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    John Mulaney’s Fans Thought They Knew Everything About Him — Here’s How The Past Year Proved Them Wrong

    “I [sort of surprised] myself with the amount of empathy I felt towards John Mulaney mega fans who felt really burned by this.”

    On today's episode of BuzzFeed Daily, we broke down the top pop culture headlines AND discussed what exactly a parasocial relationship is and why so many people seem to be in one with John Mulaney. You can listen below or scroll down to read more about the interview!

    Listen on the iHeartRadio app, Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or Google Podcasts. You can also find BuzzFeed Daily wherever else you might listen to your favorite podcasts!

    So let's dive right into it! Recently we talked to Madison Malone Kircher about everyone's obsession with John Mulaney. Here's some of what we learned:

    BuzzFeed Daily: Anyone who spends time on Twitter has probably seen the term "parasocial relationship" pop up on their feed over the last few months. But for people who aren't extremely online, can you explain what it means exactly and maybe give us a little bit of the history behind it?

    @spongebob / GIPHY / Via

    Madison Malone Kircher: Sure. That's actually much, much easier than it sounds, because chances are truly every person listening to this has been in a parasocial relationship and didn't know that there was a psychological term for it. So parasocial relationships: That's a term that comes from the 1950s, from a set of Chicago researchers who coined it to describe the way that people — also me — that we all feel when you watch a television show or you listen to a podcast or you watch a movie and you feel like you are a friend with an actor or a celebrity — you know this person, you get them, they know you, you know them, your pals, except in reality, Taylor Swift and I aren't pals. That's a parasocial relationship.

    BuzzFeed Daily: So the reason the term has been all over Twitter this year is everything that's been going on with John Mulaney, from his stint in rehab, to his divorce from Anna Marie Tendler, to his new relationship with Olivia Munn, what is it specifically about him that has everyone going "parasocial relationship this" and "parasocial relationship that"?

    John Mulaney performing stand-up in a gray suit
    Dimitrios Kambouris / Getty Images for SiriusXM

    MMK: A couple of things. I think the first one is that as a comedian, John Mulaney has developed this very confessional, very honest, dark brand of humor that makes the people who watch his specials and watch his shows feel like, "Oh, I know this guy. I could walk up to this guy and his dog Petunia in the dog park, and we could have a totally normal chat because we are very much alike." And the more a celebrity like John Mulaney lets people into their world, talks about the other ancillary characters in that world, for example — like John Mulaney is like numero uno "wife guy." So people also felt like they were developing a relationship to his wife. And the more of those details a celebrity gives us, the more painful, let's say, the whiplash when those details change.

    BuzzFeed Daily: The title of your piece is "John Mulaney Doesn't Owe You Squat." So I'm curious, why do you think people feel that he does owe them something? And also, what do you think they feel owed?

    John Mulaney performing stand-up in a dark maroon suit

    MMK: John Mulaney doesn't owe us anything other than his comedy, should he want to continue to give it to us. But I think there is a subset of people who feel like they're owed an explanation or an apology, in the way that you would if your friend, like a person you actually know, had spent years and years being like, "I love my wife. My whole brand is loving my wife. We also never want to have kids, and it's totally OK to be a grown-ass adult who never wants children." And then that friend called you on a Tuesday and said, "I have left my wife. I'm dating Olivia Munn. We are having a baby. Get on board." You would want more from that friend.

    BuzzFeed News: One thing that's really stuck out to me is how selective people seem to be about his public persona. John Mulaney has talked extensively about being an addict in his stand-up specials. He's talked a lot about how wild and crazy his life has been at certain points. But the thing that everyone seems to grab onto is his relationship with his now ex-wife, which by his account seemed pretty ideal. So why were people only grabbing on to the squeaky clean part of John Mulaney and sort of ignoring the darker things that he'd been telling us about for years?

    John Mulaney performing standup in a blue suit

    MMK: Because that's an easier narrative to cling on to. It's easier if it's black and white, right? There are some celebrities who we invest in and then they do really, truly bad things. I'm thinking of like a Louis C.K., or growing up loving J.K. Rowling and then discovering she hates everything you stand for. You know, those are easy to put in a bucket of, "Well, I'm done with you," versus John Mulaney. 

    Let's be clear. Nobody's done nothing wrong here. Like, he's just experienced a number of totally normal human life experiences, you know, ups and downs. And I don't know that people necessarily know where to put that. There's also, if you go really deep down the rabbit hole, [you'll see] his ex-wife, Anna Marie Tendler posting Anne Boleyn-esque pictures, down to the pearl necklace. A bread crumb trail can be found if you really you want to find clues.

    BuzzFeed Daily: You brought this up a little bit — a lot of people also seem shocked that he's having a child because he's mentioned numerous times in his stand-up that he and his wife didn't want kids. Now he's not only moving on with Olivia Munn just months after his divorce, but having a baby with her. How much do you think that plays into people's disappointment?

    @successionhbo / GIPHY / Via

    MMK: Oh, a ton, right? I think hearing somebody [who's] 1) famous and 2) makes you laugh and smile and feel good generally say it is OK that you do not want to have children is so comforting to so many people in a society where it's like, "You turned 30 — say hello to the Instagram ads, bitch. Want to freeze your eggs? Great." It's a big turnaround. It's like, "Oh, where did my figurehead for the childless happy adults go? I thought it was you, John."

    We also discussed JoJo Siwa calling out Nickelodeon on Twitter about some contract stipulations she’s unhappy about.

    JoJo Siwa performing in a brightly colored outfit
    Leon Bennett / Getty Images

    JoJo, who was 13 when she first signed with the brand, tweeted: “I go out on tour in January. My movie musical was just released (with 6 new original songs)… Nickelodeon told me today that I’m not allowed to perform/add any of the songs from the film into my show. These are MY songs, MY voice, MY writing. Does this seem fair???”

    She followed up with another tweet, saying, “There is no reason that this music should not be included. Working for a company as a real human being treated as only a brand is fun until it’s not.”

    While some people replied that JoJo is getting a taste of what it’s really like to do business with a brand like Nickelodeon, plenty of her fans shared messages of support for the singer.

    In other news, it seems that Julianne Hough heard the backlash against CBS’s upcoming reality show The Activist, which would see activists competing against each other to raise money for their causes, loud and clear.

    Amy Sussman / Getty Images

    Julianne, who’s set to be a judge on the show, said on Instagram that while she’s “excited to be a part of something that highlights and is centered around sharing activists’ work,” she understands the criticism the show has received and agrees that she’s not qualified for the role of judge.

    She also acknowledged that she did Blackface in 2013 — something many people appear to only now be learning — and said it was a “poor choice based on my own white privilege and white body bias that hurt people and is something that I regret doing to this day.”

    CBS is apparently taking the negative feedback to the show to heart, telling Variety the following day that the series will be reconfigured as a documentary highlighting the work of the activists — all of whom will receive a cash grant — and their causes.

    As always, thanks for listening! And if you ever want to suggest stories or just want to say hi, you can reach us at or on Twitter @BuzzFeedDaily.

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