Nick Kroll and John Mulaney Kvetch Their Way to Broadway
A walk through Times Square typically requires a high tolerance for exasperation, and even more so when it is spent in the company of Gil Faizon and George St. Geegland.
These two Upper West Siders are cantankerous companions who kvetch about anything that seems different than they remember it. Their exact age is hard to place — their familiarity with Broadway lore and the administration of Mayor Abe Beame would put them somewhere in their 70s — but they have lived in New York long enough to find a lot to be confused by and to complain about.
During one such stroll on a humid, crowded August afternoon, Mr. Faizon, dressed in a leather coat and untied shoes, paused to observe a 46th Street billboard showing a dog clenching a phone in its jaws.
“Everything’s a screen now,” he said in an adenoidal tone. “It’s like 24/7 news.”
Mr. St. Geegland, who was wearing a heavy sweater, seemed to believe he was looking at a Broadway advertisement. “I haven’t seen ‘Hold the Phone,’ but I heard it’s great,” he said. “The dog wrote the show but the understudy’s a better singer.”
If these crabby pals have the theater on their minds, it’s because they will soon be in “Oh, Hello on Broadway,” a comedy that transfers and upgrades the stage show they presented at the Cherry Lane Theater and on a national tour. (Its limited run at the Lyceum Theater starts previews on Friday, Sept. 23, and is scheduled to open on Oct. 10.)
And if it is particularly hard to navigate Midtown in their company, it’s because they are frequently recognized as Nick Kroll and John Mulaney, the comedians who, for about a decade, have been playing the Gil and George characters under fright wigs and layers of old-age makeup.
While Mr. Kroll (of Comedy Central’s “Kroll Show”) and Mr. Mulaney (“Saturday Night Live”) await their Broadway debuts with excitement and anxiety, their alter egos say it is long overdue.
“For many years, in different ways, we’ve made a lot of people happy,” Mr. St. Geegland said. “When you give and give and give, like us, eventually that love comes around.”
He said it was the result of karma, though in his strange New York patois it sounded more like “Kramer.”
Sizing up the competition that awaits them on Broadway (or, as Mr. Faizon says it, “Br’dway”), the ornery old men made their way to the TKTS ticket booth and offered their mocking opinions of the shows listed for sale.
There was “School of Rock,” the Andrew Lloyd Webber musical, which Mr. Faizon said disappointed them “because we thought it was Chris Rock doing his stand-up seminar.”
Mr. St. Geegland offered a lukewarm endorsement of “Beautiful: The Carole King Musical,” which he said was “about driving around in your car, listening to Carole King on Sirius Satellite Radio and going, ‘This is fine.’” (He was marginally more generous to the musical satire “Something Rotten!,” noting that “it has an exclamation point, so you know it’s fun.”)
And they both expressed unease about the current revival of “Cats,” though for purely selfish reasons.
“The bummer about ‘Cats’ is, it’s probably going to sink our musical, ‘Pugs,’ which we were excited about,” Mr. Faizon said.
Mr. St. Geegland added: “We got the original cast of ‘Pugs’ back together. These are now 18-year-old pugs. Their hips are shot. They’re sliding around the stage while I play music off the laptop.”
Sitting on the TKTS steps among the tourists and selfie-takers, Mr. Faizon and Mr. St. Geegland explained that they were not just prospective Broadway stars. In their show at the Cherry Lane, they had dealt with the catastrophic loss of rent-controlled status for their apartment; performed a show-within-a-show; and welcomed celebrity guests and audience members with excessive amounts of tuna fish. And they say they have always been devoted enthusiasts of the New York stage.
“By sneaking into the second act of plays for the last 40 years, we’ve single-handedly filled every vacated seat in a Broadway show,” Mr. Faizon boasted. “We know the flops better than we know the hits.”
Still, their appreciation for hardworking theater artists only goes so far, and they expressed no regrets for their unmannerly custom of smuggling food into the shows they attend.
As Mr. St. Geegland proudly recounted, “We brought McDonald’s to ‘Golda’s Balcony’” — the 2003 play that starred Tovah Feldshuh as Golda Meir — “and she stopped the show.”
