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Well-known for his performances on Saturday Night Live and his stand-up comedy specials, comedian John Mulaney has been a fixture in the comedy scene since he was discovered in the early 2000s. After performing on Late Night with Conan O’Brien, Mulaney earned an audition for Saturday Night Live, where he became a writer for four seasons of the long-running show.
Mulaney, now 38 years old, has been candid about his battles with addiction over the years. The comedian has stated that he had significant struggles with alcohol, as well as cocaine and prescription drugs. After starting to drink at just 13 years old, Mulaney said that alcohol helped him to be “funnier,” when he struggled to adjust socially as a teen.
Throughout his teens and twenties, Mulaney experimented with other substances, and hid his addiction from his parents. During an interview on Off Camera, Mulaney stated that he worked to “keep up appearances,” saying, “I really was like, ‘I’m going to keep my grades up and keep up appearances.’ I also didn’t smoke pot. It was like I was an uptight, wanted-to-get-good-grades, wanted-my-teacher-to-like-me person. Wanted to be involved, was worried about college, all that stuff. Well, I wasn’t that worried about college. I was worried about day-to-day life. And then on the weekends would drink like Keith Moon and you know, take Ambien to see what it would do.”
By the time Mulaney reached age 25, his drinking had gotten out of control. In his comedy special New in Town, he recounted an incident where he blacked out at a party and mistakenly drank perfume, thinking it was whiskey. In an interview with Esquire, he elaborated more on hitting rock bottom after going on a “bender”—and deciding to get help.
“It was just crazy. A weekend that was … there were … I’m never going to tell you. That’s mine. I didn’t kill anyone or assault anyone. But yeah, I was like, ‘You’re f—ing out of control.’ And I thought to myself, ‘I don’t like this guy anymore. I’m not rooting for him,'” he said.
While Mulaney did not attend a treatment program at that time, he managed to stay sober for many years. As he built his career in comedy, Mulaney served as an inspiration to many, and was open about the progress and experiences that led to his success.
As 2020 brought uncertainty and stress to people across the world, Mulaney was not immune to the mental health effects of the coronavirus pandemic. Appearing on Jimmy Kimmel Live at the beginning of the pandemic, Mulaney stated that the ongoing isolation and lack of productivity at home during the crisis led him to join the writing staff at Late Night with Seth Meyers.
While working on Late Night, Mulaney made appearances in several skits, though many fans noticed that his demeanor had changed. In one clip, titled “Royal Watch,” he appeared to ramble in a bizarre fashion—noticeably different from his typical joke delivery. Sources told Page Six that Mulaney was “out of his mind” on substances around that time.
With support from SNL colleagues and other friends in the industry who have also dealt with substance abuse issues, Mulaney decided to enter a 60-day rehab program just before Christmas to address his addiction to alcohol and other substances.
Actress Kristen Johnston, who publicly dealt with substance issues of her own, sent out a tweet of support to Mulaney as the news of his rehab stay came out.
“Never, ever be ashamed of being brave enough to ask for help,” she wrote.
As we work toward eliminating the stigmas associated with addiction, Mulaney’s bravery should be commended. While his relapse marks a setback, his courage and determination to get help will serve him on the path to reclaiming long-term sobriety.
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