsin. My dad was driving, going down the highway in our white van with wood around the side. ‘Cause you remember when you wanted your car to be made of wood? You remember that era? Where we were like, “How much wood can we get on this car… without it catching on fire?” But then the big announcement. “We here at Plymouth-Chrysler can put a saucy stripe of wood safely on the outside of your car, for all those times you’ve looked at your minivan and thought, ‘Huh! It needs a belt.'” So, we’re going on the highway. We’ve been on the road for three hours. And in the distance, we see a McDonald’s. We see the golden arches. And we got so excited. We started chanting, “McDonald’s! McDonald’s! McDonald’s! McDonald’s!” And my dad pulled into the drive-thru, and we started cheering. And then, he ordered one black coffee for himself. And kept driving. And, you know, as mad as that made me as a little kid, in retrospect, that is the funniest thing I have ever seen in my entire life. How perfect is that? He had a vanload of little kids, and he got black coffee. The one thing from McDonald’s no child could enjoy. My dad is cold-blooded. He once shushed a kid during Lion King on Broadway. That actually happened. We were at Lion King on Broadway, and there was a five-year-old behind us going, “Look, it’s Pumbaa! Look, it’s Timon!” And my dad turned around and said, “Are you going to talk the entire time?” He’s my hero.
The weirdest thing when I was a kid was how much they scared us about smoking weed. They scared us about it constantly. And I’ve been on tour this year… Marijuana is legal in 18 or 19 states in some form or another. It’s insane. Yeah, well… All right, don’t “whoo” if you’re white. It’s always been legal for us. Come on, sir. We don’t go to jail for marijuana, you silly billy. When I was arrested with a one-hitter at a Rusted Root concert, I did not serve hard time. I think I got an award. Eighteen or 19 states. And, by the way, I agree, it’s a very good thing. But it’s also a really weird thing, because this is the first time I’ve ever seen a law change because the government is just like, “Fine.” You know? I’ve never seen it before. Like, gay marriage and healthcare, we have to battle it out in the Supreme Court, and be like, “Gay people are humans.” And they’re like, “We’ll think about it.” But with weed, it was just something we wanted really badly, and we kept asking them for 40 years, like, “Excuse me.” And then suddenly the government became like cool parents, and they’re just like, “Okay, here. Take a little. We’d rather you do it in the house than go somewhere else… blah, blah, blah, blah, blah.” Those stupid parents. And that’s a big deal because they scared us about weed constantly. It would be on our sitcoms. We’d be watching Saved by the Bell, we’d be having a great old time. And then, suddenly, a character we had not seen before would show up with some weed and the episode would stop cold in its tracks. And they’d always hold the joint… The bad guy would hold the joint in a villainous way. They’d always offer the joint in a way that no one ever holds a joint. Like it’s a skull in a Shakespeare play. And now it’s legal, and that is great news. Unless you’re a weed dealer, and then it is terrible news. And I don’t just mean because they’re about to lose out to Amazon.com. I more feel bad for weed dealers ’cause they’re about to find out that we only showed them a certain amount of politeness because they had an illegal product. And we don’t show that same politeness to people who deliver legal products. Like, when the Chinese food delivery guy comes, we don’t let him hang out after he’s delivered the Chinese food. And we don’t look the other way when he says weird shit to the girls we’re hanging out with… to try to preserve the relationship. And we definitely don’t give him some of the Chinese food. He’s never like, “Hey, can I get in on those dumplings?” And we’re like, “Yeah, we’re all friends.”
What are you, on your phone? Hey, V-neck. Hey! – What’s your name? – Sam. Sam? Cool! What do you do to afford V-necks, Sam? Typing numbers. Ah… numbers, the letters of math. I’m sorry to bother you. I don’t mean to single you out. I hate when people get pulled out of the audience. Like, are you familiar with the Cirque du Soleil, Sam? They’re a group of French assholes that are slowly taking over America by humiliating audience members one by one. We once went to see Cirque du Soleil at Navy Pier when I was a kid, and my brother came, and he was 12 years old. You remember being 12, when you’re like, “No one look at me or I’ll kill myself.” And these French bastards come into the crowd, being like, “Le volunteer!” And they pulled my brother up on stage, and I was like, “No!” And they brought him up, and they reached into his sweatshirt, and they were like… And they had planted a bra, and they pulled out a bra and they were like… And everyone at Navy Pier was like “Ah, ha, ha, ha, ha!” And my brother was like, “That’s great!” I have had other jobs besides comedy.
