Gil Faizon and George St. Geegland think they're the funniest people in the room. Their creators, however, comedians Nick Kroll and John Mulaney, know that most of the time Faizon and St. Geegland are incredibly tedious, which, conversely, is what makes them so funny to watch.
So goes the premise for "Oh, Hello," the touring show featuring Faizon (played by Kroll) and St. Geegland (Mulaney) that opens Wednesday at the Montalban Theatre in Hollywood.
Kroll and Mulaney's alter egos are crotchety men in their mid-to-late 70s who wear turtlenecks and blazers, love Alan Alda and are obsessed with celebrity, which they find unattainable. That it's unattainable because they are not funny would never occur to them. So they blame their lack of phenomenal success on spurious outside forces, which they shower with self-important consternation.
"We've never come to L.A. before because it's not our kind of town," Faizon said during a recent four-way telephone interview, counting all the actors and characters talking. "We never sold out. And by that we mean that nobody wanted to buy our stuff."
St. Geegland snorted and added, "With this play we thought we'd be at the Ahmanson or the Geffen, but it turns out David Geffen has 12 lawsuits against us."
This, of course, is bologna, as is much of what comes out of Faizon and St. Geegland's mouths. Thirty percent of what they say onstage also is improv, say Kroll and Mulaney, who first developed the characters as hosts at a small, alt-comedy club in New York City. They so enjoyed inhabiting the roles, and fans seemed to so enjoy watching them do it, that they introduced Faizon and St. Geegland on Kroll's Comedy Central sketch series, "Kroll Show."See the most-read stories in Entertainment this hour >>Read the story
Faizon and St. Geegland experienced their first taste of minor fame with a prank show called "Too Much Tuna," the punchline of which happened when they presented a celebrity guest with a way-overstuffed tuna sandwich. They felt so good about the moderate success of this act that they wrote a semi-autobiographical play documenting their rise.
That play is "Oh, Hello."
"They overheard a conversation about the heroes journey at a cocktail party and from that they've written their own heroes journey," Kroll said at a point when Faizon's creaky voice seemed to recede from his psyche.
The inciting incident of that heroes journey happens when the rent-controlled status of the Upper West Side apartment they share gets revoked and their monthly $75 nut soars to $4,000. Their all-is-lost moment is one they also call their "Alda's Lost" moment, and it occurs when they lose their signed head shot of the "MASH" actor.
"To be clear, we just made that up," said Kroll of the "Alda's Lost" moment. "And now we'll have to put it in the show."
Added Mulaney: "Our stage manager would probably tell you that we're capable of adding anywhere from 20 minutes to a half-hour to the show."
Kroll says that the play consists of some tightly scripted material laced with improvisation as well as a secret guest star — Wednesday night's was "Girls" star and creator Lena Dunham — in a Q&A format "that is the most uncomfortable to the guest, which is a hostile press conference."
Faizon and St. Geegland promise that other guest stars will include all their "gun bros."
"We're hoping Bob Durst will be extradited to California for the show," Faizon said. "We're just calling in all our friend favors. We've got Phil Spector coming to do it."
For Kroll and Mulaney, deciding which jokes make it into the show is a game of survival of the fittest. Unlike Faizon and St. Geegland, they are hard on themselves when it comes to their humor. So why are Faizon and St. Geegland so markedly different?
"Why do baby boomer intellectuals feel way too important and smart?" asked St. Geegland after announcing that he has just arrived in L.A. and is parking his Toyota RAV4 while listening to "Willie's Roadhouse" on SiriusXM radio. "Why do people who experienced the '60s like to talk down to everyone?"
St. Geegland added that the first time he came to L.A. was to workshop "Oh, Hello" at Largo. During that time, the pair stayed at a Ramada on Santa Monica Boulevard for a week.
"This was at least five years before Millions of Milkshakes moved in," Faizon said. "It was such a different time in L.A."