John Mulaney & the Salt and Pepper Diner

This post is about an experience of uncontrollable laughter. It’s something I do a lot, as I’m sure I will be uploading after Spring Break the personal discovery of the Capybara that occurred yesterday. This particular incident occurred last semester during November, but the origins of it start much earlier.

John Mulaney used to be a writer for Saturday Night Live, but now he tours as one of the most well-known stand-up comedians in common era. He even returned to his old stomping grounds to host the show this past weekend. I first heard about John Mulaney my sophomore year of college as my family made the 14-hour road trip from Dallas back to Chicago over winter break. My little brother Garrett requested to play something over the bluetooth for the whole family, and it was ‘The Salt and Pepper Diner’ bit from John Mulaney’s The Top Part. It was hysterical, but I only encountered John Mulaney’s humor again at AOII’s International Convention this past summer in Orlando when we watched his Netflix Special The Comeback Kid. Since then, I have watched countless hours of videos and specials, and I’ve laughed every time.

‘The Salt and Pepper Diner’ has remained one of my favorite bits of his. To summarize, it involves an 11-year old John Mulaney and his friend John, the Salt and Pepper diner in Chicago full of patrons, a jukebox, $5, 20 plays of Tom Jones’ What’s New Pussycat and one play of It’s Not Unusual. The thing is, The Top Part isn’t on Netflix. It’s on Spotify and Apple Music, but those fans who have never thought that there would be content other than on Netflix may have missed out on it. I only knew about it because of my brother. And this is where our story picks back up.

It was a Tuesday, and I remember this because Erin, Julia, and I went to BJ’s for $3 Pizookie Tuesday. I spent some time hashing out that I had spent my day watching John Mulaney on Netflix, and mentioned that while it was all hysterical, my favorite bit was still ‘The Salt and Pepper Diner’. Erin hadn’t heard it before, so when we dropped Julia off at the sorority house, we stayed parked so we could listen to it in the car. Just as I was gearing up to hit ‘play’, we saw two of our other sorority sisters, Helen and Lydia, and made them get in the car to listen to it too.

What’s humorous about this is none of us, including myself, had ever listened to ‘What’s New Pussycat’ by Tom Jones. So about halfway through the 7-minute clip, near tears in fits of laughter, we paused it and put on the song. 

Oh. My. Lord. What an adventure that was. The song is truly something else, like I can’t actually imagine it being written and recorded. And listening to this in the car, imagining the context of it playing over and over again in a diner really brought the humor of the situation up about 10 notches. And despite the fact that I had already heard the story before, this time was even more amusing to hear, as well as witnessing the reactions of others.

What came about was that silent laughter that feels like impending death because you can’t breathe and you can’t make any noise and it feels as though your body is seizing. You know, the best kind of laughter. While it feels like the world’s most excruciating ab workout, it’s a type of laugh that you can’t fake sitting in the tow zone of Worth Hills on a Tuesday night after eating a 1,200-calorie cookie with ice cream on top.

The experience itself is a fond memory, and it has attached itself to the actual clip of “The Salt and Pepper Diner,” making it an even greater experience. Cheers to stand-up comedy and the immaturity of preteen boys. 


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