Mr. Faizon said, “But not before I pegged her with a McNugget.”
Mr. St. Geegland added, “We said, ‘Team Rabin, baby!’”
Making their way through Times Square throngs and pausing to pose for the occasional fan photograph, Mr. St. Geegland and Mr. Faizon offered similar nuanced views on New York City politics, condemning former Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg for his “desire to corporatize the city and make it nice” and current Mayor Bill de Blasio for “standing up for other people.”
They reserved a particular contempt for former Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani, who, Mr. Faizon said, “got rid of all the pornography in Times Square, and now you’ve got to walk one block west to Eighth Avenue.”
While passing through a pedestrian tunnel between 46th and 45th Streets, Mr. St. Geegland and Mr. Faizon attempted to have their pictures taken in front of a Forever 21 advertisement but were chased away by a security guard.
Outside the building, they said they were confident that “Oh, Hello on Broadway” would be able to go toe-to-toe with the critical and commercial juggernaut that is “Hamilton,” especially now that its creator, Lin-Manuel Miranda, was no longer performing in the show.
Mr. St. Geegland suggested that he and Mr. Faizon were better than Mr. Miranda, the Tony and Pulitzer winner. “We’re Lin-Manuel Carrie Bradshaws,” said Mr. St. Geegland. “We’re the best of the four.”
Mr. Faizon said that he identified more with Aaron Burr, anyway. “Like us,” he said, “Aaron Burr is a crotchety, misunderstood New Yorker. And he has a gun. Like us — we have Bernie Goetz’s gun.” (He added that this was because “we were trying to do our musical ‘Bernie Goetz Your Gun,’ but we were not allowed.”)
Even so, Mr. Faizon said that “Oh, Hello” was not too proud to copy some of the successful promotional strategies that “Hamilton” has used, like its Ham4Ham mini-concerts, which until recently were held outside the Richard Rodgers Theater at the show’s ticket lottery.
For their show, Mr. Faizon said, “We’re going to do ‘Tuna4Ham,’ where we try to trade some of our old tuna for some of that sweet honey-baked ham.”
Arriving at the Lyceum, the two were deeply frustrated to see that the theater was still displaying signs and posters for “Fully Committed” — the one-man comedy starring Jesse Tyler Ferguson that had recently closed — instead of for their show.
They glumly continued along 45th Street, taking momentary solace at the sight of the pub-restaurant O’Lunney’s next to their theater. Mr. St. Geegland vowed to visit frequently while “Oh, Hello” is playing.
“I go to these Irish bars and go, ‘Here’s what’s wrong with your country … ,’” he said. “And I get my heart rate up for the show, so that when I walk out, I’ve just been threatened.”
Having spent the afternoon lobbing their zingers at targets high and low, it was now time for the “Oh, Hello” stars to get zinged. While they stood in front of O’Lunney’s, a woman came out of the restaurant, eyed the two men for a moment and asked them if they were wearing wigs.
“A wig?” Mr. St. Geegland said in disgust.
“A wig?” Mr. Faizon said, echoing his co-star’s revulsion.
Mr. St. Geegland said: “That’s very insulting. It’s a hair system and it gives me a lot of confidence.”The two funnymen stroll around Times Square in character as their aged and cantankerous alter egos in “Oh, Hello on Broadway.”
Oh, Hello on Broadway
About the show
Comedians Nick Kroll and John Mulaney channel their beloved, 70-something alter egos known for their turtlenecks, misinformed beliefs, and tendency to say “Oh, hello!” This Off-Broadway hit transfers to the Main Stem. More…
Kroll and Mulaney developed Faizon and Geegland after spying two men wearing turtlenecks and blazers at The Strand bookstore purchase separate copies of an Alan Alda book. They followed the men into a coffee shop to observe them, and soon decided to host a comedy show as these unwittingly hilarious eccentrics. After years of playing the characters on the road and Off-Broadway, they bring these two bachelors back to their NYC roots under the direction of Tony nominee Alex Timbers.Browse 300+ critical Oh, Hello on Broadway reviews & compare Oh, Hello on Broadway ticket prices. Discover Broadway shows you love at the price that’s right for you. ]]>