For John Mulaney, the Best Part of ‘Everybody’s in LA’ Was Not Having ‘Time to Learn’

For decades now, late night comedy has followed a predictable rhythm. A guest comes onto a show, they tell a charming and relatable story, throw in a couple of plugs for their latest project and host and guest depart, smiling. It’s a format so well known, it’s inspired a hyper-specific wave of anti-late night comedy from “The Eric André Show” to whatever Nathan Fielder does when he’s invited on broadcast TV. That’s perhaps why it was so jarring to see John Mulaney throw out the well-worn script with “Everybody’s in L.A.”

“The best thing about ‘Everybody’s in L.A.’ is we didn’t have time to learn,” Mulaney told TheWrap. “There was something great about not learning. I wouldn’t want to lose that. But I don’t know how you wouldn’t lose that.”

A limited series in every sense of the phrase, “John Mulaney Presents: Everybody’s in L.A.” ran for six episodes from May 3-10. Tied to the Netflix Is a Joke comedy festival, each episode included a panel of experts and comedians as it broke down a distinct part of Los Angeles, from coyotes to palm trees. That’s the extent of the commonality the episodes share. Rather than creating and sticking to a strict format, “Everybody’s in L.A.” combined live stage antics with man-on-the-street interviews, sketches, audience calls and an ongoing bit with a delivery robot named Saymo.

John Mulaney Presents: Everybody's in LA
David Letterman, Luenell, Bill Hader, and John Mulaney at John Mulaney Presents: Everybody’s in LA (Photo Credit: Netflix)

“I’m a big fan of late night talk shows, panel shows, lots of things like that,” Mulaney said. “It was fun to do our version of it.”

Rather than forcing his guests to conform to the cookie cutter of late night, it almost felt as though the series adjusted itself to meet the tone and demands of its players. That was a result of the experts who appear in each episode.

“We were very conscious we were going to have people on that I really wanted to talk to, and some of them might not be TV savvy or might not have done much media before,” Mulaney said. “But they were the core of the panel. To me, they were the whole reason to do a show. The extra fun of it was that every big comedian was in town at the same time.”

Mulaney, who describes himself as “a pretty curious person,” wanted to create an environment that let these experts “shine.” Some of those surprising guests included TreePeople activist Amanda Begley, reporter Zoey Tur, lawyer Marcia Clark and seismologist Dr. Lucy Jones, to name a few.

“Everyone felt the same way that we’re not at all making fun of [the experts]. We’re not bringing on someone who isn’t normally on TV and making them feel odd,” Mulaney noted.

It was also important to the host and executive producer that his comedian guests had a good time, adding, “Many of them are friends. I respect and enjoy all of them.”

Mulaney’s respect of his friends’ work even led to some moments that would be completely out of character on a typical late night show. For example, in one episode, he and Nick Kroll reprised their “Oh, Hello” characters for two sketches. Though Mulaney thought the segments “played well,” the loose nature of the show allowed him to add in the sketches without worrying if “Everybody’s in L.A.” is “the type of show” that would have this many sketches. Another example is Fred Armisen’s deep dive into old punks in Los Angeles, a segment Mulaney said was “very much” Armisen.

“He and I and Alex Scordelis, who worked on that, are just the biggest fans of the Minutemen and the Germs and Fear, and Kid Congo Powers, who has been in the Cramps, and all of them,” Mulaney said. “We were very excited to meet them … I just [felt] reverence and excitement to learn about their stories.”

John Mulaney Presents: Everybody's in LA
Flea, John Mulaney at John Mulaney Presents: Everybody’s in LA (Photo Credit: Netflix)

The care shown to Mulaney’s celebrity guests also stemmed from his own experiences with being interviewed. “Maybe being a comedian who goes on shows, I was very conscious of people [giving] you their whole afternoon and evening to get miked and camera blocked,” he said. “I’m not looking to go, ‘I’m talking to the coyote guy. You shut your mouth.’ So on either side, I was just very appreciative of people’s time and very anxious to hear what people had to say.”

Mulaney further rejected the notion that the unexpected format of his show led to more authentic answers from his guests (“I don’t really know what authentic means, because it’s thrown around a lot now”). “If it threw them off kilter, I think it led to more unguarded conversations,” he explained. “My hope was they would feel a great burden lifted by not doing a produced conversation.”

It seems as if that hope came true, at least for a few of his guests. During the May 3 episode of the show, Mulaney said that Jerry Seinfeld turned to him during a break and said, “This is so much fun.”

“I was really happy that he was much, much, much more interested in hearing calls from people about coyotes than talking about comedy or his movie coming out. And same with [Jon] Stewart. Same with everyone,” he added.

As for whether he’s open to another late night-esque show, Mulaney said, “Oh, totally. I’m open to so many things now.”

The comedian also made sure to praise his own personal favorites in the current stand-up space — including Langston Kerman, Pat Regan, Robby Hoffman and Cole Escola, whom Mulaney called “one of the best solo performers I’ve ever seen anywhere.”

When it comes to the broader state of live comedy, Mulaney remains optimistic. “The scale is bigger than it’s ever been. That doesn’t mean there weren’t stand-up comedy superstars for 40, 50 years — [even] longer. But the sheer amount of comedians touring larger sized theaters is probably the highest it’s ever been.”

“Everybody’s in L.A.” is available to stream on Netflix.

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