By Emily Balcerak
Published: December 7th, 2016
Here you have two old, graying men who call themselves George St. Geegland and Gil Faizon, a couple of turtlenecks, and some tuna martinis. Yes, tuna. Together, this amalgamation may sound like the smatterings of a fever dream set in pseudo-sumptuous ‘70s Manhattan, but for comics John Mulaney and Nick Kroll, this is their alternate reality for eight shows a week at Manhattan’s Lyceum Theatre.
Two wooden seats with a coffee table between them, a phone appropriately used for a classic no-one-is-really-calling gag, and a lamp beside it, make up the entire furnishings of “Oh, Hello.”
It’s just George and Gil’s theater – er, home – and we’re just living in it (for roughly an hour-and-forty minutes.) George, a lifelong aspiring writer, and Gil, a not-so-surprising permanent actor-to-be, reside in the Upper West Side. For all intents and purposes, they are the still-standing Woody Allen rejects who have aspired to achieve avant-garde grade recognition pre-dating the conception of Andy Warhol’s soup cans. They breathe in the city air of exhaust fuel and exhale phlegm. They are New York purists at best, and they’re the ignorant relative espousing their political views at the dinner table during the holidays, the ones you desperately avoid making eye contact with, especially when they’re at their worst. So, why? What makes “Oh, Hello” a specifically theatrical feat?
While not on stage, the two men behind the wrinkles and the grotesque wigs are respectively known as stand-up comedian John Mulaney, known by most for his most recent special “The Comeback Kid” on Netflix, and Nick Kroll, who gained traction from his appearances on “Saturday Night Live,” “Parks and Recreation,” and his own series “Kroll Show.” These are men well-versed in the act of making your gut hurt from laughing, and who derived their inspiration for George and Gil from a visit to a Manhattan favorite, The Strand Book Store, which Mulaney and Kroll both cite as being, “12 miles of books, and eight miles of loneliness.” Upon seeing two old male best friends buying their own personal copies of Alan Alda’s, “Never Having Your Dog Stuffed and Other Things I Learned,” the characters George and Gil were graciously born.
Comedy is by no means an element new to the theater. But what John and Nic—I mean George and Gil—have managed to do, is create a commentary about the romanticized “Old New York” and the misconceptions that lie within it. How do they do it? By a complete and utter lack of self-awareness as George and Gil, mixed with a healthy dose of references only the New York-iest of New Yorkers will appreciate, and a visit by a new unwilling celebrity guest each night.
There are no tricks, and there is no elaborate choreography. For the show’s endurance, the set is bare bones, and atmosphere relies only on the banter and wit shared between Gil and George, feeding off of guest of the night. Both men hit their comedic marks most frequently with personal confessions of their younger days. Punchlines are not the goal. They are, instead, verbal accidents that happen in the midst a stream of elderly consciousness.
If there is anything to say about “Oh, Hello on Broadway,” it’s that you do not watch this performance passively; it happens to you. With these two incompetent geezers, it’s the equivalent of being stuck in line at a packed deli at 7 a.m. on a Monday behind who can only be described as the slowest men in the universe, who feel the need to comment on every miniscule event that takes place around them—and that’s the beauty of it. It’s inherently universal. We’ve all experienced these people; yet, in its purest form, being abstracted from the event itself and watching from a bird’s view makes it not only digestible, but the pinnacle of modern entertainment.