Special Sections » Rochester Fringe Festival

Fringe review: John Mulaney at Kodak Hall


John Mulaney, Fringe's 2017 comedy headliner, has many notable accomplishments, one of those being the fact he co-created "Saturday Night Live's" eccentric and brilliant Stefon character with Bill Hader. And really, Fringe sounds like Stefon describing Rochester's hottest new festival.

"It has everything: A summer igloo, complimentary heckling, giant floating eye orbs, and sperm kites flown in a gravel lot at night."

Mulaney didn't mention Stefon during his sold-out Friday night show in Eastman Theatre's Kodak Hall, but he did bring some stories from his "SNL" days. He recalled writing a parody song with Mick Jagger, and reveled in that fact that while The Rolling Stones frontman is an "English billionaire in leather pants," only he knew the location of the "SNL" office bathroom. That kind of power is priceless.

While Mulaney's set featured a handful of Studio 8H anecdotes, most of his material was relatable on a larger scale. I've always bought into the Jerry Seinfeld comparisons for Mulaney. One reason why is — like Jerry — Mulaney has a talent for turning situations we all have faced into great jokes. He scored laughs over the irksome feeling when your college asks you for more money after you graduate; how dorm life is akin to living like a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle; and how we all have private voices that we use to sing to our pets (no one denies this). He also likened our current political climate as "a horse loose in a hospital."

His distinct voice also is a bit Seinfeldian. Not to say that he sounds like the legendary comic, but more so because it stands out from other comedians. Mulaney uses the power of inflection to his advantage, and it helps to turn simple sentences and phrases into killer jokes.

Mulaney didn't disappoint when he went off script. An extended bit in the middle of his set where he questioned the audience about George Eastman was fun. For the record — and this did come up — he does, indeed, know what Kodak is. He even turned the fact that a few front row people doubted his Kodak knowledge into some nice laughs.

Max Silvestri — who has appeared on "Brooklyn 99," "Broad City," and "The Good Place" — opened the show. Openers can be hit-or-miss, but I was impressed with his set. Silvestri's anecdote about an email entitled "Note to self: close the blinds so children can't see you masturbate" drew, what I would call, howls of laughter.

John Mulaney played Rochester as part of his "Kid Gorgeous" tour. You can find out more at johnmulaney.com.

In This Guide...