John Mulaney and Nick Kroll talk 'Oh, Hello' and almost killing Chris Pratt with tuna
If you missed Oh, Hello’s Broadway run last winter, you’re in luck: A filmed version of John Mulaney and Nick Kroll’s geriatric stage show is now streaming on Netflix.
It’s been about a decade since the two comedians and longtime friends started performing as the elderly New Yorkers George St. Geegland (Mulaney) and Gil Faizon (Kroll), and after years of pranking guests with too much tuna on Kroll Show, George and Gil made their Broadway debut at the Lyceum Theater in September. Oh, Hello ran through January, earning rave reviews and attracting an enviable list of celebrity guests — Steve Martin, who appears in the Netflix special, included.
“Being on Broadway and doing our particular show, to me, was what I’d always dreamed show business would be,” Kroll says. “We had tech rehearsals and vocal training and proper wardrobe — costumes, hair, and makeup. Just everybody at the top of their game. And then you do the show every night, and then people started coming to the show who are people you respect, and then because of the format of the show, they would do it. And everything about it was truly what I had dreamed of when I was a kid and was like, ‘I want to be in show business.’”
Plus, doing a Broadway show has its perks. As Mulaney puts it: “You don’t have to get up early, and you go to a place at night, and it’s a couple hours.”
With Oh, Hello on Broadway hitting Netflix today, EW sat down with Mulaney and Kroll to reflect on some of the most memorable moments from their Broadway run and to speculate about what future projects George and Gil might have on the horizon. (Here’s a hint: Newt Gingrich may or may not be involved.)
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: So six months after closing night, do you still find yourself slipping into the George and Gil voices?
JOHN MULANEY: We always do the voices and have for 10 years.
NICK KROLL: Offstage. Completely unrelated to the show. I think it’s how couples have some weird baby talk or something. Ours is two old men babies, talking to each other. Truly, we’ll be like, “Can you pass the sugie?”
MULANEY: It’s the most fun way to talk. [Laughs]
So how do you get the perfect George and Gil voice? You drop the vowels…
KROLL: Drop the vowels, like “Br’dway.” Drop a vowel, shorten a consonant.
MULANEY: Stress the wrong syllable.
KROLL: It’s the best.
Over the course of the Broadway run, you guys accumulated a really impressive list of guest stars. What is the actual process of booking some of these people?
MULANEY: We did 138 shows. I think there were four or five nights where we would pull a guest from the audience because we didn’t have somebody booked. Which was also incredibly fun. Ourselves, our assistant, our producers, managers we work with, everyone really went out and we just cast a wide net. And after the show got some momentum and it started going and we were getting a little press, then a lot of people wanted to do it. And then we had months of great guests.
KROLL: And we had different versions of it. Alan Alda, from the moment we started doing the characters a decade ago, the way we described them were Upper West Side, quote-unquote “legendary bachelors” who were obsessed with Alan Alda. Because it’s a very specific kind of guy, where you think of the era of Hannah and Her Sisters and stuff like that. That kind of guy. And Alan Alda just typified it beautifully.
We’d been trying to get him to be on Kroll Show to no avail, and then we got him for opening night of the show. And it was the most exciting thing. We had a good half hour in our dressing room with Alan before the show, just talking. He started in the theater. He started as an improviser. I think he started to get a sense of what our process was, and it was just the most exciting thing. And then he did it, had a blast, and then was like, “I want to come back and do it again.” And that, to me, was the coolest thing, that our hero wanted to come back and play more.
And then I don’t think we reached out to Tony Danza. I think Tony Danza’s people reached out and said he had heard about the show and wanted to come do it. And he was the best.
MULANEY: And Paul Shaffer did the show, and afterward he was like, “This is great. It’s like the new Soupy Sales Show. It’s a hang, and everyone wants to do it.” Which is the best Paul Shaffer comment ever, to say that this is the new Soupy Sales Show. Which I guess was like a show people would just go hang out at. But that was very cool to hear that from one of the hepcats of the world. [Laughs]
KROLL: Letterman did our final show, and for us, knowing a guy who basically seems like he doesn’t want to do anything, that he was willing to do our show was really cool.
MULANEY: And we’re Tom Snyder guys, so it was tough. [Laughs] But it was really fun when we had people outside of entertainment, like Congressman Barney Frank, or when Marcia Clark did the show. It was amazing to talk to anyone about anything.
So top three guests, if you had to pick?
KROLL: Oh, I don’t know!
MULANEY: It’s not being diplomatic. It’s really hard. I’d say top three moments, maybe. I danced with F. Murray Abraham.
KROLL: Chris Pratt ate huge amounts of tuna fish, and the tuna was up in the rafters right below the lights for like three hours before the show, and it gets lowered down. And there was definitely a moment where Chris ate a ton of tuna.
MULANEY: Warm tuna!
KROLL: He was on like a press tour, and we were like, we’re gonna kill Chris Pratt with food poisoning, and we’re going to bury three franchises. But we also would have friends of ours, like Amy Schumer, Aziz Ansari, Jason Mantzoukas, Hannibal Buress, all the people that we started with. So you’re now on a Broadway stage doing bits with people.
MULANEY: And I hadn’t seen Hannibal in a while, and he was telling us how he’s now a landlord in Chicago. It was great to catch up with Hannibal while also being like, “What the hell are you talking about, Hannibal?”
