John Mulaney is currently touring the U.S. and if you want to go see him, you’d better already have some tickets because very few stand-up comics sell out big venues faster than he does. Mulaney, who got his start as a Saturday Night Live writer and survived a short-lived sitcom stint before pivoting to his extremely successful current arc, is a surprisingly old-fashioned comedian. His bits are well-rehearsed but delivered with an off-the-cuff energy, his jokes are self-deprecating but not depressing, his material is observational but not mundane. His life has been the subject of an enormous amount of tabloid fodder, some of which he has delicately spun into his latest set, where he discusses recovery and new fatherhood with a disarming sharpness.
But one subject that has always been on his mind is religion. He was raised a Catholic and has plenty of thoughts on the experience, but his relationship with faith these days is a little more complicated. Nevertheless, most of Mulaney’s jokes about religion come off as good-natured ribbing. Here are a few of our favorites.
Please note, some of these videos contain explicit language.
1. What the Catholic Church has changed.
For those of you that aren’t Catholic, I don’t mean to exclude you, even though we love to exclude you, but… There’s a part in church where the priest says, “Peace be with you.” And for many, many years, we all said…
“And also with you.”
But they changed it to “And with your spirit.” Because that’s what needed revamping in the Catholic Church. That was the squeaky wheel that needed the grease. In Rome, they were like, “Let’s see. What-a problems can we solve?”
2. Jesus’ Greatest Miracle: Having 12 Best Friends
“It’s hard to make friends when you’re an adult. I think that’s the greatest miracle of Jesus. He had 12 best friends in his thirties, and they weren’t his wife’s best friends’ husbands. Remember when your dad went fishing once? These guys went fishing every day! And they were all best friends and he’d do magic tricks for them and they loved it.”
3. “God Can’t Hear You” From Kid Gorgeous
My family went to church every Sunday when I was a kid. My wife cannot believe this. She’s like, “You went every Sunday?” “Yes.” “What if you were out of town?” I was like, “They have them out of town.”
I don’t know if you grew up going to church and now you don’t, but it can be a weird existence. Because I like to make fun of it all day long, but then if someone like Bill Maher says, [Sarcastically] “Who would believe in a man up in the sky?” I’m like, “My mommy, so shut up! Stop calling my mommy dumb.”
If you grew up going to church and you have adult friends that didn’t, they have a lot of questions. They’re like, “Wait, so they forced you to go?” Yeah, I was five, I was forced to go everywhere! No kid is just going to church. Riding by on his Huffy, like, “Whoa! What’s this place? A weird Byzantine temple with green carpeting where everyone has bad breath and I wear clothes that I hate on one of the mornings of my two days off? Let’s do this.”
But people get very suspicious. They’re like, “What did they say in there? What do they do? What did they tell you?” I don’t know, it was an hour. That should be the slogan for the Catholic church. “It’s an hour!” It’s a few stories, normally about a guy with a crazy name whose wife has a normal name. “In that town lives Zepheriuses and his wife Rachel.” How come she gets to be Rachel? “On their way to Galilee, Jesus met Enos and Barak and their wives, Kylie and Lauren.” And you’re like, “What?”
4. On Marrying a Jewish Woman
Before we got married, my mother asked me if my wife was going to convert to Catholicism. You’re right to laugh. It’s a stupid question. I don’t know, Mom! Let me go ask. Let me go see if a 29-year-old Jewish woman who doesn’t like any of my suggestions would convert to — what is it again? The Roman Catholic Church. How would I even have that conversation? What, do you come home with a brochure and you’re like, ‘Hey, honey! Allow me to tell you about an exciting, not-new organization. Don’t Google us.’
5. A Dramatic Misunderstanding About the Last Supper
When Mulaney’s (now ex) wife lets slip that in her mind Jesus and the disciples were eating a turkey dinner at the Last Supper, Mulaney made a real feast of it.
“I said ‘do you think that in Da Vinci’s The Last Supper that Jesus of Nazareth is sitting in front of a turkey?’ And my wife said ‘Yes, I do.’ And I said ‘Thank you for your honesty. Just one more followup question. So then, what do you think they’re celebrating? What do you think those guys are celebrating?’ …And my wife looked at the floor and then she looked at me and said ‘Thanksgiving.'”
6. John Mulaney and Stephen Colbert Bond Over Their Time as Altar Boys
“Altar Boys. It’s pretty ceremonial. You hold candles. You wear a white dress. It’s a lot like the guy who held the umbrella for Puff Daddy. …While your friends who are Jewish are getting Bar Mitzvah’d, which is a like a party where you do the Electric Slide and gets bags of money, you’re in a church getting oil on your forehead. When you’re 14, your skin is as oily as it’s ever been. And then you are asked to reject Satan just as high school is beginning, when you need him the most!”