John Mulaney Netflix special turns real life drug addiction into comedy gold

Apr 25, 2023

If you can identify with John Mulaney in his new Netflix special, it was probably exactly what you needed to hear.

In John Mulaney: Baby J, Mulaney took his real life struggles with drug addiction and converted it into a master class in owning your own shit. He replaced his usual high energy performance with a more subdued but visceral presentation of what it is like to climb inside the mind of a drug addicted person.

And it was glorious.

Spoiler alert – if you’ve ever had issues with substances, this special is for you. I literally belly-laughed when Mulaney described how easy it is to get a doctor to write you a prescription. While our stories are different, I can identify with the idea of saying all the right things to get your pharma fix from a doctor. Sadly, I could identify with a lot from this special. Not remembering entire swaths of my life, for example.

Mulaney’s tales of drug use sounded so authentic that I wondered if anything was even exaggerated. He talked about rehab, where nobody knew who he was, and the manipulative nature of drug dealers and users alike. Halfway through the special I turned it off, paced the room and thought about the mountain of material I was relating to, and laughed out loud again when I remembered that I am also recently sober. I turned the special back on and rode out the familiar stories in a way that felt healthy. There is something about tearing down yourself that makes the rebuild so much more satisfying, especially if you’ve already started said rebuild.

A friend recently mused online about how important gallows humour is for people going through a crisis. For some of us, gallows humour is all we have left at the trough of edgy activities. Making fun of ourselves, especially when we’ve just left the clutches of personal turmoil, is a staple. Drug users are manipulative, illogical, and eventually completely inept at fooling their friends and family that everything is just fine. Mulaney’s ability to take us back to ourselves is seamless, and a part of me almost felt sorry for those watching who have never had a drug problem.

Those of us who do have drug issues identified with almost everything in Mulaney’s set. He aptly described the hubris is takes to believe you do not have a problem in the first place. Or the urgency drug users feel when they are on their way to their dealer’s place. Or the contempt we feel for our families who are just trying to help.

Most of all, ex drug users could use a laugh. It’s part of our rehab. It’s part of our therapy. It’s a part of who we really are without getting high. When we get high, especially when it feel like a need rather than a want, nothing seems funny. Mulaney’s ability to transport us addicts back to that ever-familiar place known as rock bottom, all while making us laugh, is invaluable.

All therapy should be so positive.

John Mulaney: Baby J is now streaming on Netflix.

Contributing Writers

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