Gil Faizon — né Gil Cosby — is an unlicensed doula who wears Velcro sneakers. Anytime he introduces himself, he caps it off with, “Charmed, I’m sure.” He’s always accompanied by his best friend, George St. Geegland, author of the unwritten 1971 novel “Rifkin’s Dilemma,” “a real ’70s novel about masturbation and such.” The 70-something Upper West Siders both love Alan Alda, yelling at people, and pranking them with comically oversize tuna sandwiches and filming it for their public-access TV show, “Too Much Tuna.” They think that New York was better back in the days when you were still allowed to smoke in hospitals.
And they are not real.
These are the alter egos of comedians Nick Kroll and John Mulaney, honed in New York comedy clubs, perfected in bits on Comedy Central’s “Kroll Show” and now expanded into a full-length theatrical performance touring the country after a stint off-Broadway. The “Oh, Hello” show — named for the phrase Faizon (Kroll) and St. Geegland (Mulaney) drone in unison to kick off each performance — is bringing the two comedians to Washington, the city where they met, for a Valentine’s week of performances celebrating the great and enduring love of two know-it-all gentlemen who hate all the same things. There will be tuna. And, echoing the duo’s peculiar accent, prahnks.
Kroll and Mulaney say they based the characters on two old men they saw in New York’s Strand bookstore, both wearing turtlenecks and blazers and purchasing copies of Alan Alda’s biography. The two kvetches have a slippery appeal: They’re rude and off-putting, but so oblivious to their social outsider standing (and firmly in the realm of caricature) that they’re rendered harmless. They’re portraits of a certain type of grouchy New Yorker who peaked 40 years ago, nebbishy like Woody Allen, but without the self-confidence problem. The stage show’s plot is loosely based around Faizon and St. Geegland trying to keep rent-controlled status for their $75-a-month apartment, but it’s mostly just them misbehaving.
“We get to be our true ids,” said Mulaney, “which is that Nick gets to be a baby and I get to be an a--hole.”
Getting into character as Faizon and St. Geegland requires a few steps. First, there’s the costume: two unkempt silver wigs and a succession of thrift-shop outfits that have gotten increasingly eclectic and threadbare over the years.
“Gil and George both bought new outfits when Obama was elected and have been wearing [them] ever since,” said Kroll.
“They’re getting into that age where they just have their set clothes,” said Mulaney. For St. Geegland, it’s “a kind of barf-colored turtleneck and a blazer that looks like carpet.” For Faizon, said Kroll, it’s “a cool leather jacket that he claims he stole from Tom Selleck at some point.”
Then, there are the voices. Faizon and St. Geegland have something more than a New York accent. In their nasal inflection, they distort and mispronounce a series of words, a quirk that Kroll attributes to their “talking to each other more than they talk to anyone else.” So Ashton Kutcher is “Ashram Kitchens.” Cocaine — the characters’ vice of choice — is pronounced ka-cane.
“It’s its own accent that we call shut-in,” said Mulaney. “It’s for a person that does not talk to enough people and so ends up saying things like ‘pullriser’ instead of Paul Reiser.”
And the last and perhaps most critical component of their universe: the tuna. Faizon and St. Geegland think tuna is hilarious, and when they invite someone on their prank show they almost always unwittingly reveal the prahnk before the sandwich is delivered. It means that nowadays, Kroll and Mulaney can’t eat anywhere without having fans send them overstuffed tuna sandwiches.
“If we’re together, it’s almost a guarantee,” said Mulaney. It happened recently at a Los Angeles restaurant, but the comedian wasn’t hungry. “I had to drive around for the rest of the day, so I was like, ‘Uh, no, that’s okay.’ And the waitress was like, ‘You can’t waste all this tuna,’ so I was like, ‘All right, box it up.’ And then we drove around with a tuna car.”
If all this sounds more like a conversation with your weird uncle than a comedy show, well, you’re not wrong. But you’re probably not Kroll and Mulaney’s intended audience.
“The people who I wanted to like stuff always loved George and Gil,” said Kroll. Among those admirers: Mel Brooks.
“We met him, and he sort of was familiar that we were comedians,” said Kroll. “We just said, ‘These guys we do, they prank people with too much tuna.’ ”
“He said, ‘Too much tuna? That I like,’ ” said Mulaney. “We said, ‘And people get mad.’ He said, ‘They get mad? Why? Free tuna sandwich.’ ”
It’s safe to say that some (un)lucky audience member will get tuna’d when Kroll and Mulaney roll into the District. The duo met in 2001 as undergraduates at Georgetown University, where they did improv together before moving into the spotlight — Kroll as the star of “The League” and “Kroll Show,” and Mulaney as a writer for “Saturday Night Live” and the star of the short-lived “Mulaney.”
Georgetown “was like a four-year David Lynch movie — so much insomnia and psychosexual drama,” said Mulaney. They reminisced about how they spent many of those days: drunk.
“I remember Clyde’s on M Street used to have half-price wine night on Sundays,” said Mulaney. “And we would go there as little drunk goblins, and we’d drink till we had purple teeth, and the restaurant regretted the special.”
“I did a study abroad program at Irish Times,” said Kroll, referring to a bar near Union Station. “A full semester.”
Nevertheless, “I go back often and visit all my friends at the Heritage Foundation,” said Mulaney. “But the place has changed. No one hangs anymore.”
No, but seriously: Washington has had an effect on their comedy, and it’s not just reflected in Faizon’s and St. Geegland’s politics (“They voted for Obama, and from literally the first day in office they’ve been consistently disappointed in him,” said Kroll. “We think that Washington will identify with the concept of a liberal racist.”)
Washington is “always a safe place,” said Kroll, “but also just very intelligent, with its audience. You can play to the top of your intelligence.”
So, when they return to Washington, their alter egos have a detailed agenda.
First, “George and Gil are going to go try to egg an embassy, but they refuse to buy the eggs in D.C. So it’s a question of whether the eggs will crack on their bags on the way,” said Kroll. Their target? “I think the Canadian Embassy, because George and Gil served in Vietnam in Toronto.”
Then, seeing as the first of their four shows is on Valentine’s Day, the two old men are “just going to go from campus to campus holding a boombox playing Doobie Brothers outside any dorm. Praying for anything to happen,” said Mulaney.
“And then they’re going to write another letter to Imelda Marcos,” said Kroll.
As for their creators, their plans are simple. They’ll “do the most romantic thing possible,” said Kroll. “Play two 70-year-old men, liberal racists and harassers.”
Oh, Hello Feb. 14-15 and 17 at the Warner Theatre, 513 13th St. NW. Tickets: $37-$87. ohhelloshow.com.