Oh, Hello has a simple premise. It’s a play about a play-within-play, starring two 30-something comedians who are pretending to be 70-year-old men. One of the characters is a writer who might have murdered three of his wives. Another is a struggling actor who is carrying on an affair with a raccoon. They both address the audience directly, a lot, often to comment on things that just happened. There are many tuna sandwiches and they get progressively bigger and more demonic as the show goes on. Someone poops his pants.
Hmm. Maybe the premise isn’t that simple. We’ll come back to it later. For now, let’s just start with “it is very strange and very, very funny and you can watch it on Netflix now.” We can build from there.
The two characters in the show are played by comedians John Mulaney and Nick Kroll. You probably know Mulaney from his work as a stand-up or as a writer on SNL (he and Bill Hader created Stefon together), and Kroll is best known for his role on The League or for his Comedy Central series Kroll Show, which ran for three fabulously weird seasons and occasionally featured the two characters from Oh, Hello. They had a recurring sketch about a public access prank show called “Too Much Tuna.” It was surprisingly self-explanatory.
But even though these characters — Mulaney as writer George St. Geegland and Kroll as actor Gil Faizon — just kind of leapt into the public sphere a few years ago, the comedians have been perfecting them for years. Here they are explaining the origin of the characters to The Hollywood Reporter:
“We saw these two guys buying individual copies of Never Have Your Dog Stuffed, Alan Alda’s autobiography, at the Strand [bookstore] back in 2005,” says Kroll, 37, explaining the origins of would-be cosmopolitans George St. Geegland and Gil Faizon — the hosts and stars of Oh, Hello. “We followed them around for a bit and just fell in love. They typify a very specific kind of New York personality.” Adds Mulaney, 33, who dons a gray mop, oversize corduroys and Velcro sneakers for each show: “It’s like guys from Hannah and Her Sisters who wore turtlenecks with blazers. You know, bachelors.”
Since that magical day in that bookstore, the two have taken the characters from small indie comedy shows to television to Broadway and, now, to Netflix. You can see how that history adds depth to the play. They’re both so familiar with these characters that their interactions feel natural. George becomes more and more of a manipulative tyrant as the play goes on, while Gil basically reverts to being an infant, and even though it’s all very silly, you find yourself playing along. Mulaney almost seems more comfortable as an angry old man than he does as himself, even if Kroll is probably the better “actor.” They look like they could do these characters forever.