'Mulaney' Star Downplays 'Seinfeld' Comparisons With a Wink and Nod

Mulaney Episodic Nasim Pedrad John Mulaney - H 2014
Ray Mickshaw/FOX

John Mulaney is ready to face those Seinfeld comparisons.

The Emmy-winning former Saturday Night Live writer addressed the inevitable questions about the clear similarities between his Fox sitcom, Mulaney, and the classic Jerry Seinfeld comedy — albeit with a wink. “Just watched Seinfeld and copied it. They run it all the time, so it was easy,” Mulaney joked to reporters during the show’s Television Critics Association press tour session about his inspiration.

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Like NBC’s Seinfeld, each episode of Mulaney opens with the comedian performing stand-up and puts Mulaney front and center of a group of oddball characters, played by Martin Short, Elliott Gould, former SNL star Nasim Pedrad, Zack Pearlman and Seaton Smith. Even former Fox Broadcasting chief Kevin Reilly declared back in May during upfronts that Mulaney had “the makings of a Seinfeld for the new generation.”

Seasoned sitcom director Andy Ackerman, who helmed 87 Seinfeld episodes, insisted that the format Mulaney borrows has been used many times over, citing It's Garry Shandling's Show and others as examples. “We all borrowed and learned and emulated and learned from all those great comedies. The difference here is now we have John’s voice and I can’t wait to take advantage of that,” he said.

For Mulaney, who desired to “make a move to do something else” after his time on SNL, it came down to wanting to create a modern-day comedy he watched when he was younger — “an updated version of the old-school sitcom with maybe a weirder bent to it,” he said of the multicamera sitcoms that taped in front of a live audience.

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Pedrad also discussed her decision to depart SNL after five seasons, reasoning that the problem of both shows filming at the same time on opposing coasts made it impossible to do both. (Mulaney films in L.A., while SNL tapes in New York City.)

"Obviously there's nothing like that show and I was lucky to be there for five years. At some point you have to leave and I can’t think of a better reason to leave than this particular show," Pedrad said, revealing that she and Mulaney worked closely on her Weekend Update bits as Arianna Huffington. Had Mulaney not come along when it did, however, Pedrad posited that she would have likely stayed as part of the SNL ensemble for the upcoming season.

As Mulaney readies to film the remaining 10 episodes of its initial 16-episode order, Mulaney admitted to learning some lessons from the first six already in the can. Though the show takes from the creator-star, the second half of the season will focus more on the core cast, instead of him serving as the satellite character, spinning off to all the supporting players. “The biggest revelation to me was to see the strength of the ensemble together,” he said, pointing specifically to episode six — which featured all the characters together in one storyline — as a turning point.

Another thing that Mulaney and the producers, which include Jon Pollack, will try to do in the remaining 10 is establish “loose arcs,” something he didn’t do in the beginning.

Expect celebrity cameos throughout the season, thanks in part to a fictional game show hosted by Short’s character. When asked for some intel on famous faces, Mulaney revealed that Dean Cain would be appearing as a contestant. Met with silence and some laughter in the room, Mulaney deadpanned: “I just set the world on fire.”

Mulaney premieres Sunday, Oct. 5 at 9:30 p.m. on Fox.

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