Q&A with Michael Schur: Part 3

In this third and final part of my chat with The Office’s Michael Schur, we discuss gift exchanges, the origin of Dwight’s cousin, Mose, and eating on the set.

tanster: Which of your scripts was the most challenging to work on and why?

Michael: Lee and Gene (ugh) and I had to write “Traveling Salesmen” and “The Return” very quickly, so for that reason alone I’d say those two.

On my own, I’d say the “Christmas Party” from Season Two. The mechanics of that gift exchange was like calculus. And I got really scared when I realized that a huge part of the episode was just people sitting in a circle. Fortunately Charles McDougall directed the heck out of it, and the actors were at the top of their game.

tanster: The gift exchange was like calculus? Yeah, I guess I can totally see that! That must have been crazy, trying to figure out all the permutations.

Michael: All we really knew at the outline stage, as I remember it, was Jim’s gift for Pam, and Michael’s gift for Ryan. So I wrote all the other characters’ names on slips of paper, and actually did a mock-selection, to get a truly random Secret Santa list, and then just tried to figure out what everyone would get their intended giftee. The only thing I changed was making Kevin get Kevin, because I thought that would be funny.

tanster: Which single line of script is the one you’re most proud of?

Michael: I honestly have a hard time remembering which lines I wrote and which were pitched by other people. There are tons of great jokes and ideas in “my” scripts that were written by other people, so I’m always wary of taking credit for anything.

tanster: Did you know that IMDB credits you with writing “The Oompa Loompa Song” for the episode ‘Traveling Salesmen’? — I think that is so funny.

Michael: That day of shooting was really fun. I think it was Greg’s pitch to have Andy sing the song (if I’m wrong, sorry, other writer who pitched that). Ed Helms is a great improviser, and we just pitched out a hundred variations of the song that he could do.

I believe I came up with “Oompa loompa doopity dawesome / Dwight is now gone, which is totally awesome,” which is the one we ended up using. Ed came up with “Why is he gone he was such a nice guy! / No he was not, he was a total douche!” Which made me laugh for weeks.

tanster: True, “douche” is an awesomely funny word.

Michael: Especially when Andy says it, for some reason.

tanster: How did the part of Mose come about? Was the part written for you?

Michael: Mose goes all the way back to the very early days of Season One. I had watched a reality show called “Amish in the City,” wherein several Amish people on rumspringa moved in to a house in the Hollywood Hills with a bunch of idiot L.A. club kids.

One of the Amish guys was a very friendly fellow named Mose, who tried to become friends with the idiot club kids by making them little wooden toys. I did an impression of him in the room — this is literally like the first week of work — and immediately Greg said, “You’re Mose! You’re Dwight’s cousin Mose!”

tanster: “Amish in the City.” You are totally making that up.

Michael: IMDb it. It was real, and I watched it. Then BJ pitched the idea of “The Initiation,” and was determined to have Mose lurking around the barn to help Dwight with his weird mission. It was super hot that day and all I did was run around in wool clothes. It was kind of miserable. But BJ was very nice — he gave me a bottle of beet juice to thank me for doing it.

The real reason any of this happened, probably, is that my natural beard growth is, weirdly, very Amish. Nothing on my cheeks, only under my chin. That beard you saw in the episode is real, and it took three months to grow.

41 comments

  1. I LOVED this interview! Thanks Tanster and Mike! I LOL when he said Greg consumed 11,000 calories in one day.

    And I remember “Amish in the City” and Mose! He chose to return to an Amish community (a more liberal one I believe) and not a big city. I can’t believe I actually know that….

  2. That interview was oompah-loompah doopity dawesome!!!

    Thanks muchly Tanster and Michael Schur!

    I cannot wait for S4!

  3. “Amish in the City” rocked.
    I’ll second that “More Mose!” idea.
    Excellent interviews; I’m uber-sad to see them end.

  4. I think more Mose is definitely needed in Season 4. “The Initiation” in my opinion is one of the top 5 episodes of The Office and Mose is a huge part of why that episode is so fantastic. …

    Thanks for doing this interview, Tanster. Great stuff.

  5. i’ve been checking officetally much more frequently than normal for this part three and now i’m terribly depressed that there are no other parts.

    the office writers are by far my favorite poeple on earth. the actors, too. the whole office family. i love. officetally is my home. thanks so much!

  6. I totally remember Amish in the City! I watched the whole series except for the last episode thanks to Hurricane Ivan. Thinking back I do remember Mose. That is so funny.
    These interviews have been fantastic!

  7. Yes, Amish in the City! How cool that they kinda modeled Mose after Mose from that series. My bff (aka Mexicanity on these boards) and I used to love that show and we have a running gag that Mose from Amish in the City was/is her man. More Mose, More Mose!

    Thanks Tanster for this great interview. Its so cool when real fans interview people from The Office because they ask questions that us fans really want to know. And thanks to Mike for taking time out to do this interview. It was fun for all of us to read and now we have a little more insight on what goes on behind the scenes on our favorite show!

  8. I really hope the Angela, Dwight and Mose road trip idea gets the greenlight. that would be completely “dawsome”. great interviews!!!

  9. What a dream come true!! I almost wondered if you were deathly ill and this was your “Make a Wish” fulfillment. (c; You asked such smart questions! Really fun.

    It actually reminded me of when I was a HUGE fan of “The Wonder Years”–stalker-status (only I live in the Midwest so how stalker-ish can you get without the internet back then?)–and somehow was permitted to do a phone interview with one of the producers. It was for a school project.

    I actually did end up incorporating our conversation into a paper in which I think I got an B+ or A-. I believe the producer’s name was / is Ken Topolsky. Whenever his name came up in the credits, it felt really “insider-ish.”

