Bobby Bottleservice, Rich Dicks, C-Czar, PubLIZity … Nick Kroll had no shortage of riotous, fully formed characters from his criminally underrated Comedy Central sketch series, “Kroll Show,” to spin into a live stage production. Which makes it all the more perplexing that he chose to go with Gil Faizon and George St. Geegland, a niche bit on an already niche comedy series featuring character types with whom 90 percent of Americans have zero familiarity.
Two meshuggeneh roommates on Manhattan’s Upper West Side (“the coffee breath of neighborhoods”), Gil and George (John Mulaney) are a pair of aging never-beens whose failed careers as actor and novelist, respectively, have paradoxically made them childishly cynical, elderly babies. It’s an act that Kroll and Mulaney refined over many years in New York’s East Village, and it shows; their kvetching characterizations and tinny vocal inflections would be hilarious even if they weren’t telling jokes.
But they are. Lots of them. “Oh Hello” is a joke-a-second laugh endurance test exploring two charmingly racist, lovably petulant New York nudges and their obsessions with tuna, turtlenecks and Alan Alda. During a Thursday night performance at Los Angeles’ Montalban Theater, there wasn’t a dry eye or seat in the house from all of the laughter-induced tears and pees, much of it the product of improvisation.
After an introductory fusillade of getting-to-know-you gags, the duo stage a play within the play, depicting Gil and George’s woes as the Upper West Side apartment they’ve shared at a total cost of $75 a month for the last four decades loses its rent control status. Faced with the prospect of a $4,000 rent they can’t afford, the two are contemplating their last day in Manhattan when they get an offer to take their public access show, “Too Much Tuna,” to the bright lights of local cable channel NY1.
Fans of “Kroll Show” will recall “TMT’s” central premise: making an unsuspecting guest — in the case of Thursday night’s show, singer Meghan Trainor — the recipient of a tuna sandwich containing a tectonically hazardous amount of tuna. What follows is an ad-libbed repartee followed by the merciless shaming of their victim for being so brain dead as to have been unwittingly served an outsize portion of tuna salad.
Once the tandem successfully pulls its trademark prank, the excesses of local cable stardom take their toll, sending the show into its final act, which includes a speaking role for the tuna sandwich and a post-game Q&A with the audience.
While “Oh Hello” occasionally appears to sag, that feeling may only be attributable to the frenetically funny pace the show otherwise maintains. Kroll and Mulaney have really come to inhabit Gil and George, treating their impossibly liberal-yet-xenophobic personas with reverence and ridicule in equal measure. If they stage this production outside the Northeast, California or Florida below Interstate 4, they might see walkouts — not to mention the decided absence of a single minority in the house for Thursday’s show — but if you find this video funny, the live version is guaranteed to make you plotz.