Few comedy gigs are high-profile enough to capture the Secret Service’s attention, but John Mulaney’s February Saturday Night Live monologue was suggestive enough to open an investigation. During a recent interview on Jimmy Kimmel Live!, Mulaney revealed that a joke from his first of two hosting gigs this year led to a probe from federal law enforcement.
The joke in question, which didn’t mention President Trump by name, was apparently too close for comfort. Here’s how Mulaney characterized the joke to Kimmel:
“The joke was about how it was a leap year, and leap year had been started by Julius Caesar to correct the calendar, and another thing that happened with Caesar was that he was stabbed to death by a bunch of senators because he went crazy. And I said I think that’s an interesting thing that could happen.”
During his February monologue, Mulaney even joked about the legal ramifications, after declaring that it’d be an “interesting thing if we brought that back now.” He added, “I asked my lawyer if I could make that joke and he said, 'Lemme call another lawyer.' And that lawyer said yes.”
Mulaney paints his Secret Service file as more of a formality, since the joke didn’t actually mention Trump’s name or suggest a plausible threat to his well-being. Luckily, the agent or administrator vetting him seemed to realize this wasn’t anything to be taken seriously. “The person vetting me was very understanding that the joke had nothing to do with Donald Trump. It was an elliptical reference to him. I didn't say anything about him,” Mulaney said.
In terms of actual, low risk assessment, this probably lands him in the same ballpark as Kathy Griffin — who was also investigated by the Secret Service for holding up a model of the president’s severed head. It’s hard to imagine Mulaney getting into similar hot water with a Biden administration, beyond his joke during an October SNL episode. He drew extensive criticism for — somewhat accurately — stating that not much will fundamentally change if Biden wins. Mulaney walked that back with Kimmel, claiming that he forgot to tack on that he “very much wants one to win over the other and there will be improvements if one wins.”