KROLL: And we had Reggie Watts on, and Reggie told a joke that Gil found very funny, and so he slid back in his chair and fell off his chair. He then rolled his way to what he thought was back to the table, but it ended up being off of the stage.
MULANEY: He fell off the stage, kind of onto the legs of someone in the front row.
KROLL: And the rest of that show, I thought I had broken my wrist.
MULANEY: It’s a steep drop!
KROLL: And we had Itzhak Perlman! Itzhak Perlman.
MULANEY: T.J. Miller at length described a tragedy in his early life, and so he’s slowly describing it, and Gil chimed in, “Do you do a lot of improvising on Silicon Valley?” And that was maybe the hardest I ever laughed.
KROLL: T.J. stuck around. He was the matinee of our last show, and he stuck around and just hung out backstage and had our prop master make him a tuna sandwich.
So you mentioned T.J. Miller and Chris Pratt, but who had the weirdest reaction to the tuna?
KROLL: Well, there was one day where John got food poisoning.
MULANEY: Oh, yeah. We were deep into the run, and I woke up at about 5 a.m. and just started throwing up. And we called this guy who’s known as the Broadway doctor. My wife called him, and he said, “There’s no way he’s performing today.” And she’s like, “There’s no understudy.” And he was like, “Oh, okay, then he has to perform.”
KROLL: What’s funny is that our understudies were Jon Hamm and John Slattery. John Slattery was doing another Broadway play at that moment.
MULANEY: And we had to get a waiver from Playbill and Equity saying that we are aware and they are aware that they’re not our actual understudies and can never be held accountable. So my wife got me this pill you take if you have food poisoning and you have to stand and speak without vomiting. Matthew Broderick was the guest that night, and I’m such a huge fan of his, and I was so excited to meet him that I was able to put the food poisoning out of my mind for some of the show. And when the tuna came down after being under those lights, I was like, this is the grossest thing I’ve ever seen in my life. I was like, this is not a funny prank.
It was probably pretty fragrant at that point.
MULANEY: It was very fragrant.
KROLL: Who else did we have? Did we have someone who was pregnant who got the tuna? Or was that on the road, maybe? Yeah, we picked a random Australian journalist out of the crowd in D.C. She was pregnant and got on stage, and the tuna came out and she was like, “Get this away from me.” She wanted no part of it. Was it Olivia Wilde?
MULANEY: No, she had just had her baby. Also, no one wants that tuna.
Pregnant or otherwise. So who did you not get who would be your dream guest, dead or alive?
KROLL: We never got Bernie Sanders. I’d say every week we went to try to get to Bernie Sanders.
MULANEY: Yeah. For most of the fall, he was running for president, and then he was not anymore. But he still didn’t want to do “Too Much Tuna.” But Bernie Sanders and RuPaul Charles were my top two. But also I think RuPaul was in L.A., and we weren’t going to give anyone any money. We asked for money from people.
KROLL: We had Bob the Drag Queen, who won Drag Race, who was great and really funny. But yeah, RuPaul and Bernie Sanders.
MULANEY: The two elusive socialists.
Obviously, George and Gil have very eclectic pop culture tastes and they have a lot of opinions on things. So if you guys are game, we want to know what George and Gil would think of a few current hot topics. For example, the Katy Perry and Taylor Swift feud.
KROLL: The truth is that George and Gil would identify with that because they both have bad blood.
MULANEY: Literally. Not feuds with people. They’re Type-N blood. It’s really rare, and you’re a universal hemorrhager.
KROLL: I guess certain people’s blood when it’s in their body, it’s blue until it’s oxidized, and then it turns red. Gil’s blood is brown like his bar mitzvah theme.
MULANEY: And George’s blood is clear. His favorite color is clear.
How about Wonder Woman?
MULANEY: They would be thrilled that [star Gal Gadot] was Israeli and that she did her service in Israel. Unlike that Natalie Portman, who left when she was young.
KROLL: Who’s not a patriot and does not support Israel.
What about George and Amal Clooney’s twin babies?
MULANEY: Well, they would say…
KROLL: One for each.
MULANEY: Name them George and Gil. And not George Junior. Not George Clooney Junior. George St. Geegland Clooney. And Gil Faizon Clooney.
KROLL: I think it would give George and Gil each hope that even though Clooney isn’t as old as these guys, they’d think he’s their contemporary. They’d think that it’s not too late for them to marry human rights lawyers who are unbelievably beautiful and have twins.
MULANEY: George is making a hard play for Linda Sarsour.
KROLL: And Gil’s making a big play for Linda Tripp.
So what’s next for George and Gil?
MULANEY: They’re going to do The Amazing Race as a four-person group with Newt Gingrich and his wife, Calista. Who I think is the ambassador to the Vatican.
I think they would win.
KROLL: I think they’d be great.
MULANEY: They’re also getting involved with Gene Simmons for merchandising.
KROLL: But it’s all KISS stuff.
MULANEY: They’re selling like KISS goblets and stuff.
KROLL: They’re really just vendors.
MULANEY: And they both tested positive for Zima. Not Zika. They have Zima. The drink from the past.
KROLL: And they say this is the year they’re going to get on Facebook. If they can sign in through their AOL account, that’s the question.
Oh, Hellois streaming now on Netflix.