By Matt Levy
In 2002, aspiring financial professional Adam Muller (rhymes with Bueller), fresh off a Master’s Degree from Tufts University and an MBA from MIT landed a job on Wall Street. It took a lot of work, the economy was tanking and this was the proudest moment of his professional life. It appeared to be the first step in what looked like a long, successful career pounding the pavement with the finance world’s best and brightest.
In 2016, aspiring comedian Adam Muller was unemployed. Make no mistake, you didn’t read that wrong. This is the same guy as the 2002 aspiring titan of finance. His priorities had just shifted and now Muller budgeted several years of savings to try to run up the comedy curve as far as he could before the money ran out.
How did he get here though? Where did this itch to perform develop? Well, it all starts with his family. Muller’s father was born in Europe and escaped when he was just four after World War II. The details are murky but Muller knows his grandfather bribed soldiers with diamonds which got them to London before they settled for good in Canada. Muller’s dad became a brain surgeon and his mom was a nurse. They’ve been married over 50 years, met in high school and amazingly still like each other.
Muller, born in Toronto was understandably obsessed with hockey from a young age. He moved out west as a kid to Calgary, Alberta, then back to Toronto for high school. In those formative teen years, Muller was in the self described “middle group.” By this, he means, “Not cool. But not a total nerd.” Adam may or may not have had a quote in his senior yearbook but if he did, he said, “It would have come from Tim Burton’s Batman.” The comedy side of Muller was starting to show.
Soon after high school, Muller moved stateside to pursue his undergrad at Colby College where he majored in Economics with a minor in Creative Writing. Once again, an early glimpse of the comic mind comes into the foreground. Still, he moved on and responsibly received his Masters at Tufts University in Economics and finally his MBA at MIT with a focus on Finance. He was, as he said, “A big finance geek.”
2002 happened, Muller started on Wall Street and his twelve years in finance were a blur. He was an investment banker handling merger deals at Goldman, then worked as an equity analyst and portfolio manager at PIMCO until the company shut down a business unit. In that whirlwind of a finance career, outside of work, Adam hiked the Grand Canyon rim-to-rim five times with his dad, was somehow in Johannesburg for work when Nelson Mandela passed away and was in LA also for work when Michael Jackson died. Like any good finance guy, he even had a soft spot in his heart for Huey Lewis and the News (especially the album “Sports”). The last thing Muller did as an investment banker was wisely get himself a mortgage to buy a place in Williamsburg in 2010.
Unemployed in 2017, Muller took a comedy class taught by Linda Smith on a whim and hit the ground running. He “went from 0 to 100mph day one.” This was it. Batman and creative writing was the real passion lurking beneath the surface and now it had fully formed. Muller’s class graduation show was at Carolines. He claims he did okay saying, “I didn’t crush at all. I was very obviously nervous, had no idea how to perform or deliver jokes, but loved trying and loved writing jokes. At the time, I had no performance background so the writing came before the performance and the performance still lags.” Muller was so enthralled he ended up taking the class several more times.
Starting comedy later in life gave Muller a lot of life experience to draw upon. He was a corporate/finance guy for a decade, had multiple failed relationships, strange office experiences and traveled the world. He added, “It’s been interesting being a ‘new’ comic and hearing industry refer to ‘young’ comics and not knowing if that means age or experience or both. Either way, being the oldest guy at the open mic keeps me young and hungry.” It really does. Muller’s “hobby”to this day is watching comedy versus “doing comedy.” “At the moment I’m all-in on comedy.” He goes all in when he really wants something and is constantly studying and weighing cost-benefit analysis to get ahead.
Still, Adam is a man of simple pleasures. The things that make him happiest are warm weather, the last third of a good book, a small, good cup of coffee and the dopamine rush of having a good set. In fact, Muller had a strong set at Laugh Boston in a festival and it’s definitely been a career highlight to date.
Another notable achievement of Adam’s is his popular podcast “Uncommonwealth.” The show is hosted by two Canadians (himself and Katherine Rawlinson) a Brit (Piers Moreton), and an Aussie (Jimmy HVD) who all live in NYC talking about life coming to terms with America. It’s fun escapism and Muller quipped, “You might learn something,” but soon reiterated, “It’s not a political pod.” The foursome is still releasing episodes in this post-quarantine world which is a relief to their rabid global fanbase.
When not recording the podcast with his fellow expats, Muller is making videos, writing jokes and working on an outline for a book about going from finance/investment banking to comedy all from the comfort of his spot in Williamsburg. He is always writing but can’t ever seem to predict the next chapter. When asked where he would be in five years, Muller replied, “At no point in my life if I had been asked this question would I have been remotely close to getting it right. So I guess in five years I’ll be failing at everything.”
Even as a joke, that’s far from the truth. Although in 2002 no one would have predicted that an up and coming financier would become one of New York’s up and coming comics in fourteen years, we have a hunch Muller will be sticking around the joke slinging game for a long time.