Warning: Spoiler Alert
This week John’s standup cold open was completely fresh material. It wasn’t earth shattering but it was solid Mulaney stuff. The truly brilliant aspect of Mulaney’s stand up (if you’re ever privileged enough to see an entire set), there are no valleys. People often describe such a thing as having peaks and valleys. John Mulaney has no valleys. You never get a chance to catch your breath. Is it Salt and Pepper Diner or buying Marijuana in Denver funny? No. But it was fresh and funny. Specifically funny for the target audience.
I love how Oscar just walks into the apartment (Mulaney’s not Oscar’s) unannounced and says, “oh hello” and John responds with “oh hello”. A lovely little play on roles. A now deceased neighbor had given John a notebook of jokes in the hopes that John would give him feedback. John did not. Motif, and by some extension the group, decide it would be great if John did the neighbor’s material on his next gig.
At the day job, Lou Cannon is disappointed in the writing. Which in and of itself is funny because John is a writer on that show. Lou is grasping for a new direction and notices John holding a notebook. Yes that notebook. The one with an old dead man’s jokes in it. Lou quickly hands it off to be put in the prompter. Despite telling jokes that were intended for a very specific old guy, they worked well enough. The question is, did they work so well that now Lou’s expectations have been raised.
Jane decides that it is imperative that she find a way to secure the dead man’s ‘rent controlled’ apartment, by falsely claiming to be the common law wife of a man she couldn’t pick out of a police lineup. Meanwhile, Motif believes his room is haunted by the same dead man’s soul. And during this quick change of a conversation, Motif points out that while the notebook may have saved his job, it was morally questionable. Also, Andre though it would be a good idea to dress up as a ‘donkey’-like pinata for Halloween. He was often beaten up for his candy on Halloween. No way an adult pinata costume would make that worse.
What followed was great. Period. Maybe not for everyone. Jane sneaks into the dead man’s apartment. And proceeds to break out into a very (as in almost every way) Disney like song number. Seriously, listen to everything but the words and it sounds like it could be from Disney’s Beauty and the Beast. Which would, ironically, be accurate. Considering Jane’s fake common law wife idea.
In an attempt to come clean on the jokes and prevent a snow ball effect, John fails.
Following the break, we find Lou Cannon hosting his show on Halloween. Dressed very accurately as Austin Powers. It’s almost creepy. He spent the entire time telling more of the dead man’s jokes and never actually started the game for which the game show is named. During that exchange, Lou made it very clear he is not OK with stealing another person’s material. And if that weren’t enough, he has seven hours to deliver 100 new jokes to ensure his contract will be renewed.
Jane has fully immersed herself in the persona of what it would be like if she actually were married to the dead guy. A very old dead guy. John comes to the realization that he just needs to write new material. Cut to after the commercial break. John and Motif sit at a small table with candles and a Ouija board. The plan is to summon the dead man and get more jokes. And then let Motif catch the spirit.
Oscar happens to mention that the man was buried with a notebook that read “jokes” across the front. After the Ouija board fiasco and striking out with other elderly for joke content, John decides he needs to do the only thing left to do. He needs to dig up the dead guy and get that book of jokes.
The digging up the grave bit lasted about ten seconds. John shows up at the studio with no jokes and finally comes clean. Just as Lou is bearing down with the lies and the no new material, he throws what he thinks is a curve ball.
Lou: John you lied. And you have no new material for me to use next week. What do you have to say for yourself?
Mulaney: How about instead to telling jokes, we pick a top 40 song and you do a lip-sync at the beginning of the show?
Lou: Awesome. Love it. Your contract is renewed.
Mulaney: I’m not fired? It was that easy?
Lou: John, you spent the week scheming and lying just to keep me happy. I definitely don’t condone what you did, but I think I can exploit someone like you.
The scene finishes with John wishing Lou a happy Halloween. Which apparently has never happened. In part because Lou’s parents divorced on Halloween. Then they hug it out uncomfortably.
We find ourselves in the ‘wrap up’ segment and three significant things happen. 1) Motif acknowledges that the ghost of the dead man haunting his room is gone. And unrelated to that, they have a mice problem. 2) Jane was not ready to live on her own, or more accurately the landlord was not buying what she was selling. 3) All’s well that ends well. And then Motif says, “well it’s a good thing you didn’t rob that man’s grave”. Which we were under the impression was a true story. Then John chuckles in that evil maniacal way that a villain would do in a cheesy spy movie. The wind blows in, the camera zooms in on a notebook on a chair, the book opens to the first page and it reads, “Maybe just a lip sync to top 40 radio? Could be funny”.
It should be noted that while this Halloween episode feels like a very Lou heavy episode, and naturally to read the script, you’d get that impression. This was very much, to me, a Jane and Motif episode.