Nick Kroll Reveals John Mulaney’s Trigger Phrase That Launched the Characters for ‘Oh, Hello’

Comedians Nick Kroll and John Mulaney’s Broadway smash sensation Oh Hello, was launched from a “trigger” phrase Mulaney crafted for his character, George St. Geegland.

John Mulaney and Nick Kroll from "Oh, Hello!"
John Mulaney and Nick Kroll from “Oh, Hello!” | Laura Cavanaugh/FilmMagic

The seed for the Broadway hit stemmed from a weekly show Kroll performed at the iconic underground comedy club, Rififi in New York’s East Village. Kroll reminisced about the journey the characters took from the comedy club to Broadway on the Life is Short with Justin Long podcast.

“John [Mulaney] and I have done since early days of New York,” he recounted. “I don’t know, 2005, we would do a weekly show at this place called Rififi. I had had been hosting it with Jesse Klein. She moved to LA. John and I knew each other since college. I asked him to co-host it with me.”

The show started as a standup and expanded from there

Kroll and Mulaney considered just doing the show as a standup, but then the idea to create characters came to them. “We were like, ‘Should we do this as ourselves, a standup?'” he said. “Then we thought, ‘Let’s do it as these characters that we had been talking to each other as,’ these of upper West Side divorcee guys. We just love talking like that.”

Gil Faizon (Nick Kroll) and George St. Geegland are well-drawn characters who are elderly pseudo-sophisticated New Yorkers who often mispronounce words and names in their heavy accents.

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The backbone for the character’s origins came from a phrase Mulaney put together. “It was one day, John said like, ‘Let’s do a little cocaine.'” Kroll recalls where Mulaney botched the word, “cocaine” and shortened the syllables.

The characters were built from the phrase

“That became the … I don’t know if this is for you when you build out a character or a voice, it’s like you find that little trigger,” he remarked. “Okay, I need to say like Bobby, like when I’d be switching around on Kroll Show, I’d be like … I knew if I would be like, Oh, okay. Very cool.’ That would dig me back into Bobby.”

Kroll likened the cartoonish vernacular applied to actor Sylvester Stallone. “For whatever reason, my Stallone is just, ‘Hey, great. It’s great. It’s f**king great,'” he said. “It doesn’t even matter if it’s real or not. It’s just this, again, I guess a trigger to help you get in. So Mulaney said cocaine, and that became like, ‘Oh, okay. We’ll shorten the first syllable of two-syllable words.’ Broadway.” Adding, “Yeah, p’dcast. The Oh, Hello P’dcast. The life and death of Princess Diana, aka Ditown.”

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The show was such a hit, host Justin Long recalled how stars like Ben Stiller were in the audience. “It definitely was the height,” Kroll recounted. “I had a feeling near the end of the run when we knew we had three weeks left, and all of a sudden it was like, ‘Oh, my God, this is going to end.’ I was like, ‘Oh, this might be the top of it all. This might be the best it ever gets because we’re on Broadway.”

“We are a critical success,” he recalled. “We are a financial success. It was the show to see. It was so fun. I was working with my best friend, and John’s wife, Anna, was doing our makeup. It was this cozy … It just was. I was like, ‘Oh, this might be …’ because it was also … This might be the best it gets.”