Mulaney’s Everybody’s in L.A. Has Everybody Confused—Seemingly By Design

John Mulaney’s weeklong new show, Everybody’s in LA, isn’t technically a “late-night” show, though it is live globally on Netflix, which means it’s on in late night somewhere, even if’s really late, like in London or Paris.

Speaking of which, Monday night’s show even went live to a group of viewers watching the show (or not) somewhere in Paris, where it would have been a little after 4 AM.

But mainly, this seems like a late-night show because it looks, feels, and sounds like a late-night show: host, monologue, guests, couch, pre-taped segments, music guest to close. As the old saying goes: “If it quacks like a duck…”

In this case, honks like a goose might be more appropriate. So far this show is setting some kind of new standard for being as loosey/goosey as a gaggle in flight. 

At times that plays both funny and charming, largely because the host has those qualities in abundance. At other times it plays almost startlingly under-prepared and under-produced.

Take that throw to the “viewers” in Paris. Mulaney just called up the shot, and greeted them with a “bon soir” after correcting his original “bon jour” (though given the hour in France he could have justified his first salutation). The group seemed to be a bit confused about what was going on or who this gentilhomme asking “Ca va?” might be. 

And that was about it. No “blagues,” (that’s French for “jokes”), no amusing interviews. Just an awkward interaction; same with another quick shot of a group hanging out somewhere in pre-dawn Johannesburg. Mulaney just shut the international bit down with a quick admission that he’d hoped it would go better than that.

But why would it? It had no real prep. The idea is not without late-night precedent. David Letterman (scheduled to visit EILA himself Thursday) all but perfected putting a camera in some unlikely location—a souvenir shop up the street, a fast-food drive-thru window)—and winging it with whoever wanders by. 

Of course Dave was a master at that sort of thing, and many of those bits were pre-taped and then edited to bring out the funny parts. But they were produced. EILA just seems to enjoy winging it.

Which makes it distinctive, and fitfully delightful in its own way. As in, using a specific L.A.-based theme for each edition. First night: coyotes, complete with wildlife-expert guest. Monday night: palm trees, with a tree expert. In both cases the serious guest was paired with a funny guest, Jerry Seinfeld and then Jon Stewart.

And that sort of worked. Both experts provided actual information, both comics provided actual laughs. The tree expert, Amanda Begley, was especially appealing, and pleasantly pedagogic. I learned a lot I didn’t know about palm trees, including that they are not native to L.A., they’re pretty much useless, and a lot of them are about to die. (Who knew?)

Both Seinfeld and Stewart got in reasonably funny lines, usually based on their gob-smacked reactions to how unformed the show seemed to be. Stewart referred to the show being a Bansky bit. (Maybe the biggest laugh Monday came from comic Mae Martin, who came out late and told a tale about an uncle being stalked by a Cypress tree in Greece and saying it could have been a curse “and that’s why I’m here now.”)

The host himself mostly shines, taking every glitch and kink (his own description of what characterized the first show) in stride. The show should certainly use as much of him as it can (something else that is true of most late-night shows.)

Mulaney’s fascination with L.A. seems genuine, if surprising to many who don’t reside there. His monologue each night has been a strong point, and why not? He is an exceptional stand-up. He landed many jokes both nights including these two about how shocking it is that L.A. signed up to host another Olympics in 2028:

“L.A. has signed up to host the ’28 games after exhausting all other ways to make the city unlivable.” And: “Making L.A. host the Olympics would be like if you had a friend and she was having a nervous breakdown and she had no money, and part of her house was on fire. And to cheer her up you made her host the Olympics.”

A more conventional show would be sure to start each edition with Mulaney himself. EILA started Monday with a taped bit about announcer Richard Kind going to see Mulaney perform at the Hollywood Bowl and trying to score some acid from other attendees. That was… less funny.

As were a couple of pre-taped segments that also did not center on the host. One featured a panel of mental-health experts reacting to the jokes of three standups, and their decidedly unhumorous, even grim, analyses of each. (Again the one part that semi-worked was the commentary on Mulaney as perhaps needing to be under a conservatorship.)

Another segment about a Leonardo DiCaprio-donated computer room in an L.A. public library seemed like it was supposed to play as an example of Hollywood foolishness, but instead it came off more as a sweet-ish feature segment from the local news. A third about bizarre math ideas espoused by actor Terrence Howard was, well, bizarre.

All of which seems to be the show’s overall intention. Being different, not-formulaic, unstructured is the raison d’etre. 

And if you’re looking for a raison d’etre, why not go to Paris?

The good news is, as the bumper cards on Johnny Carson’s Tonight Show always promised: “More to come!”

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