Comedian John Mulaney talks tap dancing and taking on stand-up comedy


Jay L. Clendenin/Los Angeles Times/TNS

Comedian John Mulaney shared advice with Northwestern students through Zoom during a Q&A on Monday night presented by A&O Productions.

Rebecca Aizin, Assistant A&E Editor

Between talks of imposter syndrome and his desire to be a tap dancer, John Mulaney brought an exciting and intimate evening to over a thousand Northwestern students via Zoom Monday night.

The Q&A was moderated by Medill senior Jessica Mordacq and hosted by A&O Productions, in collaboration with NSTV, The Blackout, NU Nights, NU Arts Alliance and Studio 22.

This was the second installment in A&O’s Spring Speaker Series, which previously featured television personality Jonathan Van Ness.

When Spring Quarter was moved to remote learning, A&O co-chair and Communication senior Avery Powell said the organization scrambled to come up with a new plan to keep the student body entertained.

“The goal is to provide engaging programming for the student body,” Powell said. “We just went back to square one and thought, what could we accomplish?”

In this hour-long Q&A, Mulaney discussed advice for upcoming seniors as they enter an uncertain job market and, in a segment entitled “Dear John,” gave guidance to anonymously-submitted dilemmas. He also offered some tips on how to get started in the stand up comedy field and how to stay motivated during the COVID-19 pandemic. He said the key is to follow the steps of rehab treatments — take it one day at a time.

His final remarks were possibly some of his most influential advice — stay hydrated. If a college student feels weird, according to Mulaney, it is due to dehydration.

“If you’re ever in the middle of the day like, ‘I feel sad because I think I’m a bad person,’ you try first drinking a glass of water,” Mulaney said. “And then if not, we can talk medication.”

According to Powell and A&O head of speakers Sydney Monroe, booking Mulaney has been a goal of A&O’s for a while. The organization was sure that while everyone would enjoy his event, he was too unattainable. However, A&O was able to take advantage of the current remote environment and Mulaney’s increased availability to bring him to the NU student body.
“To finally have the ability to bring someone that so many students are so pumped about, especially during this time, feels really lucky,” Monroe said. “It’s a peak moment for me personally because the scale of the show is like nothing we’ve ever put on.”

While A&O events are usually limited by the capacity of performance venues, Zoom is able to host up to 3,000 people in one session. As of Sunday night, over 1,500 people had registered for the Mulaney Q&A, breaking A&O’s record for the most attended speaker event.

While the transition to a virtual event may have its own pitfalls, including possible technical difficulties, a Zoom conversation can also bring a new type of intimacy to speaker shows.

“It’s a whole new element to see someone in their living room just talking to someone, and not in this grand scale of being on stage,” Monroe said. “It’s actually a really cool intimate conversation factor that happens where people are more comfortable.”

His performance was certainly met with a positive response, with social media flooded with images of Mulaney.

Monroe said A&O’s main goal of the Q&A was to bring engagement and entertainment to the student body.

Since many students are at home in isolation, Monroe said having a scheduled event could be a motivator for them to do something.

“Now more than ever, humor and laughing and any kind of interactive thing to look forward to is so huge,” Monroe said. “There’s not a lot to look forward to on the day to day and it’s fun to have an exciting event that shakes things up.”

Email: [email protected]
Twitter: @rebecca_aizin

Related Stories
Jonathon Van Ness shares beauty tips, advice with Northwestern Students
A&O announces virtual Q&A on May 25 with John Mulaney