Q. Brent, how much of a strain was it on you both physically and mentally to co-write this episode with, as Greg Daniels calls him, the “Toby Flenderson” of the writer’s room? | William
A. In my 15 years as a celebrated TV super-writer, I have never co-written 3 act comedy with anybody. It’s shocking that Justin and I have co-written two episodes of TV now. In this case it was just a practical issue: we came back from the strike, and there weren’t enough episodes to go around, so the head writers gave us one to share.
I love working with Justin. He’s ten years younger than me and already a proven talent, but what’s crazy is the guy is on a steep learning curve as an artist, and will no doubt be running multiple TV shows by the time he’s my age. At that point I will go to him for pity work. I’ll be like, “Buddy, co-writer, come on. Remember that nice stuff I said about you on OfficeTally? Give me something here, co-writer buddy please.” — Brent
Q. What was the process like writing as a team? Are there parts of the episode or certain jokes that can be credited more to Brent or Justin or was it more of an overall collaborative process? | Littlekidlover
A. Brent’s worked on some amazing shows — his IMDB page reads like a syllabus for a comedy writing class. So working with him is great because you get the breadth of that experience. There are some jokes I wrote, some he wrote, and a lot more that were written by the rest of the staff. In the end, you forget much of who did what. — Justin
Q. Michael’s “no respect” talking head was brilliant. It was absolutely true to form for his character. I counted at least 5 comedian references. Was that written or did Steve come up with some of it? | Sarah
A. It was pretty much written. He may have improv-ed a little in there. Justin had my favorite joke in that whole rant: “What’s with airplane food? Just make the whole plane out of airplane food!” That is a brilliant joke. — Brent
Q. How do you get Steve Carell to cry like that? | Tina
A. The same way you get any actor to perform. Simple commands, followed by a milk bone if they get it right and a zap from the shock collar if they don’t.
Actually, at this point it doesn’t need saying anymore, but Steve is the most ridiculously talented actor most of us have ever or will ever work with, and he consistently amazes us with the options he gives us. I think the script didn’t call for him specifically to cry at that moment, and he probably did nine different takes with nine different levels of vulnerability. We picked #8. — Justin
Check out more Q&As in the Episode Q&A Archive. Essential reading for every Office super fan!