Stand-up comedian proves that wit can be classy

John Mulaney/Courtesy

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Cobb’s Comedy Club’s two drink minimum policy may be intended to liquor up its audience — thereby rendering every comedian side-splittingly funny — but no social lubrication was required for John Mulaney, former “Saturday Night Live” writer (remember Stefon, anyone?) who performed standup on July 13 in the North Beach venue. The clean-cut Chicago native, hailed as his generation’s Seinfeld, lampooned everything from the blues to his fiancee, proving that one doesn’t need to be funny-looking in order to be funny.

Mulaney’s act was preceded by stand-up from Joe Mande, a former writer for “Parks and Recreation” and author of “Look at This Fucking Hipster.” Shining moments from his opening set included commentary on the restaurant Cafe Gratitude, whose ingratiating approach to loving oneself through food is something every UC Berkeley student can attest to: “I am two weeks from becoming a scientologist,” Mande deemed as an appropriate name for the macrobiotic kale and quinoa bowl, then postulated a rival restaurant “Cafe Attitude” which would serve, among other things, a pork belly wrapped with bacon and stuffed with Vicodin, or the “I am a stupid piece of shit.”

Unlike Mande’s longer form jokes, Mulaney was at his funniest with quick quips and one-liners, thoughts you may have had before but which gained an extra layer of hilarity when delivered with such deadpan charm. “I always thought that the seal of San Francisco should be a guy going back to get a jacket,” he said of the Bay’s notoriously chilly weather; of the redundancy of elementary school work, “Homework is just letters from midgets filled with old news”; of blues music, comprised of little music and full sentences, “Blues are like old black Twitter.”

Mulaney is set apart from the Louis C.K.s and David Crosses of comedy in his sheer likability; good looks aside, he radiates charisma and wholesomeness. The closest he came to self-deprecating humor, every comedian’s forte, was in narrating an incident in which a girl at a playground announced that he had a penis, to his mortification. Had he been a woman with a vagina, he reasoned, he would have been applauded by feminists everywhere; but “no one wants to applaud the penis of a thirty year old weirdo.”

His family often recurs through his jokes, from his father who would take his kids to the drive thru at McDonalds only to order a black coffee for himself, to his rationale for popping the question to his now-fiancee: “Why buy the cow when you can get the milk for free? Because you love the cow.” Moments of surprising sentiment amidst fast-paced witticisms (as an adult, he now finds the black coffee event hilarious) catch the audience off guard, but in a good way. Mulaney’s comedy is no one trick pony; it possesses surprising range and depth.

Contact Mohana Kute at [email protected].