Gil Faizon and George St. Geegland of Oh Hello on 70 Years in the Big Apple, and Hot Dog Water
By Chris Chafin
Gil Faizon and George St. Geegland are a couple of New York originals. Authors, academics, lovers, revolutionaries, mild racists, rivals, and best friends, they’re the kind of people you can only find in one place: New York, baby!
Now, Faizon and Geegland (as portrayed by comedians Nick Kroll and John Mulaney) are coming to the Great White Way. The two will be sharing little memories of 70 years in the big apple, right here in the city that never sleeps! Their show, Oh Hello (as seen on Kroll’s Show, Late Night with Seth Meyers, and many other places), will be trodding the boards until January 8, 2017. It’s a story you can only find in one place: New York, baby!
You guys are long time New Yorkers, I know. I wanted to hear some of your memories of Brooklyn.
Gil Faizon I was born and grew up in Sheepshead Bay. My favorite team, you’re not going to believe this, was the Brooklyn Dodgers. That’s a very interesting thing about me, unlike a lot of men of my generation, from where I was born, I was a fan of the Brooklyn Dodgers.
I’ve never heard anyone talk about that before, especially an older person.
GF: You know, I have a chair, not from Ebbets Field, but from this guy named Emmett, that I stole from his apartment, actually.
George St. Geegland: Emmett’s chair, yeah.
GF: Yeah. It was just this guy Emmett. And I stole a chair from his house, and I always say, “This is from Emmett’s field,” and so it’s a collector’s item.
That seems like you’re lying to your friends. That seems misleading to me.
GF: Yeah, we have a good time.
GG: We all know it’s not from Ebbets Field, to be fair to Gil. It’s a Barcalounger, so we all know it’s not from the ball park.
But you want to humor him. You don’t want to cause a fight.
GG: Oh, I don’t want to startle him
GG: Gil’s like a sleepwalker. You can’t talk to him. You can’t disrupt his flow.
GF: Yeah. Then I get caught in the dream.
GG: You can’t mess with Gil too much, or he’ll get caught in the dream.
GF: That’s what happened to our dear friend Fred Kruger.
Oh, you guys are friends with—
GG: Fred Kruger. These no good kids are always trying to yank him out of the dream.
GF: Fred Kruger and us, we all went to the same knife store on the Upper West.
GG: This great cutlery place, yeah.
GF: One of the few local cutlery places still around, you know?
GG: Fred Kruger, he just wore slacks and a cardigan like Mort Sahl.
GF: I was from Sheepshead Bay, and then Georgey and I met when we were at Columbia University. I was a trespasser.
GG: Yeah, and I was part of the very rarely celebrated antiwar movement. It’s rarely discussed. There was a student antiwar movement.
Wait, so what decade would this have been?
GG: This would have been in the decade called the 60’s. I don’t know if you’ve heard of the 60’s, but it was a seminal decade.
No, what kinds of things happened?
GF: Everything. I’m going to give you a little history lesson. The Vietnam War, civil rights, okay?
GG: Women’s lib. Acid was king. Acid was god.
GF: I have not been back to Brooklyn since I went into the city to Columbia, and we got an apartment on 74th Street, and I’m proud to say as a born and bred Brooklynite, I have not returned since.
Back in the olden days, Brooklyn was a little bit rougher than it is now. Did you guys ever have any problems with crime or anything like that?
GF: I was a part of the great Shmurah Matzah Heist of 1971. That was the one time I actually—
Are you sure you want to go on record saying that? That seems real—
GG: Yeah, the statute of limitations passed according to our lawyer, who’s Trump’s doctor.
GF: No, we were told by Trump’s doctor, who’s our lawyer, that we can now start discussing—
GG: Our crime.
GF: You people hear about the Lufthansa heist, from Goodfellas. We were responsible for the Shmurah Matzah Heist of 1971. We went into the Lubavitch community, and we stole all that weird matzah that isn’t appetizing looking and has no flavor to it, and we would use it, we would use it for all types of things, as bath mats, but all kosher, mind you.
So, this wasn’t for the money. You stole it because you needed the matzah.
GG: No, we stole it to use all parts of the matzah buffalo. We used it as a hairpiece, as a comb.
As a hairpiece, really?
GG: You can use matzah as a hairpiece. What are you talking about?
GF: Yeah, I don’t know what you’re talking about. You can use it as a hairpiece. Trust me. Our friend Lou Groovy sells them. If you’re ever on 117th and Broadway, go see Lou Groovy. He’s on roller skates, and he’s selling Shmurah matzah. If your elephant needs a yarmulke, Lou Groovy’s your guy.
You guys talk about meeting your friend Bernard in Vermont, but he’s a Brooklyn boy, too. Did you ever know him in Brooklyn?
GG: Gil knew him as a kid, right? Because Bernard was always dribbling a basketball, right?
GF: He was always dribbling a basketball, and we were friendly, but we would go to play stickball. He was a dribbler, but we would also play stickball. The problem is he insisted on everybody getting their own ball, but I said, “Bernie, there’s only supposed to be one baseball played during the game,” and he says, “No, everybody gets one.” He was a real pain in the ass, but we stayed friends, because he’s a great- He’s got the country’s best interest at heart.
