John Mulaney’s Comic Stew: Sondheim, ‘Drag Race’ and Spalding Gray

6. Spalding Gray’s “Swimming to Cambodia” and “Morning, Noon and Night”

“‘Morning, Noon and Night’ might be less well-known because ‘Swimming to Cambodia’ was made into an excellent film by Jonathan Demme. They’re one-man shows. It’s a cousin of stand-up, and it’s quite relevant to the field. In ‘Morning, Noon and Night,’ he takes you through one day in his life with a hundred different tangents. If I could ever pull off an hour of stand-up as good, I’d be quite content.”

7. “After the Tall Timber” by Renata Adler

“I really enjoy someone who has no connection to the accepted public narrative, to the point that she’s almost baffled by how much misinformation can travel. Her essay on Watergate is amazing, and her famous takedown of Pauline Kael is extremely funny. She just looks at things from a total outsider’s perspective.”

8. “Finishing the Hat” and “Look, I Made a Hat” by Stephen Sondheim

“If there are books that would help people write better stand-up, it’s these. Sondheim’s three lessons are that less is more, God is in the details, and content dictates form, and they apply to joke writing almost as much as they do to lyric writing. The idea that word choice, cadence and brevity is important is really applicable.”

9. “RuPaul’s Drag Race”

“It’s the best, most genuinely funny show on TV by a mile. No show makes me laugh or cry harder. When I did the ‘Drag Brunch’ sketch on ‘SNL,’ I remember thinking, ‘Damn, this is a lot of work’ getting into partial drag. I would’ve been laughed off the stage on ‘Drag Race.’”

10. Earthquake’s “About Got Damn Time”

“As a stand-up, he’s trying to leave people out of breath, and I love the sheer power of his delivery. He oversells something, then undercuts it with his own indifference, which is super funny to me. Some combination of Spalding Gray and Earthquake is what I’ve been going for.”

The article was originally published by Newyorktimes

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