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'Mulaney' recap: A religious experience

Season 1 | Episode 5 | “In the Name of the Mother, and the Son and the Holy Andre” | Aired Nov 9, 2014

John Mulaney grew up Irish Catholic, and in his stand-up comedy career, he’s been known to successfully derive humor from that religious upbringing (much like many other great comedians before him, including, most notably, Louis C.K. in his eponymous TV show). In this episode of Mulaney, he takes a similar approach, again using a classic bit from New In Town to anchor the episode. “In the Name of the Mother, and the Son and the Holy Andre” is the funniest and most biting episode of Mulaney yet—maybe not an immense achievement considering that it’s a multicam sitcom on a major network, but an achievement for the fledgling show nonetheless.

This week, Mulaney’s mom pays him a visit in New York. She only plans to stay through Saturday, saving Mulaney from admitting that he hasn’t been going to church and that he completed fabricated his “good friend Father Trey,” a hip Catholic priest he shoots hoops with every weekend. But when he introduces his mom to Lou, they end up hitting it off (especially when Mulaney’s mom praises Lou’s more dramatic work), and Lou invites her to a Monday-afternoon Yankees game with David Letterman. Cue the central conflict: Mulaney has to take his mom to church, but he hasn’t been to church in years, and the priest he’s been raving about doesn’t exist.

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Meanwhile, Jane realizes that Jazzoprex, the new birth control she’s taking (also the birth control Andre has been unwittingly taking to prevent acne) is having some weird side effects. It starts pretty innocently, with excessive sweating and major pit stains, but it quickly gets worse and worse. As Andre goes off the pill and becomes more normal, Jane keeps taking more and becomes more … like Andre. Eventually, Jane is dressed in Andre’s clothes and talking with his same annoying voice. (Note: There is no actress on this planet better than Nasim Pedrad at playing annoying little boys.) She checks the prescription for side effects and finds out that Jazzoprex actually causes “sweating, unmanageable hair, an annoying voice, or cartoonishness.” Goodbye, birth control.

Jane tells her boyfriend, a sexy, feminist lawyer who fights for women’s rights to birth control, that she’s off the pill, but he doesn’t take it as well as you might expect. She realizes that he’s not actually pro-women; he’s just anti-condom. She gets him naked in her bedroom, then calls 911 and claims that there’s a naked stranger in her house. Go Jane!

John scrambles to find a priest who will pretend to be Father Trey, but he fails to convince anyone to lie to his mother in a church for him (shocker). At 2 a.m. on Sunday morning, he makes a last-ditch effort to save himself from getting caught in a lie: He prays to God for a Father Trey to show up. And the next morning at church, his prayers are answered … by Pete Holmes.

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Longtime friend of John Mulaney, Pete Holmes (of The Pete Holmes Show and the You Made It Weird podcast) guest-stars as Father Trey, a real priest from Queens who is everything John made him up to be, and who even knows/recognizes John from an appearance on VH1. John is both shocked and thrilled that he managed to deceive his mom, until he asks Father Trey how he ended up giving the service that day. It turns out that Father Ed, the guy John first talked to about lying to his mom, died suddenly the night before. At 2:01 a.m.

Stricken with guilt, John turns to Oscar for advice, and with some help, he realizes that he needs to come clean to his mom about his lack of devotion to Catholicism. So he finally does … and she takes it super-well. Surprisingly well. It’s honestly anticlimactic how cool with it she is. The real shock is her own admission: Lou kissed her while they were at the Yankees game. She makes John swear not to tell his dad, because her celebrity exception is Noah Wyle.

With its religious undertones and sarcastic, critical voice, this week’s episode of Mulaney at least has a definitive point of view. It’s still struggling for all the same reasons it has been (lack of nuance, general Seinfeld-rip-off-ness, a misuse of Martin Short and the cast in general), but this episode has something to say. There are definitely some solid jokes as a result.

Winning one-liners:

  • “How am I gonna get my girlfriend to convert to Catholicism? I couldn’t even get her to see the movie Lincoln.” —Mulaney
  • “Nobody swear. Nobody mention that weekend we all did coke.” —Mulaney

  • “I never did jokes about priest molestation during that whole thing, even though a lot of stand-up comics did and I totally could have.” —Mulaney
  • “I’m standing at the edge of tomorrow, today!” —Father Trey

Mulaney airs Sundays at 9:30/8:30C on FOX.