  10. I almost wondered if you were deathly ill and this was your “Make a Wish” fulfillment.

    Wow, I’m going to have to remember that strategy for next time …

  11. I’m so sad this is the end of the interview! It was just so great! Definitely the best interview ever.
    I wonder if the real Amish Mose, wherever he is, knows that he was the basis for a friggin awesome character on the best show ever?! Probably not…
    Fun fun fun read, tanster – thank you! And thanks to Mike Schur, too, for letting us into the wacky (and brilliant) writing world of The Office for a little bit!

  12. I remember Amish in the City!! Too funny. Great interview…I’m said there isn’t a part 4, but then I guess I would never be satisfied when it was over. Glad you spead out the parts to make the fun last longer!! Great job.

  13. Oh my Amish in the City…I have never heard of that! That’s great!!

    That was fun to learn about Ed Helms improvising the oompa loompa song! I’m with Saumuel L. Chang in saying that Initiation was one of the best episodes! Mose = FEAR

    What an awesome interview! I loved it!! Thanks to you both! :)

  14. I love that “Mose” came from the real Mose from Amish in the City! I loved that show, and that guy was the coolest.

    Thanks for such an amazing interview, Tanster. Way better than any other professional interview I’ve ever read.

  15. I LOVED “Amish in the City”!!!
    That was the funniest reality show I’ve ever watched…

  16. Great interview yet again, Tanster! :)
    They should’ve found the real Mose & had him on the show. That would’ve been awesome. Even though Michael does a good job. Hey, if they did that, though, he wouldn’t have to worry about the beard!
    And that would be great if we got to see Angela, Dwight, and Mose on the road! Woo! lol

  17. Oh my rumspringa! We soo watched Amish in the City! Are we dorks?! Who cares, this interview is awe–some!! Hopefully you’ll get to do more of them in the future!! Thanks Tanster!

    p.s. CrazyGringa..don’t deny Mose, you know he was yours and that he completed you! ;)

  18. I remember seeing the commercials for Amish in the City. I didn’t know that people actually watched it!

    Thanks for the awesome interview, Tanster!

  19. Again, awesome interview! Great questions with real heart – such a rare thing in this world of pimp-my-blogger famewhores. Tanster you rule!

    And Mike, ah Mike. Don’t go a-changin.

    Again, thanks so much for these.

  20. Oh my gosh! I totally watched “Amish in the City”! I always hoped they would do a reunion show so we could find out who returned to their Amish town and who left for good. Oh well…..

  21. Ba ha ha ha! I remember Amish in the City! Here’s the link for a picture of the Amish kids(in case nobody has already posted one): http://www.flakmag.com/tv/images/amish.jpg Mose is on the right if I remember correctly.

    I totally remember the wooden toy making. C-lassic (that cee lassic for anyone interested).

    Great interview tanster!

  22. Thanks. That was grrrrrrrrreat! Hope we see more of these in the future. Surely you have proven yourself more than worthy with The Office folks.

  23. “Mindy thinks he (Greg) might be a New England Brown Bear in a man suit.”

    Too funny!!! I’ve had so much fun reading these. Thanks so much, Tanster!

  24. I love your site, but I wish you’d have put “Spoiler Alert” in a more prominent position. I want to be surprised by what happens, and unfortunately didn’t realize a spoiler was coming up.

  25. I saw Part 3 was posted yesterday but I waited until this morning to read it so I could start my Tuesday off right…and I wasn’t disappointed! If any of us meet up at the convention in October I would propose soft pretzels and fresh yellow peppers for dinner one night. :-)

    Thanks, again, tanster for your continued dedication Office fandom. And, of course, thanks also to Mike–if you’re reading this–for giving so much time and energy to helping fans understand the writing process.

  26. Thank you, just, thank you. You deserve every minute with the Office cast you can ever have.

  27. Great interview, tanster! Thanks for sharing, and thanks also to Mike Schur for taking the time to do the interview. It was really great reading from the writer’s perspective on what goes on on “The Office”. Best interview trilogy ever :)

  28. What a delightful interview, tanster! Such a treat. A huge thanks to you and to Mike Schur for taking the time to do this. That scene in Initiation with Cousin Mose in the barn was my first lol moment of Season 3, so he will always have a special place in my heart. :)

  29. Great job, Tanster. You asked questions we all were curious about–and more–and elicited answers I’ve not seen in the mainstream media. Thumbs up!

  30. That was such a fun read! Thanks for bringing the kind of stories we’re really into to your site (much better than “who’s John dating” gossip.) I caught that Amish show too – I guess that brings the total up to 5 on the planet that watched it.

  31. I know I’m late to the party, but as one of the Executive Producers of “Amish in the City,” I was of course thrilled to see that there has been so much interest in the Mose character from the show and that he has been immortalized in “The Office.” I gave Mose a call (we are still in touch) and we were flattered to hear that a character was named after him. He has heard of “The Office” but says that he “doesn’t watch much TV.”

    FYI, Mose did NOT move to an Amish community, but he is married and just had his first child. He works as a construction foreman and lives in a house that he built for his new family. He has never regretted doing “Amish in the City,” but admits that “it sure was hard to live with those city kids.”

  32. Thank you so much for posting this. I was so sad that there wasn’t a new episode this week. This plus a couple of fan fics will just have to hold me over until next week.

  33. Tanster, thanks for posting! I went and looked up Amish in the City because I did NOT believe that it was really where Mose came from. It’s true! Here’s a link to a really good clip where the real Mose is featured: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J229TDVfgFw

    Maybe we can send him a beet basket as a thank you… or an Office 2009 wall calendar ;)

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