At this week’s PaleyFest in Beverly Hills, TV fans got an early glimpse of the upcoming Fox comedy Mulaney, including a screening of the first episode and a sit-down with the cast. John Mulaney (John), Martin Short (Lou Cannon), Nasim Pedrad (Jane), Seaton Smith (Motif), Zack Pearlman (Andre), and Elliott Gould (Oscar) attended the event.
Between the screening, the panel, and our own red carpet interviews with the cast, here’s what we know about Mulaney.
1. Who is John Mulaney?
John Mulaney is a 32-year-old comedian from Chicago whose style can be described as nice-guy wry. He joined Saturday Night Live‘s writing staff in 2009, winning an Emmy in 2013 (he also co-wrote the “Stefon” sketches with Bill Hader). In 2012, Comedy Central released Mulaney’s first comedy special, New In Town, and in May 2013, he developed Mulaney as a pilot for NBC.
2. What is the show Mulaney about?
Comedian John Mulaney plays a character loosely based on himself (same name, similar job). He lives in New York City with college chum Jane (Pedrad) and fellow comic Motif (Smith). Martin Short plays Mulaney’s boss, a famous-comedian-turned-game-show-host named Lou Cannon, and Elliot Gould is Oscar, a 60-something gay man who lives across the hall from John’s apartment. Zack Pearlman (The Inbetweeners) is Andre, the misfit who no one wants around — but who always seems to be there anyway.
3. Is it Seinfeld 2.0?
No. In the sense that Mulaney is about a stand-up comedian living in New York, it echoes Seinfeld, sure. But Louie has a similar premise, and couldn’t be more different from Seinfeld in structure and tone. Mulaney feels more like Friends, The Big Bang Theory, and Frasier. The most surprising influence, however, is The Phil Silvers Show. “The scheming idiots on Sgt. Bilko I always think about,” Mulaney said during the panel. “Especially when the roommates — the home stories with Andre — are always trying to pull something off.”
4. What other shows and TV characters influenced the Mulaney gang?
“The Cosby Show is my favorite television show ever,” Mulnaey said. Seaton Smith, who plays Mulaney’s roommate, references a number of sitcom best friends in his mental preparation for Motif, including DJ Jazzy Jeff from The Fresh Prince, Neil Patrick Harris in How I Met Your Mother, and Eric McCormack from Will & Grace. For Zack Pearlman, who plays the outsider Andre, it’s all about Betty White as Rose Nylund. “Golden Girls is amazing,” Pearlman told Rotten Tomatoes. “Betty White is the funniest part of the show.”
5. How does Mulaney capture the experience of living in New York?
“There’s a certain reality of a socio-economic group of young people and old people — I’m an old person — in this building,” Elliott Gould told RT. “Hopefully, there is a significant audience who will identify and be able to relate and enjoy what these adventures are.” That randomness of New York life was something that Mulaney also identified as a part of the show’s P.O.V. based on his own experience in New York. “Some of my best friends were stoned women in their seventies,” he said.
6. Why do a multi-camera sitcom in the age of single-cam comedies?
“The first idea for the show is that I wanted to do a live-audience, multi-cam. It’s not an ‘idea,’ really. It’s just an existing structure,” Mulaney explained. “I wanted to do a show in front of a live audience. Besides growing up on so many sitcoms that I watched constantly… I really liked old radio shows that were set in front of a live audience.” Pedrad, who made her mark doing live sketch comedy on Saturday Night Live added, “It’s great to test those jokes out with an audience that kind of lets you feed off of them, and there’s a little bit of adrenaline that comes with that that’s really fun as a performer.”
7. What was the process of Mulaney getting his own TV show?
It’s not uncommon for break-out comedians to land their own TV shows. For Mulaney, the journey started with stand-up and eventually brought him to Saturday Night Live. “I was very lucky to know people like Lorne Michaels from Saturday Night Live and, in turn, meet people like Martin Short. And I knew Nasim Pedrad very well and, as I was putting the show together, I just got luckier and luckier that the cast was able to come together the way that it did, so it was an absurdly fortunate turn of events.” The original Mulaney pilot was developed for NBC, but Mulaney admitted that it was a bit “too pilot-y.” During what Mulaney describes as the best show-biz meeting he’s “ever had,” then-chief of Fox Kevin Reilly told Mulaney to “loosen up” and just make a funny show with a bunch of comedians.
8. What’s it like working with Martin Short and Elliott Gould?
“I still get goosebumps when I get to do scenes with them,” Smith told RT. “I’m like, ‘Oh my god. I’m rehearsing a scene with Martin Short. I made him laugh!’ So, it’s really a dream come true.” For Pearlman, the experience is unreal. “When I was a kid, I wore out two tapes, and they were both The Three Amigos,” Pearlman told RT. “In a lot of ways, I’ve always looked up to Martin Short, so to be on the same show as him is hugely exciting for me.”
9. Who is Lou Cannon?
Short described Lou Cannon as “the most fun kind of the guy: the self-absorbed narcissist.” He told Rotten Tomatoes that “Lou Cannon is one of those show biz guys who’s so self-absorbed and so delusional and he assumes that whole world thinks endlessly about him and I love those kind of characters.” Short also does a fair amount of physical comedy in Mulaney, which he’s become known for over the years. “I think there’s a tendency to say, ‘If we have him put on skinny jeans, he might do something with it,'” Short said.
10. What’s the onscreen dynamic between Mulaney and Pedrad?
It’s not really the age-old sitcom question of “will they or won’t they?” in Mulaney. As Pedrad and Mulaney pointed out during their panel, the characters went to college together so they probably already did — “twice.”
11. How do John and Motif compare to their real-life counterparts?
Mulaney and Smith met while doing stand-up at the D.C. Improv five years ago and their mutual respect is apparent. “Obviously, Motif is a departure from the real Seaton, but there was a energy that he has for stand-up that my character should have with all his ambitions, but doesn’t,” Mulaney explained.
12. Will Elliott Gould and Martin Short be onscreen together?
Yes. Mulaney tried to gauge how long it would take in real life for your friends to meet your boss, and then translate that to sitcom time. In an episode where Mulaney’s building is infested with bedbugs, John and Co. spend the night in Lou’s apartment.
Mulaney premieres Sunday, Oct. 5. at 9:30 p.m. on Fox.