[Gil begins hacking sickly]
But I gotta tell you, we have issues with Brooklyn.
Great, tell me.
GF: Purely speculative observations.
Because you haven’t been here in 50 years, I’m guessing.
GG: No, but we’re aware of what’s going on over there. You’ve got these Radio Raheems going into pizza parlors playing the boombox. I like everybody to get along, too, but turn down your boombox.
Obviously, we’re a huge fan, and George can speak to this, we’re a huge fan of Danny Aiello.
Specifically, his signed headshot in a pizza parlor, you know? This is not an actor who took this task of playing a pizza parlor owner lying down. He went out to what appears to be every pizza place in the town and signed a photo that said, “Your best slice, Danny Aiello.”
GF: We’re into that.
He’s got a good heart.
GG: He’s a method actor in his preparation.
GF: And he loves his slice, and that’s important to note!
Also, I want to talk about Bushwick. How many goddamned artisanal chocolate factories can one borough hold? You know what I mean? Not enough, in my mind. Let’s add a few more. There should be more artisanal chocolate factories in one area.
GG: The real sign of gentrification in Williamsburg is now this, towards Wythe, when you get close to the water, there’s so many stores and so many awful Europeans walking, so many awful Europeans walking around, just like the West Village, and that’s truly the sign of gentrification, is when you get a lot of very wealthy Europeans in designer jeans walking around.
GF: With rugby shirts with huge polo insignias.
GG: Or when you get apartments being bought by very wealthy Saudis who spend one week a year there. That’s the sign of a neighborhood changing.
GF: Just a few other things, hold on, hold on, hold on, hold on, hold on. I don’t want to forget our accolades here. George was up for the one of the Fort Greene flashers, the Fort Greene Park flashers, for two years.
GG: I was up for it, yeah. I looked like several sketches of the Fort Greene Flashers, and me and three other guys were put in a lineup, which was very exciting, and I was hoping I would get it, but I ultimately, they did two more lineups that winnowed it down, and I was not in them. I was in the top four, which is really exciting, but ultimately, I was ruled out.
GF: Then, of course, my daughter, Ocean, she’s now a beautiful lesbian with a family.
GF: Hey, thank you, thank you. She’s this wonderful daughter, and she’s got this partner Eileen. I guess she calls her her wife. We’re all about women’s lib, George and I, as long as it doesn’t in any way threaten the masculine patriarchy that we’re comfortable with, you know?
Of course, yeah. Of course.
GF: This Eileen, she’s a real handful. She says, “I just love your daughter,” but I know that she’s trying to replace me as my daughter’s father.
GG: This is something Gil worked out with our psychiatrist, who is also our lawyer, who is Trump’s doctor.
You guys spend a lot of time with this guy.
GG: Yeah, he doesn’t fart that much. You’re not looking to run out of the office right away.
I have to congratulate the two of you on this Broadway show you have coming up.What can a viewer expect from this show?
GG: This is a play that Gil and I have written that we star in as characters sort of based on ourselves, even named George and Gil, if you can believe it. It’s an autobiographical play that draws on 70 years of life in Manhattan. You know, the weird condom that a museum umbrella comes in that you lose immediately? Little slices of life like that.
Humorous observations. That kind of thing?
GF: Yes, and almost always not humorous. Almost always just observations, you know?
GG: First jobs!
GG: Yeah, a first job. For those Brooklynites today, it’s probably something like the cutting jeans into denim shorts at some hipster sweatshop. For us, fond recollections of New York in a different time, taking a child bride. These are the things that we want to celebrate. We want to celebrate the things that. The little bodega sponge that they touch to count dollar bills.
GF: Running late to work, not having time for a shower, and just getting a handful of hot dog water and using that to freshen up on the way to work. These are the things that-
Do you have hot dog water in your bathroom? Is that … ?
GG: No, you jog by a hot dog vendor, and you dip your hand in the cart.
GF: Yeah, this guy Mohammad who we have a real contentious love-hate thing with, George will distract him, and I’ll get a handful of hot dog water, and I’ll just splash it on my face to wake up.
GG: I always distract him the same way. I go, “Let’s see. What are the prices of hot dogs?” He says, “You get out of here. Your little turtle friend is gonna try to steal hot dog water.” I go, “What do I want today,” and it’s a whole charade.
You guys have had so much success later in life. Did you ever have a time as younger men when you thought you wouldn’t have the success that you have now?
GF: Well, look, we knew that we might be a wine best served after some age, but we always knew we would break, you know? Jon Stewart tried multiple things before the Daily Show.
GG: You know, a wine is a nice description, but I think more apt is a cheese. We’re like a cheese that’s been left out. There’s a certain pungency to it that it lacked when it was in the fridge, but now that it’s out and it’s really able to expand its aromas, there’s a strong flavor to it.
GF: It’s a heavy gouda that you were talked into at Citarella.
GG: Exactly. That’s how we would describe ourselves and our show.