John Mulaney’s Raw Comeback Tour Surprises Attendees


From Scratch Show flyer

Ashley Soren, Opinions Writer

Bakersfield has seen an increase in tours this year, with musicians such as Snoop Dog and Rise Against hosting shows in the Mechanics Bank Arena located downtown. Certain comedians have come to host shows in Bakersfield as well, with one of them being John Mulaney. Mulaney was known for his polished comedy acts that can be viewed on Netflix.

Recently, Mulaney has been a man of controversy. In Dec. 2020, Mulaney had checked into a rehabilitation center after it was revealed that he had an addiction to illegal drugs. He had also divorced his wife, Anna Marie Tendler, and has since dated and had a child with famous actress Olivia Munn. 

When I had first heard the news about Mulaney’s situation, I was shocked. My previous vision of the skinny, awkward comedian quickly changed, and I found it hard to process at the time. I had enjoyed his previous specials “Kid Gorgeous” and “New in Town” on Netflix, and the controversy made me question whether I could enjoy them in the same way ever again. Many fans felt the same way as his name became a trending topic on Twitter when his offense was revealed to the public. Eventually the storm he had created began to fade, and there was no word from or about him for quite a while afterwards. 

In Dec. 2021, Mulaney announced his first tour since leaving rehab in Feb. 2021. After a year had passed since his controversy, I had made the decision to see him after being offered free tickets to the event at the Fox Theater in downtown Bakersfield. Mulaney had immediately made it apparent to the crowd that his act would be greatly different from his previous acts, starting the show by asking a fourteen-year-old named Will in the crowd if he had heard about what happened to him in the past year. He went on to explain his experience in being involved in a surprise intervention, which his friends and fellow comedians had hosted, and his journey through the rehabilitation process. While he often mocked those involved in organizing the intervention, he made sure to mention that if they had not intervened, he would not be in a better place. A few of his other jokes included mocking the town of Bakersfield by mentioning that there was not a lot to do in the town and mocking the FBI. Additionally, he struggled to keep his shoes on throughout the act, stopping to tie them and making a joke out of it. He also mentioned that being a father had changed his life for the better and concluded the act by comparing his former self with his present self by reading off answers to questions in an interview he was in just a few days before his intervention. 

My concluding thoughts on the show itself were mixed. I enjoyed the show and found myself laughing multiple times, but after walking out of the theater I felt that it was a weird experience that made me feel awkward during several bits of the show. 

It was clear to me that Mulaney had changed drastically and used his act to express that. Many others felt the same way, such as Taylor Gray from Gray had attended his show in Atlanta, GA in Sept. 2021 before his country-wide tour.

“Sauntering onto the stage of the Roxy,” Gray begins, “Mulaney set the tone for the night by pleading with the audience to buy his merchandise out in the lobby, including a shirt with the phrase ‘I saw him right after he got outta rehab’ emblazoned on the chest.” Gray makes it clear that, “…a few minutes into the set made it very clear that the John Mulaney standing in front of the crowd was a changed man.” However, Gray makes it clear that the audience was there to, “…revel in the chaotic details of the past year of Mulaney’s life.” Calling Mulaney’s past year chaotic is the most accurate way to put his situation into perspective, and I will admit that I found myself laughing at the way he recalled past events. Anna Tingley from takes a similar stance, mentioning that his act was, “…raw, both in its frankness and in the complete lack of polish that we typically associate with Mulaney’s work.”

The lack of polish was one of the first things I personally noticed, as Mulaney was not dressed up in his usual suit and tie, and he immediately opened the show with his personal life. Leila Jordan from believes that Mulaney’s drastic change in material is strategic.

Jordan states that, “While there are undeniably conflicted feelings about this turn, Mulaney seems to want to use this as an opportunity to reinvent himself as a comedian.” Jordan continues by emphasizing that, “The comedian is older and trying to stay sober[,] so he is creating a new type of persona that adapts to his new reality.” I believe that Mulaney’s show was a glimpse into his future as a comedian; the days of a trim and proper Mulaney are long gone, and now he can finally express himself in the way he wants.