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Nick Kroll and John Mulaney on Why Controversial Jokes Are Worth Doing If They’re Funny

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Nick Kroll and John Mulaney turned their routine as Gil Faizon and George St. Geegland—sublimely absurd New York City bachelors—into the Broadway hit Oh, Hello. But now that the curtain has closed on the longest-running tuna joke in history, the comedians are teaming up again to host the Independent Spirit Awards this Saturday.

Rapid-fire jokes? They’ll do those, but they dodge TIME’s question about whether their Oh, Hello alter egos will shuffle onto the stage. “We’re trying to wrangle them from spring break,” Mulaney explains. “There’s a booty shaking contest in Cancun they’re judging, and it’s very crowded,” Kroll adds. This is the too-good-to-be-improvised Kroll-Mulaney dynamic in action. An Oh, Hello movie? A Lion King-themed tunatini endorsement deal? They’re open to all endeavors, preferably “the most fun and the dumbest,” Mulaney jokes.

The pair chatted with TIME about the path forward for their partnership, awards show FOMO and how comedy’s tackling Trump.

TIME: How did doing Oh, Hello together this long affect your friendship?

Kroll: I’ve known him for so long, and we love being around each other so this was such a pure joy. The fact that it then succeeded on other levels was a very good lesson.

What is it about you two in particular that makes you work together well?

Mulaney: It’s like how twins have a language that they can speak. One part of our brain is the same. There were times when it was like we both knew exactly where the other was going.

Who’s the comedy pair with that kind of bond you admire most?

Kroll: Mel Brooks and Carl Reiner are the funniest dudes ever, and they have great careers on their own. They made great art in the ‘90s, and they still have dinner three times a week. I think John and I would like to have that professional and personal relationship as comedians and friends.

Who have been the most surprising Oh, Hello fans?

Kroll: Bruno Mars came in L.A. and once Mulaney saw Wolf Blitzer in the third row, and I cracked up on site. Near the end of the run, I looked out and saw Stephen Sondheim, which was pretty cool, and Chance the Rapper saw the show in Chicago. Between Wolf Blitzer, Chance the Rapper and Stephen Sondheim, that’s our average audience member.

At the Spirit Awards you’ll have more celebrities in the audience at a time when ceremonies have been significantly political. What do you think the role of hosts should be when the political landscape is this turbulent?

Mulaney: It should be 27.3% political, 40% lighthearted comedy that people at home would like, and then the remaining 30.7% is lip syncing to dogs barking.

How do you balance going for laughs in the room with jokes that will play well at home?

Kroll: The only thing we can do is try to have as much fun as possible and hope that translates in the room, so people at home will feel like they’re watching a bunch of people together in a room having fun. Everything is FOMO, so we want to make people at home and feel like they have to go spend the next 15 years making indie movies—so that they can one day be there to see us lip sync to dogs.

Will you guys hold back on funny ideas because they might offend people?

Mulaney: If something is very, very funny but possibly controversial, if it’s truly funny, then it’s worth doing. Things aren’t worth doing for the sake of being controversial.

Kroll: And that’s not either of us.

Mulaney: But people don’t get offended. They say they’re offended, and it’s fun to be offended.

Nick, with Kroll Show, you spent a lot of time mocking reality TV, a background our President has. What do you think of Trump’s persona?

Kroll: Well, it’s interesting. The majority of Kroll Show characters voted for Trump, because the thesis of a lot of my characters is that they think they’re very important and they respect people who feel that way. I think Trump thinks of himself as pretty important, and now rightfully so—because he’s the President of the United States. You gotta dream big, and we’re all so proud of what the Donald has been able to accomplish… following through on his dreams of taking fast food dumps on a plane.

And John, you were a writer on SNL under Obama. How would you compare how the show mocked him to their approach to Trump now?

Mulaney: It’s always so critical and satirical about things happening in government. But I think for many of us—speaking for just a pocket of the country—we trusted Obama. So when you leave your baby with your mom to watch, you don’t run home and check the nanny cam. But now we’ve left the baby with Gary Busey, so we’re going to be a lot more on it.

How do you think SNL is handling politics now?

Mulaney: SNL is doing great, I think. Recently the episodes were genuinely funny. Things have to be funny first, and if they want to have a point, that’s awesome. The show lately has had both.

Should comedy be doing more in a time like this?

Mulaney: No. It’s important to remember that life is a joke and that outlook grants a lot of perspective, but I don’t think comedy should change and become political due to other things. It should just laugh at that cosmic joke that life is all the time.

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