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‘Oh, Hello’ Comes to Netflix: 2 Comedians, Too Much Tuna

Ken Tucker
Critic-at-Large, Yahoo Entertainment
Photo: Netflix

The Netflix premiere of Oh, Hello is a filmed performance of the Broadway hit starring Nick Kroll and John Mulaney as two cantankerous old men reminiscing, kibitzing, and trying to perform a play they frequently interrupt with more jokes piled on top of more jokes. It also features a game-show-within-the-show called Too Much Tuna. As these two old boys might say, it’s no Hamilton, but it’s pretty great.

Kroll and Mulaney play Gil Faizon and George St. Geegland, two senior citizens, veteran New Yorkers who’ve seen it all and forgotten a lot of it. They have artistic aspirations, Gil as a performer (“I’m a Tony-viewing actor”) and George as a novelist and playwright. Oh, Hello — the title derives from their habit of saying that phrase in unison — is a show about the show they would put on if they were booked into a theater. Kroll and Mulaney have been developing these characters for years, and the Too Much Tuna sketch is something they’d been doing elsewhere as well — such as on Comedy Central’s Kroll Show. During Oh, Hello’s Broadway run, a different guest celebrity was called up onstage each night and invited to consume a massively oversized tuna-salad sandwich. These included Adam Driver, Stephen Colbert, Will Forte, Chelsea Handler — even former New York Police Department Commissioner Ray Kelly. I won’t spoil things by telling you who pops up here.

Director Michael John Warren has done a very smart, simple thing: Most of the time, he just trains the camera on the stage of Broadway’s Lyceum Theater and lets us experience Oh, Hello the way any prosperous orchestra-seat ticket-holder would have. There are a couple of moments when we see Kroll and Mulaney — in character as Gil and George — make a few comments backstage, but other than that, no attempt has been made to “open up” the show — and it’s a wise decision.

Oh, Hello is packed tight with theater jokes (yes, you’ll laugh at Tennessee Williams and Jean-Paul Sartre), theater criticism (they deconstruct everything from Waiting for Godot to Billy Crystal’s 700 Sundays), and Broadway culture and anti-culture (Guy Fieri’s Times Square tourist trap comes in for a dig). Beyond that, the show is a fond satire of life-long, hard-bitten New Yorkers who feel entitled to rent-controlled apartments and their complaints about the absurd thickness of Manhattan diner menus.

There’s probably a serious subtext to Oh, Hello about the frustrations and pathetic passions of people who’ve strived for fame and never achieved it — how it warps their characters and leaves them bitter or hollowed-out: Dial Gil and George’s characters just a little higher, and they’d become tragic, or at least tragically dowdy.

But let’s not dwell on that, shall we? At least until we’ve binge-watched Oh, Hello five more times and finally heard all the jokes, ripostes, and sallies we missed the first few times. As mediocre performers trying to gull an audience with faulty memories and an unaccountable fondness for Steely Dan, Kroll and Mulaney are first-rate.

Oh, Hello is streaming now on Netflix.

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