I was an office temp for a while. I really miss that. I loved being a temp, because I would just go from office to office and be terrible at a different job for a week. And then you just get to retire like Lou Gehrig. You’re like, “Thank you. No one will ever see me again.” And they’re like, “Goodbye!” I worked at an office once on 57th Street in New York City. I was there for a couple weeks. I was in a cubicle next to this other cubicle. This woman named Mischa sat in the other cubicle. I want to get the number right. I think Mischa had… about 900,000 photos of her daughter up in her cubicle. Almost like she was trying to solve a conspiracy about her daughter, A Beautiful Mind-style. I think about Mischa two times a week… because of a phone call she had next to me one day. It was one of my first days, and I was sitting next to her. And her phone rang, and this was her call, and I’m quoting. Her phone rang and she said, “Hello? Hush!” And then she hung up. Think about that two times a week. And I didn’t know her well enough by then to be like, “Hey, what kind of a person are you?” You know? Who could she have been talking to? “Hello? Hush!” This was a place of business. My only thought was that it was the CEO of the company being like, “Mischa, help. I’m doing a crossword puzzle. I need a four-letter word for ‘be quiet’ right now.” – “Hush!” – “You’re promoted.”
I temped at a little web company on 25th Street in New York City. It was a small web company owned by this old man who was old, old, old money New York. His name was Henry J. Finch IV. Like old, old, old money. Like, his money was in molasses or something. He owned this web company. I have no idea why he owned this web company. I think he won it in a rich man’s game of dice and small binoculars, or something. Mr. Finch wore linen suits. He had suspenders, he had a bow tie, he had a hat, he had a cane with an ivory handle. I’m giving you more description than you need, ’cause I need you to believe me. This was a real person I knew in the 21st century. Mr. Finch was in his 70s. He had an assistant named Mary. She was in her 50s, she was Korean. I don’t know why he had an assistant. He did not need one. Unless he needed someone to be like, “Remember, Mr. Finch, at five o’clock, you need to keep looking like a hard-boiled egg.” One day, Mr. Finch came into the office. It had been raining. Everything I’m about to say to you was said in front of me on that afternoon. Mr. Finch walked into the office, and he was wearing a raincoat, he was wearing a rain hat, and he had his cane. And he walked in and he said, and I’m quoting, “Ah! One feels like a duck splashing around in all this wet! And when one feels like a duck, one is happy!” And then Mary yelled, “Ooh, ducklings!” To which Mr. Finch replied, “Too old to be a duckling. Quack, quack.” And then walked into his office. I think about that every goddamn day. I mean, imagine you’re me. You’re a 22-year-old temp, and you’re so hungover, and you just wanna die every day. And then that happens in front of you, and I don’t know, gives you hope? And I did that a little fast. Let me break that conversation down for you. Mr. Finch walked in, and he began a conversation the way anyone would. “Ah!” “One feels like a duck splashing around in all this wet!” The rain. “And when one feels like a duck, one is happy!” Now, that’s debatable. But rather than debate that point, Mary brought up a new, separate, but interesting point… which was, “Ducklings!” But Mr. Finch, ever the realist about his own age and mortality… said, “Ah, too old to be a duckling!” As if to say, “My duckling days are behind me. Mary, don’t you see? I’m a duck now. And to prove it… Well, I’ll say just about the most famous catchphrase a duck has… ‘Quack, quack.'” And I knew right at that moment, by the way, that it meant nothing to Mr. Finch, what he had said. Crazy people are like that. They have unlimited crazy currency. Like, if I had gone into his office a couple weeks later and been like, “Hey, Finch, you remember that time you were like, ‘Too old to be a duckling. Quack, quack’?” He would just be like, “Ah, perhaps I did quack! But such is life for an old knickerbocker like me.” Like, he’d say something else crazy.
That’s the wonderful thing about crazy people, you know? Is that they just have unlimited currency. The things they say mean nothing to them, but they mean everything to me. I was once walking into Penn Station in New York. I was walking down 31st Street towards Eighth Avenue. I’m walking down 31st, there’s this woman standing at Eighth and 31st. I have my little roller suitcase. You can all imagine. I’m walking towards her. She’s smoking a cigarette that is not lit anymore. She’s watching me walk, kind of scanning me up and down, as if she had Terminator vision… where she could see little bits of data, like, “Little honky ass,” and could read information. As I walked past her, she said this to me. I walked past her and she said, and I’m quoting, “Eat ass, suck a dick and sell drugs.” Very dirty, yes? A very upsetting thing to hear, yes? I’m sorry you all had to hear that, but at least you all got to hear it as a group. I was alone out there that afternoon. And she said this totally unprompted. “Eat ass, suck a dick and sell drugs.” It wasn’t like I had paused in front of her and been like, “What should I do with my life?” So, I walk away from her with this to-do list. And I like structure, I like a to-do list. It did dawn on me that that list of things does get better as it goes along, when you really think about it. ‘Cause it starts in a pretty rough place. It starts with just about the worst task a to-do list can start with. But by the end, you have your own small business. And isn’t that the American dream when all’s said and done? That if you eat enough ass and suck enough dick, one day you can sell drugs. Imagine you did all that to sell drugs and then they legalize drugs, and you were like, “But I…” This has been a real thrill to perform here, by the way. I just wanna say that in all sincerity. Thanks for coming to this. Really, really appreciate it.
