By Rachel Stuplich
Oh, Hello On Broadway
A Netflix release, produced by Radical Media. Originally performed at the Lyceum Theatre from September 2016 to January 2017. Characters created by Nick Kroll and John Mulaney.
Gil Faizon – Nick Kroll
George St. Geegland – John Mulaney
Steve Martin – Himself
Matthew Broderick – Himself (uncredited)
Run Time: 1 hour and 44 minutes (104 minutes).
Netflix darling John Mulaney is back on the small, internet driven screen again with his and Nick Kroll’s new comedy-special, Broadway-show, TV movie, Oh, Hello: On Broadway. Produced by Radical Media, this Broadway show, presented and recorded at the Lyceum Theater, distributed as a Netflix original and exclusive, is exactly what Mulaney fans should expect from a Mulaney Broadway show.
The show is based around two Jewish men in their 70s named Gil Faizon (Nick Kroll) and George St. Geegland (Mulaney) who live in a rent-controlled New York apartment. They discuss their odd pasts while navigating the possibility that their apartment will no longer be rent-controlled and they will have to pay a lot more money each month to stay there. While Gil is an aspiring actor and screenwriter, George is an aspiring novelist.
To begin, the show is wildly entertaining. The jokes, especially at the beginning, are topical, but not in a cheap way, and are inspired and intelligent, but not in a lofty way. The writing from Kroll and Mulaney truly is incredible, and their chemistry is off the charts. Oh, Hello’s downfall comes in its length and its lack of story, which both move in a vicious circle, highlighting each other.
Kroll and Mulaney supposedly were inspired to create these characters when seeing two old men in a bookstore, whom Kroll and Mulaney then followed to a coffee shop before creating their characters. They soon hosted a comedy show as these characters before appearing on numerous TV shows and then finally, as characters in their own Broadway show. They really are sketch comedy characters turned Broadway show. And unfortunately, it feels like it.
The characters are hilarious during the introduction to the show and during the first act before the narrative problematic is set, but they begin to feel labored when a long-term conflict pushes against them. Narrating themselves and talking to their own stage manager throughout, the show feels like two old men stumbled into a Broadway theater and puttered about the stage, inventing the narrative as they went along. While hilarious in concept, it does begin to get slow to watch around the hour mark.
They are superb characters in the first few moments, so clearly they work in short bursts as a sketch act and not as a long form. However, for die-hard Mulaney fans, the whole show is exactly what you’d expect, and the show seems to hinge on Mulaney fans on Netflix watching. As some critics in New York said during the run on Broadway, the show isn’t going to be great at bringing in new fans, only rewarding Mulaney fans for existing. This is completely true.
The performances and irreverent jokes unrelated to what little plot there is, is what saves this show from disaster.
Mulaney plays a bitter old man who can’t stand to see his long-time friend succeed, and boy does he make that character into comedy well. Kroll does the same with a slightly disgusting raccoon fetish who won’t “sell out” to make money. (If these characters sound absolutely bonkers, your instincts are correct.)
Make no mistake, it isn’t great acting. But it is Mulaney and Kroll playing caricatures of old men in New York and they sell it. They aren’t transcendent the way that most great performances are and they certainly never make you forget that they are Kroll and Mulaney, but that is part of the joke. It’s a joke they further by listing them as their character names in the opening credits for the recorded Netflix special. They are doubling down on the fact that audiences are there to see Mulaney and Kroll poorly and extravagantly pretending to be old men. The joke is several layers deep; something audiences expect from Mulaney on Netflix.
Much of their jokes come from the mispronunciation of words in a hyperbolized New York accent (like pronouncing cocaine as “cucane,” but hearing it makes much more sense) and from referencing topical things that weren’t even big news at the time (like Lenny Kravitz ripping his pants on stage and exposing himself). Other solid jokes come from infantile visual comedy, or implied physical things like Kroll supposedly soiling himself or Matthew Broderick timidly waiting behind a door for a cue that will never arrive due to a fight between the main characters.
All in all, this would be a great show to watch with a bunch of friends where absolute attention isn’t necessary or really even asked for. This Netflix original really is exactly what you would expect from a Broadway show about two old men in New York written and starred in by Nick Kroll and John Mulaney with a short guest appearance by Steve Martin and Matthew Broderick as themselves. That’s sort of good because that’s exactly what it is. But it certainly is not perfect as a Netflix original or as a Broadway show.