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‘Oh, Hello’ Brings Comedy Crowd to Broadway

Variety logo Variety 12/15/2016 Gordon Cox
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Oh, Hello on Broadway” doesn’t look much like most shows on Broadway at the moment — and neither does its audience.

That’s a headturner on Broadway, where the prime demo has long been middle-aged women. The younger-skewing male tickeybuyer represents something of a holy grail for much of the Street — but “Oh, Hello” suggests that it’s an audience that’s within reach for the right show.

The property already had a profile with that younger male demo, thanks to a running series of skits in which comics Nick Kroll and John Mulaney established the characters of Upper West Side altacockers Gil Faizon and George St. Geegland (and their signature prank, “Too Much Tuna”). Live engagements around the country (including a buzzy Off Broadway run) showed crowds would turn out in person for the show, too.

The challenge lay in getting them to show up for Broadway, where the usual marketing spends don’t typically overlap with the media habits of young, digital-savvy millennials. “A full page ad in the New York Times didn’t make any sense for our show,” said Marcia Goldberg, who produced “Oh, Hello” on Broadway with Patrick Catullo (“Fully Committed”).

So the production announcement came not through the usual outlets favored by theater avids, but on Facebook Live in partnership with Funny or Die. The online appearance was supposed to last ten minutes, but it stretched to 40 — and it worked.

“We sold more than $250,000 in tickets in 48 hours, and we spent about $300,” said Catullo.

Erin Daigle, the associate director of digital media and analytics at Broadway ad agency Serino Coyne, reports that after that first announcement, 80% of visitors to the show’s website were men below the age of 34. And whereas most Broadway shows see sales spikes after appearances on morning shows like “Good Morning America” and “CBS Sunday Morning,” “Oh, Hello” got its big boost in traffic from a September stop at “The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon.”

At the box office, lower-price balcony seats tended to go first, with seats in the mezzanine and the orchestra filling in later, according to show’s the producers. That’s the opposite of the traditional buying pattern, which sees core Broadway fans snatch up orchestra locations first before audiences spread up to the mezz.

After the show’s Oct. 10 opening, most of the city’s theater critics gave the show a thumbs-up, which piqued the interest of the traditional theatergoing demo — led by middle-aged women, who make the majority of Broadway purchasing decisions.

Even so, it remains to be seen whether the $2.9 million staging of “Oh, Hello” will make any money. The show’s weekly grosses topped $600,000 on Thanksgiving week, and over the last several weeks have rung in at more than $500,000. With the production scheduled to close Jan. 22, recoupment is a definite possibility, producers says, but not a certainty.

They aim to keep the momentum going with digital ad buys with outlets that cater to cord-cutting millennials, like Comedy Central and Hulu. The show also gets booster-shots of promotion with online videos (sometimes released through outlets like Funny or Die and Vulture) of the celebrity guests who turn up for the show’s nightly “Too Much Tuna” segment. Among recent visitors: Chris Pratt, Cara Delevingne and Stephen Colbert.

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