I wanna tell you one more story before I get out of here, about the night I met a guy named Bill Clinton. Now, I don’t… Some of you know who that is? For those of you that don’t, he was President of the United States from 1993 until 2001, and he is a smooth and fantastic hillbilly who should be declared Emperor of the United States of America. Now, I know you know who Bill Clinton is. But I was doing a show at a college, and I mentioned Bill Clinton, and, like, they kind of didn’t know who he was. Like, sorry, they knew the name, right? But they only knew this 2015 Bill Clinton, who’s a very different Bill Clinton. Have you seen his ass lately? What the hell is he trying to pull? He’s all thin now, and he wears these little tight suits, and he’s got these grandpa reading glasses, like, “Hey, I can’t do nothing to nobody no more.” “Oh, me? I’m just an old, old man. I don’t have the appetites.” You know? And he’s always flying around the world with Bill Gates trying to cure AIDS.
That is not the Bill Clinton that we all signed up for 20 years ago. Our Bill Clinton was like a big, fat Buddy Garrity from Friday Night Lights-looking guy, who played the saxophone on Arsenio, and his work in the STD community was not in curing anything at that time. That was the man we all elected president. That was the Bill Clinton that I met. I got to meet Bill Clinton when he was Governor Clinton in 1992, when he was first running for president.
And I got to meet Bill Clinton because my parents had gone to the same college as Bill Clinton. They’re a little younger, but they went to the same college. So, when he was first running for president, he would have all these big, like, alumni fundraisers, and everyone who went was invited to go. Now, this was really cool for a couple reasons. One, I got to meet Bill Clinton. But two, I got to watch my parents watch someone they went to school with become the president. And that is super funny to see, ’cause think about some of the people you went to school with. Now imagine they’re becoming the president. Imagine Sam was becoming the president. It would stir up strong emotions. And my parents had very different opinions on Bill Clinton.
My mom loved Bill Clinton, ’cause Bill Clinton was always a really charismatic, handsome guy. I mean, think about how many women he got in the 1990s when he looked like Frank Caliendo doing John Madden. Now… imagine him as a college student. And my mom tells me that there was this sort of chivalrous policy on campus back then, where, late at night, if female students were leaving the library unaccompanied, male students were encouraged to wait out in front and offer to walk them home. That sounds good, right? So, my mom tells me that Bill Clinton would be out in front of the library every single night… just being like, “Hey, can I walk ya home? Hey, can I walk ya home? Hey, can I walk ya home? Hey, can I walk ya home?” And one night, my mom was leaving the library, and Bill Clinton was like, “Hey, can I walk ya home?” And my mom was like, “Hell, yes.” So… This is absolutely true. My mom, little Ellen Stanton, walked arm-in-arm with Bill Clinton to her dorm. And she was like, “You know, I wanted to invite him up for a beer.” And I was like, “Thanks, I’m nine.” But… her roommate was upstairs, so she lost her chance with Bill Clinton.
Now, my dad, on the other hand, hated Bill Clinton, because my parents were dating during this time. And also, my dad’s a much more morally-upright, conservative kind of guy. He always told me that he hated it in college that Bill Clinton could, quote, “Get away with anything.” Can you imagine how he felt later?
So, one day, this invitation arrives for a fundraiser where you could meet Bill Clinton. My mom opens it first and she goes, “Oh, we have to go. We have to go see Bill.” And without looking up at her, my dad just says, “Why? It’s not like he’s gonna remember you.” One black coffee. Same motherfucker. So, my mom says, “Fine! I’ll go and I’ll take John.” And I was like, “Hell, yeah.” And I slid in the room in my First Communion suit, ready to go. ‘Cause I loved Bill Clinton. I was ten years old. If you were a kid when Bill Clinton was first released, it was the most exciting thing ever. We’d never seen a cool politician before. And he would go on MTV, and he’d have cool answers to kids’ questions. They’d be like, “Governor, what’s your favorite food?” And he’d be like, “I don’t know, fries?” And we’d be like, “Yay, we eat fries!”
