Tuesday, January 26, 2021

John Mulaney virtual Q&A with MSU Jewish Student Union

November 18, 2020
A screenshot of Derrick Knopsnyder and John Mulaney during a Q&A Nov. 17, 2020.
A screenshot of Derrick Knopsnyder and John Mulaney during a Q&A Nov. 17, 2020. —

John Mulaney, stand-up comic, best known for his work as a writer on Saturday Night Live, the voice of Andrew on Netflix's "Big Mouth," did a virtual Q&A session with the Jewish Student Unions of Michigan State University and of Virginia Tech.

The Associated Students of Michigan State University and MSU Hillel also sponsored the event. The two universities split the cost of the event.

Moderated by comedian Derrick Knopsnyder, the questions ranged from what the worst bar mitzvah he had attended was like to what advice he had for seniors graduating college.

Mulaney was raised Catholic, though his wife, Annamarie Tendler, is Jewish.

With over a thousand people on the live stream, he shared his experience of not being able to perform stand-up to live audiences due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

"It's psychologically weird to not do the thing you sort of identify as who you are," Mulaney said.

He said he did about a dozen outdoor comedy shows leading up to his most recent appearance on Saturday Night Live. He hosted for the fourth time in four seasons on Oct. 31.

During the conversation, he also spoke about his experiences in working with children during the filming of his latest Netflix special "John Mulaney & The Sack Lunch Bunch." The special is a series of musical skits performed by 15 children from the ages eight to 13.

"It's very different from when I was growing up," Mulaney said. "The kids in 'The Sack Lunch Bunch' were very empathic. They sort of understood how to treat one another with respect and emotional caution in a way I don't recall having or seeing when I was a kid."

Other actors and musicians made appearances in the special, including Jake Gyllenhaal and David Byrne.

"I found them as a collaborative team, there was zero static," he said. "I've loved all the adults and sketch comedy casts I've worked with, but I couldn't say it was as seamless as 'The Sack Lunch Bunch Kids.'"

Mulaney said that while working with kids, he realized they children today have more emotional intelligence than they had when he was younger.

When it comes to stand-up, Mulaney takes the stage alone. It's then when he likes the spotlight to fully be on him.

"A club atmosphere, your attention is slightly divided," Mulaney said. "A theatre, they're really there facing forward. This is a very unattractive quality of mine, but I like it better when they have no choice but to stare at me."

Throughout the event, viewers took to Twitter to share their thoughts. Multiple people explained their distaste for one of the jokes told by Knopsnyder in reference to serial killer Ted Bundy.

"A lot of people, a lot of women, fall in love with serial killers after they've been caught because, scientifically speaking — this is true — women like to know where their person is at all times," he said. "So, if they're behind bars, they feel a sense of security."

Mulaney quickly responded, dismissing the comments.

"I don't endorse anything Derrick just said," Mulaney said. "The opinions Derrick just expressed were his own. They are not connected to either Virginia Tech or Michigan, or the Hillel foundation or myself."

While Mulaney dismissed the comments, people took to Twitter to share their responses.

"My whole house SCREAMED at the serial killer callback," one user said.

Other users offered their apologies and said they were embarrassed watching the interview.

Students also asked questions during the event. One students even asked Mulaney if Jewish girls were "always his type."

Mulaney took a few long pauses before answering.

"I don't want to fetishize a culture or say that Jewish women are all alike in any way," Mulaney said.

He also said while he found that he used to have crushes on Jewish girls when he was younger that was not the defining factor.

"They were always my type, but Annamarie was the greatest of that type," Mulaney said. "... I by chance stumbled into a type of person I had a crush on before that happened to be my favorite person ever."

Mulaney acknowledged his discomfort while answering the question, and viewers took to Twitter to assure him they felt the same way.

Despite some awkward and uncomfortable moments, Mulaney provided a few final pieces of advice for college students.

He encouraged students to take advantage of the resources available on college campuses, including lectures and seminars from potential guest speakers.

"You can spend four years broadening what you know," he said.

He also encouraged students to appreciate the time people have with friends at this age, from partying to living with them.

"It's not just about the classes and assignments," he said.

In his Netflix special "Kid Gorgeous," Mulaney speaks about his college experience and his English degree that serves little relevance to his current career path.

In relation to this, he shared his final piece of advice before logging off.

"If you know what you want to do and you don't need a college degree for it, absolutely drop out of college," he said. "Do not keep going. It is expensive. Get out."

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