“Theater is the hot new thing,” George St. Geegland and Gil Faison—as played by John Mulaney and Nick Kroll—inform the audience near the start of Oh, Hello, their new Broadway comedy. “There’s Hamilton and no other examples.”
That sets the tone for the high-energy, irreverent production, which repeatedly references the fact that it’s on Broadway, employs seasoned Broadway personnel like director Alex Timbers and constantly departs from what you’d expect of a night on the Great White Way.
For the uninitiated: the Oh, Hello Broadway show is based on the “Oh, Hello” sketch from Comedy Central’s Kroll Show. Kroll and Mulaney developed their characters onstage at small New York City venues. Mulaney, for his part, has stand-up specials to his credit, most recently The Comeback Kid on Netflix; was the creator and star of Fox sitcom Mulaney (which we enjoyed, no matter what the critics say!); and wrote for Saturday Night Live, perhaps most memorably for Bill Hader’s Stefon character.
Should you see it? We hope these seven points will help you make the right decision.
1. It’s fast-paced.
We didn’t count, but it felt like there was a joke every few seconds in Oh, Hello—the clip you’d expect from a TV show like 30 Rock or Family Guy. On repeat viewing, you’d probably catch a lot of laugh lines you missed the first time.
2. It’s the product of a comedy background.
Oh, Hello is a comedic Broadway play, but it also feels like an underground New York City comedy show blown up to preposterous proportions. Or a sketch with a billion-dollar budget: witness the talking tuna sandwich the size of the whole theater curtain (“That looks expensive,” one of our heroes observes on stage). Or, sometimes, a chaotic improv session: they bring on different celebrity guests—at our performance publishing and acting prodigy Tavi Gevinson played the victim—for their prank show, “Too Much Tuna.” At its heart, Oh, Hello’s humor comes from the manic spirit that animates small-scale shows like the one in which Kroll and Mulaney originated these characters more than a decade ago—at the East Village’s late, great Rififi.
3. It puts you in the mind of a local.
Outlandish as George and Gil are, Kroll and Mulaney came up with them while watching a pair of real New Yorkers buying signed copies of the same Alan Alda book at The Strand. In fact, their old Oh, Hello stage show was once rejected from a festival for being “too New York.”
It’s true—their Broadway production overflows with hyperspecific local references: NY1 is the station that comes up when you turn on the cable box. The cans on the top shelf at the bodega are dusty. Some old New York City men, while neither Jewish nor a woman, are somehow both. (This is the opinion of the characters in Oh, Hello, not necessarily that of nycgo.com).
4. It stands on its own.
Before going to see Oh, Hello, we’d never watched the Kroll Show sketch. We still found the play funny. Now we’ll catch up on the show’s back catalog; here’s a clip from it:
5. It’s very self-referential.
Perhaps you or one of your viewing companions are among those who can’t handle the artifice of theater—Why are these people suddenly singing? you might ask. Oh, Hello thoroughly acknowledges and mocks said artifice. There is no fourth wall in the show. Instead the loose plot revolves around Gil and George presenting a play-within-a-play wherein their only hope to remain in a no-longer-rent-controlled apartment is to sell their TV-show-within-a-play-within-a-play to NY1.
It opens with Gil and George introducing their play and setting ground rules (they encourage audience members to unwrap their candy loudly and leave their cell phones on, though none of us tested their sincerity). Then they tout the virtues of theatrical devices like the one-sided phone call and unsatisfyingly naturalistic endings. At our performance, they loudly berated one audience member for not making enough money to afford better seats. And at one point George asked, “Where’s my mark?”
6. It’s surprisingly edgy.
Even though it’s a big production and is funny and snappy, the sensitive should take note that the characters in Oh, Hello joke about touchy political topics, diseases, violent crimes, stereotypes, perversions and tragedies. If that sounds like fun to you, you’ll likely have a good time. Ben Brantley, theater critic for the New York Times, doesn’t think you’re likely to take offense.
7. The “understudies” are John Slattery and Jon Hamm.
We did a double-take when we flipped to that page in the show’s Playbill. This could be Jon Hamm’s big break.
For tickets to Oh, Hello visit our Broadway section.