Comic Relief: ‘Baby J’ has me feeling nostalgic

Illustration of different John Mulaney specials lined up
(Lyndzi Ramos | Daily Trojan)

As an editor, I’m responsible for filling out art requests, at least five days in advance of an article’s publication. As an editor, I’m also responsible for making sure writers pitch in time for an art request to be made. As an editor, if a writer is late, I’m the one that is screwed and stressed that they won’t pull through at the last minute. 

However, as an editor, my article pitches, specifically for my column, are allowed to be late — since I know I would never let myself down. Therefore, I rarely have enough time to request art for my column. I always end up regretting it, knowing that it could have made the page look nicer, but I usually just let it slide by. 

Not this time. No, I had an idea that was so Kimberly-coded I had to make it a reality: John Mulaney’s stand-up specials lined up as if they were on Taylor Swift’s eras merch. It was perfect. 

Now, I sit here, half-watching Mulaney’s new Netflix special, “John Mulaney: Baby J.” I say half-watching, but it’s more like a quarter-watching. I’m currently part watching, part playing “South Park: Phone Destroyer” (don’t ask), part writing this column and part thinking about an unstarted 10-page paper due in a few days. 

This is an unusual setup for me. When I watch a stand-up special, I usually like to give it my full attention. The only reason I’m not giving Mulaney my undivided attention is because I saw the exact same set at the Kia Forum during the Netflix is a Joke Festival last spring.

Seeing Mulaney live, even from the nosebleeds, was a full-circle moment for me. While I now write my little comedy column bi-weekly, I was not always this interested in the art of comedy. And I have Mulaney to thank for setting me on this course.

First, I suppose I should address the elephant in the room — or the horse in the hospital. Mulaney has found himself in some … controversies recently, and his personal life has found its way into the forefront of the media. While I have strong opinions about some of his Dave Chapelle-related escapades, this article is not meant to be a think piece. 

When “John Mulaney: Kid Gorgeous at Radio City” premiered on Netflix in 2018, I was wrapping up my freshman year of high school, just preparing to turn 15 years old. I don’t feel that I need to get into details of the trials and tribulations of young teenagehood, but it’s a weird era, for sure. 

I’m not quite sure what compelled me to click on Mulaney’s special that fateful May day, but I’m pretty sure it had something to do with the Instagram Explore page that I used to frequent before TikTok.

I would see small clips of this random man saying “No! That’s the thing I’m sensitive about” and “I said ‘no,’ you know, like a liar.” And somehow, that brought me to the one-hour special that I fell deeply in love with. I was crying laughing throughout it. 

I was hooked. I immediately had to watch 2015’s “John Mulaney: The Comeback Kid” and 2012’s “John Mulaney: New in Town.” Completing the holy trinity of Mulaney, I began to frequent the stand-up comedy tab on Netflix. 

Throughout many great and many, many awful sets, Mulaney remained a constant in my life. When he would be slated for a “Late Night with Seth Meyers” slot, I knew it was going to be a good day.  

He was always popular, even getting his own sitcom, “Mulaney,” in 2014. I would say that since “Kid Gorgeous,” he has become the face of “good” stand-up comedy. While not necessarily clean, he had an unassuming, nonthreatening persona that all could enjoy. 

A little darker, and definitely accepting of his persona shift, “Baby J” is a fantastic addition to Mulaney’s repertoire. Nothing but greatness could be expected from him. 

It’s a little hard to watch at points, as he talks about looking in the mirror and seeing “the person that tried to kill me.” But, Mulaney’s truly a master writer, taking some of his fresh, highly publicized wounds, and turning them into laughs. 

He’s the face of stand-up comedy because he’s truly one of the greatest, most consistent comics out there. 

Between “Kid Gorgeous” and “Baby J” are two entirely different Kimberlys. I’m, thankfully, at a much better place in my life. But, spanning those five years, comedy has been there for me. 

I don’t want to say I love the guy — let’s not get parasocial — but I will say that I am incredibly thankful for the world that Baby J himself opened up to me. And I am very thankful for a fantastic new special. 

Kimberly Aguirre is a sophomore writing about comedy. Her column, “Comic Relief,” ran every other Thursday. She is also the arts & entertainment editor at the Daily Trojan.