John Mulaney Opens Up About Past Addiction: "I Drank For Attention"

By David Konow 09/17/19

The Emmy-winning comedian was a blackout drinker but got sober early in his career.

John Mulaney
Photo By Dominick D

Comedian John Mulaney recently opened up to Esquire about how he got sober at a young age and never looked back.

Like many comedians, Mulaney has dealt with substance use disorder and even used it as material in his stand-up. Mulaney first started drinking when he was 13, and as he explained to the men's mag, “I drank for attention. I was really outgoing, then at 12, I wasn’t. I didn’t know how to act. And then I was drinking, and I was hilarious again.” 

Booze, Cocaine & Vicodin

Following the pattern of many when they first become addicted, his drinking then transitioned into the use of other drugs. Unlike a lot of teens, Mulaney wasn’t a fan of smoking pot, but he liked to mix cocaine and prescription drugs together.

“I wasn’t a good athlete, so maybe it was some young male thing of 'This is the physical feat I can do. Three Vicodin and a tequila and I’m still standing. Who’s the athlete now?'"

Mulaney suffered from blackouts, and at one point he remembers drinking perfume. In 2005, he had one last bender that served as a major turning point in his young life. He was 23 at the time. 

“I was like, 'You’re fucking out of control. I said to myself, I don’t like this guy anymore. I’m not rooting for him.'" 

When Mulaney quit alcohol and cocaine, he didn’t join a 12-step group. He says he quit cold turkey, and has remained sober to this day.

Helping Pete Davidson

After cleaning up his act, he’s also been trying to help Saturday Night Live star Pete Davidson, who has discussed his various substance use and mental health struggles in the past. He explained to Davidson, “You can have a life in comedy that is not insane—a sober, domestic life.” 

Earlier this year, Mulaney appeared on SNL with Davidson, where they joked about mental health during the "Weekend Update" segment of the show. In the segment, Mulaney confirmed that he and Davidson spend time together, “but a lot of the time it looks like I’m Pete’s lawyer.” 

To which, Davidson retorted, “And after observing John’s life I publicly threatened suicide. I know I shouldn’t make that joke, but it’s funny.” 

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In addition to contributing for The Fix, David Konow has also written for Esquire, Deadline, LA Weekly, Village Voice, The Wrap, and many other publications and websites. He is also the author of the three decade history of heavy metal, Bang Your Head (Three Rivers Press), and the horror film history Reel Terror (St Martins Press). Find David on LinkedIn and Facebook.