This list dives into all 10 songs from John Mulaney's new Netflix special, John Mulaney & the Sack Lunch Bunch. Thanks in large part to his multiple Netflix contributions, Mulaney's consistently good standup specials have led him to become regarded as one of the top comedians of the 2010s. For many, he's considered one of the best standup comedians of all time. However, to close out the second decade of what he calls the "Mulaney-um," the beloved comic has decided to ditch the mic and suit for an '80s childrens' television format.
John Mulaney & the Sack Lunch Bunch is an hourlong musical variety show that is genuinely unlike anything else on Netflix. Uniquely Mulaney in concept in tone, the show centers around original songs (all written by himself, Eli Bolin, and Marika Sawyer) and scripted segments which veer toward bizarre, sometimes dark, places while still remaining appropriate for children. While Mulaney does star in the special, the titular Sack Lunch Bunch get just as much screentime, with the ragtag group of kids taking center stage on just about every song from the soundtrack. Also in the mix is a motley crew of special guests, including Natasha Lyonne, Jake Gyllenhaal, Richard Kind, and David Byrne (a personal idol of Mulaney's).
Though many Mulaney fans' interest may waver at the idea of musical comedy focused toward children, the Netflix special is undeniably worth a watch. Rather than trying too hard via wacky attempts at humor or banal parody, all of the songs' lyrics are so mundane or dumb that their juxtaposition with the kids' earnest, energetic performances make them legitimately funny. The premises, too, are weirdly specific to the point that most, if not all, songs can easily get a laugh from comedy snobs.
Because Mulaney does musical comedy like no other, we've listed every song off the John Mulaney & the Sack Lunch Bunch soundtrack below, ranked by fans from best to worst.
Playing a young John Mulaney, Jake Ryan Flynn offers a musical defense of Grandma's boyfriend, Paul. While his mother and aunts are inherently distrustful of Paul, Jake touts his ability to make grandma happy, offering the reminder, "He ain't kill my grandpa! He don't do nothing at all." Backed by a chorus of old women, "Grandma's Boyfriend Paul" explores one universal scenario in which children are often prone to being more mature than adults.
For the show's closing number, Jake Gyllenhaal stars as Mr. Music, an ill-prepared, highly-frustrated bandleader. A haphazard blend of John Cage, Harold Hill, and Pee-wee Herman, Mr. Music struggles with his presentation about the music that exists in everyday objects. Ultimately, the children of the Sack Lunch Bunch are better-suited to teach the subject matter than he is.
"Algebra Song!" is one of the few tracks off the special which actually features Mulaney himself. Fittingly, the tone of his standup is perhaps more prevalent here than anywhere else in the soundtrack. Playing a one-eyed sage, André De Shields espouses the importance of learning algebra to a father (Mulaney) and son (Jonah Mussolino) via a lively song and dance routine which aims to explain how the mathematical branch could have saved his eye. At the end of the bizarre, meandering number, it's evident that songwriters Bolin, Mulaney, and Sawyer have yet to find out a useful application for algebra in the real world.
Bemoaning the trials and tribulations of lunchtime, the choosy Orson Hong stands up for picky eaters everywhere in this ode to noodles with butter. It is worth clarifying that he only advocates for a little butter in this dish.