The Cathartic Pessimism of ‘Oh Hello!’

2016 was a very, very bad year no matter how you slice it. In tough times, comedy is often a form of escape that people turn to when they need comforting. With that in mind, we asked our contributors to pick the one piece of comedy in any form that they turn to when they really need cheering up. We’ll be sharing their choices throughout the week in a package we’re calling “The Best Medicine.”

To me, this year’s election felt like a prank orchestrated by a curmudgeonly, tone-deaf New Yorker. And if Donald Trump had a favorite prank show, it would probably be Too Much Tuna. It’s simple and to-the-point: Gil Faizon and George St. Geegland (played by Nick Kroll and John Mulaney, respectively) con a different guest each week with the same premise: take them to a diner and give them too much tuna fish. If their victim refuses to be bested, Faizon and Geegland mock and deride them anyway because to them, their idea is foolproof, and they don’t have any other options. Sound familiar?

This year, Mulaney and Kroll brought Gil and George to Broadway, and their move from Off-Broadway to the Lyceum Theatre has only given them more room to kvetch. Watching Oh Hello is like reading Blaise Pascal: to George and Gil, the world is a horrible place filled with horrible people. Why should we expect positivity to be the natural state of affairs? Oh Hello reminds us that things have always been shit, and will always be shit. But George and Gil’s peculiar friendship perseveres throughout the series. In its surprising moments of tenderness, the stage adaptation endorses friendship, loyalty, and artistic integrity, all while making questionable jokes about bestiality and sexual assault.

This year, it’s been helpful to remember that America has seen worse years (“The power went out a few years ago and people didn’t even steal VCRs and kill each other,” laments George), and that we were never really, to put it in Trump terms, “great.” The pessimism of Oh Hello provides poignant catharsis in this year of too much bigotry, too much loss, and as always, too much tuna.

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