Early in John Mulaney’s new stand-up special Kid Gorgeous, the comedian dedicates several minutes of the hour to J.J. Bittenbinder, a Chicago police detective who came every year to Mulaney’s grade school for a Stranger Danger assembly. In one of his best jokes in a strong special full of good material, Mulaney impersonates this agent of the law. Bittenbinder is described by the comedian as “the weirdest goddamn person I ever saw in my entire life.” He is said to wear three-piece suits, a pocket watch, and cowboy hats, all while sporting a handlebar mustache. Per Mulaney’s impression, he has a Chicago accent as grating as Bill Swerski’s on Saturday Night Live. He is also alarmingly blunt about the nature of pedophiles and their desires when talking to young children, and has a series of “street smarts” tips for escaping predators. “He didn’t want us to not get kidnapped,” Mulaney explained. “He wanted us to almost get kidnapped, and then fight the guy off using weird, psych-out Chicago violence.”
He is also a very real person, who seems to be pretty much exactly as Mulaney describes him.
Though comedians usually present jokes about their lives as real stories, no one would be too surprised if a character this colorful was a bit exaggerated for effect. A good joke is a good joke, and if you need to add some details to heighten the bit and get more laughs, then so be it. But nope, Bittenbinder is real and the internet has proof.
Entertainment Weekly writer Devan Coggan shared this evidence on Twitter: a VHS copy of Bittenbinder’s Street Smarts: Straight Talk for Kids that you (yes, you!) could buy off Amazon.
There’s also this video clip of Bittenbinder, wearing his pocket watch and suit, offering some of his tips. Admittedly his accent isn’t quite as strong as Mulaney’s version of him, but otherwise the impersonation checks out.