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It’s no mean feat to turn brief comedy sketches into feature-length productions; just ask Saturday Night Live, which has produced such critical flops as It’s Pat, A Night at the Roxbury, Superstar, The Ladies Man, and MacGruber. Yet somehow, Upright Citizens Brigade regular Nick Kroll and former SNL writer John Mulaney, who started performing as opinionated aging showbiz hangers-on Gil Faizon and George St. Geegland, respectively, in the East Village club Rififi in 2005 and later at the Cherry Lane Theatre and on the Comedy Central series Kroll Show from January 2013 to March 2015, have transformed their absurdist two-minute bits into the Broadway smash Oh, Hello, an uproarious send-up of celebrity culture and the Great White Way itself. The goofy, sloppy Faizon and the eccentric, possible serial killer St. Geegland, the hosts of the cable access show Too Much Tuna, have finally reached the big time, making it to Broadway with a play about themselves, a pair of old Upper West Side vaudeville types whose rent is suddenly going up from $75 to thousands a month. Desperate to keep their longtime abode, Faizon, who still hurts from losing a CBS announcing gig decades before, and St. Geegland, the author of the seminal works Next Stop, Ronkonkoma and Rifkin’s Dilemma, try to score a gig on NY1, as if that will make everything right. Amid self-deprecating riffs and a deep, abiding love for the music of Steely Dan, the two old guys manage to put on quite a show.
Oh, Hello, named after the two men’s trademark greeting, is a clever and inventive one hundred nonstop minutes of hilarity, as fellow Georgetown grads Mulaney and Kroll — who were inspired to create the characters after seeing a pair of elderly men, attached at the hip, both purchasing a copy of Alan Alda’s autobiography Never Have Your Dog Stuffed, at the Strand — try to crack each other up as much as the audience, particularly in their offbeat, offhanded pronunciations of various words and phrases that just make no sense. Scott Pask’s ramshackle set matches Faizon and St. Geegland’s dishevelment to a T, made up of leftover detritus from other shows, including family photos from an August Wilson play. Inside references abound, some that you will get, and some that you won’t, but little does that matter. There are even jokes about Alda, Bobby Cannavale, Aziz Ansari, and Griffin Dunne — Griffin Dunne? — but it turns out that each of those actors have made surprise guest appearances on the prank show Too Much Tuna. (We got John Oliver the night we went, and the Last Week Tonight host couldn’t stop laughing, which was infectious.) Kroll and Mulaney never miss a chance at a visual gag or a ridiculous pun, from the bit of shirt peeking through Faizon’s zipper, to both of them ripping unseen tech intern Ruvi Nandan, to John Slattery and Jon Hamm supposedly serving as their understudies. Two-time Tony nominee Alex Timbers, who has directed such elaborate productions as Here Lies Love, Rocky, and Peter and the Starcatcher in addition to Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson, goes with the flow, relishing all of the shabby DIY madness. And yes, there is definitely too much tuna. It genuinely doesn’t matter whether you like Mulaney or Kroll individually or whether you were a fan of Kroll Show; everyone is welcome to say Oh, Hello.