There are two people I lean on in times of great crisis. Oprah and John Mulaney. Oprah, when I need to deal with it and John Mulaney when I don’t. John Mulaney makes me laugh when I want to cry, but his comic relief also reminds me to be me. See, in the world of standup where edginess and confessional, filthy humour have been favoured in the last decade, comedian John Mulaney has remained inherently himself. Instead of wearing flannel shirts and telling dirty jokes, he has leaned into his middle-class upbringing, and now delivers his comedy in tailored suits and – as Esquire wrote – “with the retro tones and cadences of a fifties TV announcer absolutely crushing an Ovaltine ad”. But above all, John Mulaney is nice. And he has remained nice. So nice his wife says walking around with him is like walking around with someone running for the Mayor of Nothing. Which is why – in his Emmy award-winning comedy special, Kid Gorgeous – Mulaney said different people have different versions of nice. But you know this.
I have mentioned this line in a previous newsletter, but as this newsletter is on the long-neglected virtue, I thought I’d bring it up again and keep going. “Famous people are often rude because they’re used to getting things really quickly,” Mulaney said. “I bet a lot of us are pretty polite, but as soon as we get things quickly, we start to get ruder and ruder. Look at technology, it’s faster than ever and we’re like ruder than ever.” And as our days are now filled with phone calls and emails and notifications from Slack and Facebook and Instagram and Twitter and Co-Star, we are not only used to getting things quickly, but sending things quickly. Our days are run in a perpetual forward-motion, our lives programmed to the base level of fast. And our determination to win the impossible pursuit of getting ahead has left nice behind. Humanity, as a result, is all the worse for it.
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