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John Mulaney says he took a job on Seth Meyers’ show for his own mental health

Comedian John Mulaney
Reuters/Joshua Roberts
Comedian John Mulaney speaks to the media at a gala honoring David Letterman, who is receiving the Mark Twain Prize for American Humor, at Kennedy…
  • Sarah Todd
By Sarah Todd

Senior reporter, Quartz and Quartz at Work

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John Mulaney has reached a level of success as a comedian where he doesn’t really need to hold down a 9-to-5 job. But the Covid-19 pandemic certainly made him crave one.

“During quarantine, I was like, ‘Why am I going totally crazy and why am I suddenly telling my own wife my accomplishments?'” Mulaney said on Jimmy Kimmel Live, in a highly relatable description of how a lack of routine can mess with our inner lives. “I really needed a job.”

And so Mulaney went out and got one, joining Late Night with Seth Meyers as a staff writer. (He had an in: Meyers, with whom Mulaney worked on Saturday Night Live, is a close friend.) Mulaney explained that his new gig was necessary for his mental health.

“One, I like having a boss and having assignments to do,” he told Kimmel. “When I’m in charge of something, not so much the best thing.”

That kind of accountability turns out to be essential to his well-being, according to his psychiatrist. “She said to me, ‘Without external structure, I don’t have any confidence in you thriving…and she would know, because I told her everything in my brain.”

Mulaney’s description of his pre-job predicament may resonate with anyone who’s found themselves climbing the walls as their work routines dissipated this year. Freelancing, for example, requires a lot of self-imposed discipline even in normal times; it’s presumably even harder to stay motivated and organized during a massive health and economic crisis, with gigs drying up. More broadly, Covid-19 has made many people appreciate the importance of ordinary things we typically take for granted, like “having plans.” In an era characterized by unpredictability, it can be deeply reassuring to know that you’re expected to show up to a place (real or virtual) at a certain time and get stuff done.

That was what Mulaney got a taste of when he hosted Saturday Night Live in October. “I went into an office and I accomplished a task,” he said with satisfaction, adding the experience is what prompted him to talk to Meyers. The daily grind never sounded so good.

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