Why Does John Mulaney’s Divorce Hurt So Badly?

Fall of 2019 was a trying time. Adjusting to freshman year of college is a difficult transition for lots of people, and suddenly my small corner of the world felt too big, impossible to conquer.

One night my roommate introduced me to John Mulaney’s Netflix special, “Kid Gorgeous at Radio City.” That time was the first time in a long time I could remember laughing so hard, tears streaming down my face and stomach cramping. Over the next few days, we watched all of his Netflix specials. 

Though I never watched any of his shows before, John Mulaney was comforting. He is charismatic and agreeable. Cackling under the rainbow lights strung around my dorm with my roommate was one of the first times I felt UNC was the right choice.

Mulaney devoted several bits in his specials to his girlfriend, and later wife, Annamarie Tendler. Their contrasting personalities gave way to some of Mulaney’s funniest and most heartwarming stories. Watching those Netflix specials with my roommate was the opening act of what would become some of the best months of my life.

Winter came and went, and everything changed. 

No one wants to hear about the coronavirus anymore, but quarantine was hard on everyone. The news that Mulaney would be going back to rehab after his long struggle with addiction was shocking, and Mulaney’s fans wished him well. Recovery is not a linear process, and famous people are not immune to the labors of fighting addiction. 

It was a difficult year, but as my new friend and I sat in the TV room of our house and watched “Comeback Kid,” we felt as though we had successfully come out the other side and things would be just fine.

A few days later, more news came that John Mulaney and Annamarie Tendler were getting a divorce.

This news was hard to believe. Their relationship seemed like something deep and untouchable. Maybe it was, at one point. It’s no one’s business but theirs what led to the decision, but this news put  a lot of things into perspective. 

In the past two years, everything has changed. People have needed comfort and familiarity more than usual. It wasn’t uncommon for people to go back to things that used to bring them joy during quarantine, reminding them of a time when things were much simpler. 

Though I didn’t discover him until later in life, I know a lot of people saw John Mulaney the same way I did: a source of comfort, a steady, unwavering fountain of comedy and wit. 

Watching his specials doesn’t feel the same anymore, knowing what would come. Watching him smile and joke about his wife and french bulldog Petunia is like watching a movie character fall into a trap that only the audience knows about. It’s hard to derive the same sort of comfort from his shows when you know how many difficulties lie ahead. 

It’s difficult to realize that some of the things you think will be there forever can change, but that’s just another, less exciting part of growing up. We’ve all had to do a significant amount of growing up in the past few months, and it isn’t always pleasant. We can, however, rest assured that we will most likely come out the other side of whatever challenges we will face as a better, wiser human.

Watching John Mulaney’s specials might not feel the same, but that doesn’t spoil the warm, happy memories I associate with them. Change is not synonymous with destruction. 

Might their divorce serve as another example as to why you should not invest your happiness in the lives of people you don’t know, or a painful reminder of the impermanence of love? Maybe. Whatever happens from here, I will carry memories of John Mulaney’s comedy specials fondly, not untouched by recent events, but not destroyed either.

 

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