Published Sep 26, 2015John Mulaney has often referred to himself as an old soul. He sprinted through drug use and other rites of passage in mere months during his 20s, and now, at 33 years old, he is a consummate professional with a wife, a house and a dog named Petunia. And it suits him — he is an old soul.
He is boundless, covering all corners of the Sony Centre's huge stage, and getting hoots when twirling the microphone ("You're gonna see some mic cord work tonight!"). It's not just because tonight, he is a JFL42 headliner at what he calls Toronto's "O'Keefe Hummingbird Sony Centre," right off the top of his hour-long set. Following this cryptic nod to the stage he currently stands on, it feels as though he's done more than check the city's Wikipedia page ("Obviously I spent some time on Toronto's Wikipedia page."). He perceives Toronto to be a place that was built, all at once, in 1981 ("We're just going to lock it in."). Also, it's a city that was built to appease the great demon "Bloor." It's weird stuff that totally works.
Mulaney is dapper and polished, sporting a smart suit and a smarter head. When he speaks, there's a sense that he channels a classical style, one that would be approved of by old-schoolers like Bob Hope or a young George Carlin. Tonight, he comes off as clean and sharp, even though he drops an f-bomb exactly seven times. There are also moments of significant raunch, like when he laments about crazies in New York. A woman on the street once told him, unprompted, to "Eat ass, suck a dick and sell drugs." Thankfully, he stuck with the comedy.
But the mark of a truly great comedian is being able to keep it fresh. Broken down, much of his set would appear formulaic, on paper. There are stories about his Midwestern childhood, his wife and his parents who went to college with Bill Clinton. His mother loved Bill Clinton (his father not so much), and the future President walked her home one night on campus. "I almost invited him up for a beer, but my roommate was there," she tells John, when Clinton was in office. "I'm nine," is his response.
On this night, Mulaney achieves perfection. He is a crooner of punch lines. The crowd loves him. If they were not fans of his before, they most certainly are now. And in a world where voices are hard to hear for all the din, his just might be one of a generation.