Published Jun 30, 2017A huge part of Seinfeld lore is that, upon watching the pilot episode with his fellow NBC head honchos, late executive Brandon Tartikoff dismissively fretted that the show was "Too New York, too Jewish." In a recent interview, John Mulaney revealed that Seinfeld's impact on him and a whole generation of his fellow comedy writers was so profound, it's almost imperceptible — as routinely a part of him as the marrow in his bones.
And so Mulaney and his dear friend Nick Kroll conceived of this astonishingly funny theatrical production, diving headlong into these two, cartoonish Upper West Side mooches, George St. Geegland and Gil Faizon. Mulaney plays St. Geegland, a rude, self-absorbed wannabe novelist, while Kroll plays Faizon, a comparably less assertive but no less delusional aspiring actor. Probably in their 60s, the pair have been roommates in a rent controlled apartment for nearly 40 years, and the more we learn about them and their strange bond, the more reprehensible (they're likely murderers; they like Steely Dan) and hapless they become.
Oh, Hello on Broadway is the culmination of work put in by Mulaney and Kroll, who first staged this show off-Broadway and, occasionally, appeared on late night TV as George and Gil to plug their cable access prank show, Too Much Tuna. Clips of that program, featuring a million celebrity guests, began appearing online and word of mouth was strong enough to land them an actual, somewhat improbable Broadway run.
It's only really improbable if you're not aware of the genius and awareness coursing through Mulaney and Kroll. Eagle-eye mockers, the pair set up a theatre show that totally takes theatre down. Broadway conventions, playwright crutches in plot and pacing, and socio-cultural sensitivities are all addressed, called out, and dressed down in wonderfully uncompromising yet charming ways. That happens early on; by the end of this special, it's clear that almost everything that was satirized has played itself out in the action and movement of this self-aware project.
Oh, Hello is joke-loaded to the max and the characters have been breathing long enough to develop specific, nuanced idiosyncrasies and a bent vernacular that manifests itself in a clear telepathy between Mulaney and Kroll. The love between them spills over into their roles and even trickles into the NYC streets. There are so many inside jokes and references about New York here, the alienation for non-New Yorkers observing all of this seems almost purposeful.
But New York is almost all that George and Gil have. They brave its elements together and it's the city's grimy goop that enables them to stick together and fend off meddling, cumbersome external forces that might intrude upon their platonic existence.
Oh, Hello is ultimately a farce but it's also a meditation on sentimentalism and camaraderie and the manner in which such things are amplified in productions like plays or musicals like say, Hamilton and whatnot. It's too New York and, egged on by Kroll in particular, maybe too Jewish but, like a certain unassuming sitcom, it totally taps into universal experiences, conveyed by weirdly relatable people.
Exclaim! is reviewing every standup comedy special currently available on Netflix Canada, including this one. You can find a complete list of reviews so far here.