On February 29, 2020, stand-up comedian John Mulaney hosted “Saturday Night Live.” During his opening monologue, he joked about senators murdering a national leader.
Last month, the 37-year-old comedian revealed that the U.S. Secret Service had opened an investigation into his joke. The Associated Press obtained a copy of the investigation file through a Freedom of Information Act request, which revealed that NBC was contacted as part of the investigation, but did not interview Mulaney.
“Another thing that happened under Julius Caesar, he was such a powerful maniac that all the senators grabbed knives, and they stabbed him to death. That would be an interesting thing if we brought that back now,” Mulaney said during his February 2020 monologue that sparked the investigation.
From the AP:
The Secret Service noted other remarks during the monologue, including: “I asked my lawyer if I could make that joke, he said, let me call another lawyer, and that lawyer said yes. I don’t dwell on politics, but I dislike the Founding Fathers immensely. … I hate when people are like, God has never created such a great group of men than the Founding Fathers. Yeah, the ’92 Bulls. … That’s a perfect metaphor for the United States. When I was a boy, the United States was like Michael Jordan in 1992. Now the United States it like Michael Jordan now.”
Two days after Mulaney’s “SNL” monologue, law enforcement officials contacted Thomas McCarthy, the global chief security officer and senior vice president at NBC Universal, to express the agency’s desire to discuss the joke with the comedian’s attorneys.
The Secret Service file included a report from Breitbart entitled, “SNL: John Mulaney Jokes that Senators Should Stab Trump Like Julius Caesar.” The investigation into Mulaney was opened in March and closed in December, five days after the comedian revealed the investigation during an interview with Jimmy Kimmel.
“The person vetting me was very understanding that the joke had nothing to do with Donald Trump because it was an elliptical reference to him,” Mulaney told Kimmel during that interview. “I didn’t say anything about him. In terms of risk assessment, no one who’s ever looked at me thought I registered above a one.”
Mulaney’s joke was far tamer than the one that nearly derailed Kathy Griffin’s career. In May 2017, the comedian posted a photo of herself holding the fake bloody and severed head of then-President Donald Trump. She, too, was investigated by the Secret Service and lost numerous gigs and sponsorships as a result of the photo, which she shared again the day after the 2020 election. Griffin in May 2020 also suggested Trump use a “syringe with nothing but air inside it” in response to a question Trump posed at a diabetes event at the White House. When called out for her suggestion, Griffin proudly affirmed her tweet wishing death on Trump.