I learned to play his campaign song on the piano. It was “Don’t Stop” by Fleetwood Mac… from Rumours, an album written by and for people cheating on each other. He let us know who he was right away. So, I went with my mom, as her date… to reconnect with Governor Bill Clinton. We walked into the ballroom. It was a big hotel ballroom. It was the Palmer House Hilton, big Hilton hotel ballroom. Walked into the ballroom, it was packed with people. It’s actually the ballroom from the end of the movie The Fugitive, remember? So, that ballroom. So, my mom and I walk in, it’s packed with people, the… Sorry, the end where Harrison Ford, as Dr. Richard Kimble, bursts in to confront Dr. Charles Nichols, right? Okay. So, that ballroom. So, my mom and I walk in, it’s packed with people. Why does Kimble confront Nichols? Well, I know we all know this, but… No, no. But, but, but… Kimble, he found out that Nichols, along with Devlin MacGregor and Lentz, who has mysteriously died, they had hired Frederick Sykes, the one-armed man, to kill Kimble. Kimble’s wife wasn’t even the target. I know we all know this. But they were gonna kill Kimble because he wasn’t gonna approve certain liver samples to pass RUD-90. So, Kimble finds out about all of this, and, of course, he’s furious. And he bursts into the ballroom and he goes, “You switched the samples!” And Dr. Nichols is like, “Ladies and gentlemen, my friend, Dr. Richard Kimble.” What accent did that guy have, by the way? He goes, “You switched the samples! And you doctored your research! So that you could have Provasic!”
Anyway, so it’s that ballroom. So, we walk into that ballroom. It was packed with people. It was packed with people. A real Who’s Not of Chicago celebrities. Walter Jacobson was there. Walter Jacobson was the local Fox anchor. He’d do fun things where he’d go undercover as a homeless person. And he’d be like, “Oh, what time is the soup?” And they’d be like, “Man, you’re Walter Jacobson.” He was there. Everybody. And on the far side of the ballroom, under a spotlight, we saw a little bit of silver hair. And it was him… Bill Clinton. The Comeback Kid. But he was surrounded by reporters, and photographers, and Secret Service. So, what are you gonna do? Well, if you’re my mom, you ball up the back of my sport coat, and you push me forward like a human shield. And then you start jogging while yelling, “This ten-year-old boy has to meet the next president of the United States!” Kind of implying that I might be dying. My feet were not on the ground. She was swinging me like a snowplow. I was just mowing down fat Chicago Democrats. I pushed past all the reporters, I pushed past all the photographers. We pushed past all the Secret Service.
We land at Bill Clinton’s feet. Bill Clinton turns, looks at my mom and says, “Hey, Ellen,” ’cause he never forgets a bitch, ever. My mom melts. She goes, “Hi, Bill.” Then it is revealed that she has no plan. So… she pushes me towards Clinton and she goes, “This is my son, John, and he’s also going to be president.” And I was like, “What the hell are you talking about? I’m not gonna be president.” And I know now that I’m definitely never gonna be president. Not unless everyone gets real cool about a bunch of stuff really quickly. Based on my ten-year-old memory, Bill Clinton is about 13 feet tall. And he leaned down, because, well, I was wearing this button that I bought outside the fundraiser. It was a cartoon button of George H. W. Bush, and it had a quail flying over his head, and it was shitting on his head. And it said, “Bird-brained.” And I thought it was very funny. And Bill Clinton leaned down so that only I could hear and he said, “Hey, man, I like your button.” And I said, “You can do whatever you want forever.” And he took my advice. And… it was the best night of my entire life.
And I got home that night… I got home that night, and my dad was still awake, like, reading angry under one lamp, just like… And I went up to him and I went, “Hey! I’m gonna be a Democrat.” “And I’m gonna vote for Bill Clinton.” And without looking up at me, my dad just said, “You have the moral backbone of a chocolate éclair.” You know, how you talk to a child. So, here’s the end of that story. That was 1992.
Let’s flash forward five years to 1997. It is now 1997. I am a sophomore in high school, Bill Clinton is in his second term as president. And on the morning that the Monica Lewinsky scandal breaks on the cover of The New York Times. It had been on the Drudge Report, and then it was on the cover of The New York Times. That morning, I wake up to the newspaper hitting me in the face. I am a teenager asleep in bed, and the newspaper hits me in the face and falls open on my stomach. And I open my eyes to see my dad standing there dressed for work, and he says, “The other shoe just dropped.” And then my dad went in to work to find out that his law firm had been hired to defend Bill Clinton.
Good night, Chicago.