John Mulaney Was Brutally Honest and Hilarious at The Cap's Opening Night

Aug 11  / Wednesday

Words by Jon Chattman

We’ve dreamt while fully awake of going back to our beloved venues and hoping its stages would be saved and save us when this pandemic was all under control. Throughout the summer, venues large and small have opened its doors, and while we’re still battling covid, there are glimmers of shiny light in a time of darkness. Performers have been touring on the regular and festivals — one with even, um,  Limp Bizkit playing — took place. Last night, August 10, The Cap joined the chorus. 

Ironically, the rock palace’s first show wasn’t one in which music blazed through the speakers and trademark projections flashed on the wall. It was an irreverent comedy show with John Mulaney who has slayed this place several times before. The comedian was the perfect choice to reopen The Cap. Comedy, like music, heals us and allows us to exhale. There’s no better comic out there who can put an audience at ease, suck them in with his effortless delivery, and make them laugh no matter where his mind takes them. In the case of his appropriately-titled “From Scratch” tour, Mulaney’s mind was laser-focused on his battles with drug addiction, his recent stint in rehab, and, to a lesser degree, his divorce. It’s been a banner year for the comedian, and he came to The Cap to dump some baggage.

Mulaney opened his set by addressing the non-existent elephant in the room: his addiction. He named each drug he was on almost immediately and right off the bat mocked his outfit — a sweatshirt and khakis. He noted those trademark slick, expensive suits were reserved for the barely 100-pound addict he once was. From there, he jumped right into a play-by-play of how his intervention went with such specific detail and comedic timing that you almost fail to realize how brutally honest Mulaney is being. This is as raw as comedy or any art gets. He roasted intervention participants Nick Kroll, Fred Armisen, Bill Hader, and Seth Meyers by knocking those who could only attend via Zoom, and noted how he looked great while everyone else had lost their way because of lockdown. He was the “best looking person” in the room he shouted. He also cracked that his intervention was so star-studded he really felt like he was really a big shot. From there, he took us on a journey to his rehab, getting prescriptions drugs from “doctors” with really low Yelp reviews, and rarely moved beyond himself. His humor, as it always has been, was self-deprecating yet a great sense of self-realization. He knew when jokes went too far or even if they didn’t he said they did, and we laughed. He also knew when jokes didn’t land. As a matter of fact, he had a piece of paper down with topics written on them.

The majority of Mulaney’s act was about his struggles with sobriety, getting sober, and getting back on the stage but several ramblings off-script so to speak were pure genius and magic. He somehow worked in The Diary of Anne Frank as a running bit, and how it should’ve remained private. He contrasted Frank to Greta Thunberg in that only the latter wanted to be famous. He also tore into the environmental activist more and even joked he doesn’t care about the environment. He also tore into the FBI for essentially accomplishing two things: busting Aunt Becky from Full House and wearing uniforms that are essentially advertising their own merch. But no matter how controversial the things he says are, one just knows Mulaney is going for the laugh.  It’s not malicious. It’s a calculated laugh missile.

The comedian ended his set by humbly thanking the audience and telling us how nervous he was. While he’d played some club dates, The Cap was his first theater to play in since before the pandemic. Before he ended his set, he read aloud a GQ article he did a few days before that intervention. He had no recollection of it, but as he read the Q&A aloud, he poked fun at himself— not John Mulaney the man, but John Mulaney the addict. This was catharsis personified. I liken this show a bit to Bo Burnham’s brilliant Inside special except Mulaney is commenting on his own private pandemic on top of the global pandemic. 

Ending at the start: all audience members were required to lock their phones in Yondr pouches because Mulaney obviously didn’t want his jokes to get exploited over the Interwebs. After a pandemic of doing little but being on our phones, we were forced to live in the moment we so richly deserved in a live venue we love — truly focused on a man spilling his guts on stage for us to laugh at —- just the way he intended us to.  The Cap is Back!