“I forgot to make the joke good.”
Did you watch John Mulaney host the 2020 Halloween episode of Saturday Night Live, which happened to be days before the most fraught presidential election of modern history? If you didn’t, we’ve got the recap right here, and you missed a touch of controversy from one of our nation’s most usually-lovable comedians. His opening monologue, to many, missed the mark — and as he explained on an episode of Jimmy Kimmel Live, that includes Mulaney himself.
The opening monologue featured a politically-minded, gently nihilistic joke, wherein Mulaney said that “no matter who wins” the election, certain things about life will continue to be the same, including economic depression, drug addiction, Jane Lynch booking every gig, and children leaving sleepovers early because their stomachs hurt. Obviously, the joke takes a turn for the silly and relatable near the end, but the opening moments seemed to argue that voting doesn’t matter because the outcome will stay the same — a hard position to agree with given how widely different both candidates were (can you tell I’m being overly diplomatic?). A backlash occurred, many online folks lambasting Mulaney for discouraging voter turnout when it mattered most.
Mulaney, speaking very candidly and, to my eye, nervously, said this about the crafting of his joke, and his unabashed mistake:
“In the setup, I said, ‘No matter who wins,’ which I really didn’t even agree with. I often say things on TV in front of 10 million people that I’m just kinda floating as ideas. I should have said, ‘I very much want one to win over the other, and there will be improvements if one wins.’ And I flat-out deserve the backlash. I flat-out forgot to do it. I ran the joke in a field in Connecticut and I was like, ‘Alright, let’s rock and roll,’ and I never was like, ‘Hey, don’t you mean that one guy’s worse than the other?’ And I forgot to make the joke good. So the beginning was a strange thing to toss out there three days before an election in front of a lot of people going, ‘Look, it doesn’t matter who wins because, and now I’ll get to the Jane Lynch joke.’ My wife, everyone who knows me was like, ‘What the hell did you just say?’ And I was like, ‘What, no good? No good?’ There’s no excuse for not working out the wording of a joke that you then do on television.”
Image via NBC
Check out the full clip of Mulaney explaining his process to Kimmel below, alongside several other fascinating stories from one of our best contemporary comedic minds.
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About The Author
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Gregory Lawrence (aka Greg Smith) is a writer, director, performer, songwriter, and comedian. He’s an associate editor for Collider and has written for Shudder, CBS, Paste Magazine, Guff, Smosh, Obsev Studios, and more. He loves pizza and the Mortal Kombat movie. For more, www.smithlgreg.com
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