Alt comedy has finally made it to Broadway in the form of Nick Kroll and John Mulaney’s Oh Hello and it’s like nothing you’ve ever seen on the Great White Way.
Every night Kroll and Mulaney pack the Lyceum Theatre and parade their shticky counterparts– Gil Faizon (charmed I’m sure) and George St. Geegland– in front of appreciative crowds. The result is electric. Expect non-stop laughs, and I mean non-stop. The audience is with the characters at every turn and there isn’t a line that doesn’t get a gigantic reaction.
The audience is with the characters at every turn and there isn’t a line that doesn’t get a gigantic reaction.
The audience is young, alt, smart and appreciative with a love for these characters you won’t see in any other midtown theater. Not since Hedwig and the Angry Inch has Broadway welcomed an audience so hip, so happy and so invested in the success of the show they came to see.
How could a quirky sketch from a basic cable show have such a huge impact?
Oh Hello, is the textbook version of the little show that could. Born as a short sketch performed on alt stages of New York City, the characters gained cult status after airing as part of Comedy Central’s Kroll Show. Kroll and Mulaney first brought their feature length production to the stage at New York’s famed Cherry Lane Theatre in December 2015. They quickly sold out the run, and continued to sell out on stages in San Diego, Boston, Washington DC, San Francisco, Chicago, Los Angeles and Montreal, before announcing earlier this year that they were bringing their hit show to Broadway.
And now on Broadway, it’s a full fledged production with a gorgeous set and plenty of production. The set reveal, in fact, is one of the great moments of the show not only because the staging is clever and weird and beautiful, but also because the audience is genuinely excited to see these familiar characters get big budget window dressing. That reaction tells you a great deal about just how special this show is. You may love Phantom or Cats, but are you excited to see it thrive? Not likely.
Something about these characters makes you feel like George and Gil will walk out of the theater with the audience and make their way over to Barney Greengrass or some other Upper West Side delicatessen for a quick nosh the minute the show ends.
Audiences also appreciate the vibe of the show- the feeling of hipness, the trust that the audience will get the jokes without over-explanation or resorting to conventional storytelling. The jokes are inside- waaaay inside- particularly in the arenas of theater, New York, Jewish culture and Steely Dan- but nobody is left behind. Even a first timer can acclimate well, getting an instant education in all things 212. Tourists will never feel more like an instant New Yorker than they will at this show hearing the references and laughing along with the locals. A few jokes will fly over their heads, but they won’t notice or care.
The characters’ intentional mispronunciations are infectious. You can’t help, but want to talk like them, and after the 95 minute immersion in Gil and George’s world, you will find yourself irritating your friends and family for days to come.
But the thing that amazes you most, is that these two characters feel so real– despite how blown up they are. Yes, their wigs and make up are intentionally fantastical, yet still, something about these characters make you feel like George and Gil will walk out of the theater with the audience and make their way over to Barney Greengrass or some other Upper West Side delicatessen for a quick nosh the minute the show ends.
Part of the fun for the audience is eyeballing around the theater for comedy royalty. Kroll and Mulaney invite a special celebrity guest each night to be pranked as part of their infamous “Too Much Tuna” bit. Each night’s guest is a carefully guarded secret- but the guest sits in the audience throughout the show, so you’ll find yourself glancing to your left and right to see if you can spot who will be climbing on stage that night.
You never know which comedy stars and show business VIPs will drop in for any given performance. On the night we saw the show, Seth Meyers was in the house, waiting his turn as the recipient of an ungodly amount of tuna fish. We also spotted Jason Sudeikis and Olivia Wilde at our performance, and at least a half a dozen comedy biz insiders. And wait till you see our story about who showed up for the big premiere last night.
Who is going to be the lucky audience member in the room when Donald Fagen walks in for too much much tuna? That will have to be the peak of the run.
Performances for OH, HELLO on BROADWAY began on Friday September 23. Official opening night was last night, Monday October 10. The show will run through January 8, 2017. Alex Timbers directs.