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John Mulaney: Why “The Comeback Kid”’s Comeback was Met with Mixed Reviews

“You know your life has gone a little downhill when you announce that you’re having a baby and you get mixed reviews.” 

This is how comedian John Mulaney chose to open his highly anticipated return to stand up in his new show, From Scratch. The line is a jab at the incredibly eventful year Mulaney has had.

He went to rehab, got divorced, relapsed, went back to rehab, and is now expecting a baby with actress Olivia Munn. To see a beloved comic getting sober and becoming a father may sound like a wonderful thing, but the news of Munn’s pregnancy was met with mixed reviews. Fans were especially confused because Mulaney has had multiple jokes in his standup throughout the years about he doesn’t want kids. In 2019, he told Entertainment Weekly, “They’re great, but I love what I do. And I love my wife and spending so much time with her and we have a really fortunate life. I get to travel, do stand-up, and our relationship is so wonderful. It’s just something I wouldn’t want to change.”  His attitude towards having children has been consistent up until the announcement of Munn’s pregnancy. 

The unexpected pregnancy wasn’t the only thing that left longtime fans of the comedian in confusion. Before this year, Mulaney was a cliche “wife guy”. He dedicated many bits in his standup about how much he loved his then-wife, Anna Marie Tendler. While most comedians use their wife as a punchline in their sets, Mulaney only ever praised Tendler. In his 2018 Netflix special Kid Gorgeous, Mulaney infamously said, “My wife is a bitch and I like her so much. She is a dynamite, five-foot, Jewish bitch and she’s the best.” He then poked fun at how low the bar was for what comedians shouldn’t say about their spouses on stage. His love for Tendler was a recurring theme in all of his standup, so news of their divorce was particularly shocking for fans. 

On September 7th, 2021, Mulaney confirmed that he and Olivia were expecting during an interview with his long-time friend, Seth Meyers. The announcement came a few weeks after paparazzi pictures of Munn hit the internet where she was visibly pregnant. Before confirming the pregnancy, Mulaney laid out a timeline of his past year. He said, “I went to rehab in September, I got out in October, I moved out of my home from my ex-wife. Then in the spring I went to Los Angeles and met and started to date a wonderful woman named Olivia.”

After the interview aired, fans were quick to notice that the timeline Mulaney gave was not entirely accurate. And from the detail he went into about what happened each month, it seemed like he was trying to dispel any rumors that he may have cheated on Tendler with Munn. Here is a more accurate timeline of Mulaney’s past: 

  • 2010 – Mulaney does a few months in rehab
  • 2013 – He and Tendler meet Munn at Seth Meyers wedding
  • 2014 – Mulaney marries Tendler 
  • 2015 – Olivia Munn gushes to HuffPost Live about meeting Mulaney at a wedding and being “obsessed” with him
  • September 2020 – Mulaney checks into rehab
  • October 2020 – Mulaney gets out of rehab, moves out of the home he shared with Tendler, hosts the Halloween Saturday Night Live episode, and relapses shortly after 
  • November 2020 – Mulaney appears on Late Night with Seth Meyers in a trench coat. He is offered a writing job on the show and appears a few more times throughout the month, always in the trench coat 
  • December 2020- Mulaney checks into 60-day rehab while Tendler deletes her Instagram account 
  • February 2021 – Mulaney leaves rehab and goes to a sober care facility. He allegedly asks Tendler for a divorce. Tendler activates her Instagram again but deletes all photos of Mulaney and takes “Mulaney” out of her username. 
  • May 2021 – Mulaney starts to perform standup again and begins to date, Olivia Munn. Tendler confirms the divorce while and rumors spark after Munn tells a source that she is pregnant 
  • July 2021 – Tendler moves out of the LA home they shared as Mulaney officially files for divorce 
  • September 2021 – Mulaney confirms that he and Munn are expecting a child 

According to the timeline, Mulaney got Munn pregnant before his divorce was finalized. This has left a lot of long-time fans disappointed in the comedian’s behavior. He went from being a man who loved his wife and didn’t want children to announcing he was expecting a child with another woman before his divorce was finalized. Fans were also concerned for Mulaney’s well-being after seeing how quickly his life was changing. He is fresh out of rehab and very recently divorced, which is not the best time to welcome a child into the world. In his most recent interview with Seth Meyers, he said that both Olivia and the baby were going to save him. That is a loaded statement that puts a lot of pressure on Munn and her unborn child. They have only been together for a couple of months, but Munn looks pretty far along in her pregnancy.  This has led to a lot of speculation of cheating on Mulaney’s part. 

As noted in the timeline, Tendler was the one to break the news of the divorce. In a statement to Page Six, Tendler said, “I am heartbroken that John has decided to end our marriage. I wish him support and success as he continues his recovery.”  Her Instagram suggests she is using her art as a way of processing the past few months. She has an ongoing series of photographs called “Rooms in the First House”. One of her most notable pieces as of late was an image of her sitting alone at a dinner table, wistfully looking at a plate of untouched food. She posted the photo to her Instagram and captioned it ‘Dinner In March”, the title of the photo. Another photo that seemingly hinted at the ending of her marriage was a picture of her hugging an empty chair in an empty room, titled “A Room that Once Was.” Tendler recently made her first public appearance since the divorce as she presented her photography at the Other Art Fair Los Angeles. She wore her mother’s wedding dress to the event which serves as a bitter-sweet reminder of how her life has changed in the past year. 

As for Mulaney, he is touring the United States with his newest stand-up, From Scratch. Fans have reported that much of the routine is dedicated to his drug use, including stories of his time in rehab and encounters with drug dealers. He claims to be over 141 days sober and looking forward to becoming a father. Even though his recent decisions have left long-time fans in confusion, Mulaney makes it nearly impossible not to root for him. He overcame a lot in the past year and lives a life that looks nothing like his old one, so it will be interesting to see how he rebuilds himself now from scratch. 

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Samantha Cordeiro

Northeastern '24

Sami is a 2nd year Northeastern Student who is new to Her Campus.
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