Who Plays John Mulaney's Mom on 'Mulaney'? Nora Dunn Was at the Center of an 'SNL' Controversy

One of the perks of having your own sitcom is fan casting your own parents. And John Mulaney is taking full advantage of that perk, hence Nora Dunn guest starring on Mulaney as John's mother in the next episode. If you recognize Dunn, it's probably from her five years spent on Saturday Night Live.

The late '80s were a dead period for SNL. Dunn came onboard the show in Lorne Michaels' first year back, 1985, which is best known as the "Robert Downey Jr. was on Saturday Night Live?" season. Most of the cast was fired at the end of the season, but a few players like Jon Lovitz and Dunn were kept on. Some of Dunn's biggest sketches were alongside Jan Hooks as the medley-loving singing act the Sweeney Sisters.

She also did characters for Weekend Update like Babette, the French sex worker and Jeanne Dixon, the astrologer. But Dunn is probably best known for the scandal that happened in 1990, when Andrew Dice Clay was chosen to host the show. Dunn and the musical guest, Sinead O'Connor, boycotted appearing in the episode because of Clay's misogynist stand up act. The protest was not well received by Dunn's fellow cast members, and Jon Lovitz claims, in the interview below, that Dunn couldn't tell the difference between Clay's outsized comedy character and Clay as a person, and went to the press as a way to drum up controversy.

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I give Dunn credit for sticking to her guns. It's never been easy to stand up for feminism against someone who's popular, especially in comedy, where it's tough to get a reputation for being a killjoy.

Since leaving SNL in 1990, Dunn hasn't worked too frequently. She's done some movies, and a few episodes of TV, from The X-Files to It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia. She did a one-woman show called Mythical Proportions in 2013 in her hometown of Chicago, where she also did this very drunk Funny or Die video with Andy Lawfer.

I don't quite know what that video was, but I know it ends with Chinese takeout, which is always a safe bet. And yet I'm sure many recognize Dunn as the dim sum lady from Working Girl, who can't even stand Chinese food. What a chameleon!

Mulaney isn't the strongest show around, but John Mulaney clearly knows his SNL veterans. I've been pleasantly surprised at how well Nasim Pedrad has done co-leading the show with him, and Martin Short was built to sell material to a live audience (it would be great if the material was better, but that seems like a pipe dream at this point). Now adding Dunn proves that the guy didn't just write for SNL, he studied its history.

Image: Ray Mickshaw/FOX