John Mulaney Says Hollywood Wasn’t Responsible for His Drug Addiction

Contrary to the common story of celebrity drug addiction, stand-up comedy superstar John Mulaney says that a life in show business didn’t exacerbate his past problems with substance abuse. All fame did for Mulaney’s drug addiction was make his intervention a star-studded affair.

Before Mulaney’s personal life was front-page entertainment news and his behind-the-scenes struggle with heavy drug use were common knowledge, the legendary Saturday Night Live writer and Emmy-winning stand-up explicitly addressed his past problems with alcohol in his breakout hit special John Mulaney: New in Town. “That surprises a lot of audiences because I don't look like someone who used to do anything,” Mulaney commented after revealing that he had to quit drinking after too many binges, “I look like I was just sitting in a room in a chair eating saltines for like 28 years and then I walked right out here.” 

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Eight years later, Mulaney’s much-publicized rehab stint still somehow shocked his rabid and uncomfortably parasocial fanbase who took his frantic, fast-paced stage presence at face value without wondering where that energy could have come from.

Mulaney addressed his recovery and his permanently altered public persona in detail in last year’s critically beloved special Baby J, but he still finds himself explaining his addiction in interviews like his recent feature for The Hollywood Reporter, wherein he stated that his celebrity lifestyle in Los Angeles wasn’t a factor in his dependence on alcohol, cocaine and prescription drugs, despite our cultural impulse to connect Hollywood to drug addiction and vice versa. 

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In fact, Mulaney found that fame put more pressure on him to conceal his drug abuse rather than encouraging him to indulge it even further, which he did successfully — after all, he managed to fool GQ.

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Mulaneys bizarre, meandering interview with The Hollywood Reporter reads hilariously reminiscent of the infamous GQ profile Mulaney gave while high on cocaine that he read verbatim at the end of Baby J, only with the roles reversed. While discussing Mulaneys recently completed Netflix project, the eclectic, limited series talk show John Mulaney Presents: Everybody's In LA, writer Seth Abramovitch took Mulaney on multiple unexpected tangents, at one point turning the focus to his own experiences in the City of Angels — before diving into Mulaneys addiction, Abramovitch told his interviewee his story about moving from New York to Los Angeles three months before 9/11 and watching the Twin Towers fall on a small television in his roommates bedroom.

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In comparison to his interviewers anecdotes, Mulaneys admissions in the interview are positively tame, especially for a superstar who spent most of his highly lauded career hiding extreme drug use from his friends and fans. When Abramovitch suggested that living in Los Angeles as a wealthy celebrity may have made Mulaneys addiction problems even more dire, Mulaney said that the setting was never a factor for his drug use.  

“I made it worse wherever I went,” Mulaney explained. “As much as it is a cliche that drugs and stand-up comedy and Hollywood go together, my drug use was always so separate. It was compartmentalized from so many things, but it was not ever intertwined with work or the social glamorous side of entertainment or anything like that.”

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Unlike other comics and rockstars who enjoy regularly punctuating their highly paid performances with some post-show partying, Mulaney said that the relationship between his drug habit and his career was always centered around concealment. “It was about no one at the show knowing that I’ve been up for two days,” said Mulaney.

Now, Mulaney is on the other side of rock bottom, and his life in Los Angeles has never been better. Or as he put it, “I’m extremely grateful and sometimes just amazed that after that dark tornado I get to have such a wonderful life.”