John Mulaney and Stephen Colbert Analyze Each Other's Vivid Dreams

John Mulaney and Stephen Colbert on The Late Show - CBS Publicity_H 2020
Courtesy of CBS

"I think I thrive under the government kind of parenting me and saying 'You can't go out. You can't do anything,'" Mulaney said of how he's doing amid the coronavirus pandemic. "'You're not lazy or antisocial for doing it, you're following the law.'"

John Mulaney and Stephen Colbert took a shot at analyzing one another's dreams when the former visited the latter's show Monday.

Announcing that the Big Mouth star had brought an especially vivid dream to share during his appearance, host Colbert asked his guest to interpret details from one of his own first. "I dreamed that I had to do my show, but I had to do it someplace where no one could find me," Colbert related, mentioning that "no one" included the police. "Doctor?" he asked Mulaney.

Mulaney responded smoothly, "That's yourself. Some part of you is conflicted about performing and cashing in — I'm kidding — about working during a time like this. The cops are your inner moral conscience. Perhaps maybe a superego." He continued, "You want to hide from the part of yourself that says, 'Why am I making my children join a union and be my PAs?'" Colbert added, "Why must the show go on?"

For his part, Mulaney read his own dream aloud from a narrative he had reconstructed on paper. The dream started with Mulaney conducting an interview about Rob Reiner, whom he said he doesn't know in real life. Uncomfortable that he may have said something wrong about the When Harry Met Sally director, Mulaney is frightened when he sees Reiner at a reception and later speaks with him. "He mentions the first two things of the three things that I said. He does not the one I'm nervous about," Mulaney said.

Later, Reiner inexplicably asks Mulaney to come see the "cherry blossoms" and they drive to go see the seasonal flowers. Mulaney said that he had a feeling he couldn't quite leave the car, "like COVID quarantine." Eventually, Reiner gave him a pill (the same kind that Mulaney gives to his dog for acid reflux) and said "Wake up," and Mulaney, indeed, did so.

Colbert took a beat before launching into his interpretation. "The first thing about the dream that it gets right is that Rob Reiner is very demanding," the host said. "He'll ask you to do all kinds of things, and you do it for him, and he's like 'Eh.'" He added that the dream probably stemmed from concern about angering someone Mulaney respects. Mulaney responded, "I'm sure it's about my parents, but I'll give Rob Reiner a call."

Mulaney and Colbert are not the only people to have vivid dreams amid the coronavirus pandemic. Some scientists have linked the dreams to changing sleep schedules, with most vivid dreams taking place during the REM (rapid eye movement) phase of sleep. When a person wakes up in the middle of an REM cycle, they are more likely to remember what their dream was about.

Others have attributed the clearness of recent dreams to the emotional and physical tolls that many people are experiencing due to the pandemic. Many people have reported clear dreams about the pandemic, which is likely linked to the stress they feel regarding the changing world and being isolated from others.

Fittingly, the two comedians later discussed their experiences with Zoom therapy, as Mulaney has been open with Colbert before about treating his anxiety. Mulaney said his therapist rightfully surmised he was doing well self-isolating amid the pandemic: "I think I thrive under the government kind of parenting me and saying 'You can't go out. You can't do anything,'" Mulaney said. "'You're not lazy or antisocial for doing it, you're following the law.'"

When it's safe to go outside, the comedian told Colbert at the end of the call, he'd like to drive him to see cherry blossoms. "I'll check in with Rob first," Colbert responded.