The Office’s Executive Producer Greg Daniels and Rainn Wilson held a conference call last week to answer questions about the show.
There are some really interesting stories in there! And just hearing Greg and Dwight goof on each other is entertainment in itself.
Following is an optimized transcript of the event, and it’s LONG. (That’s what she said.)
Thank you, NBC! :)
Question: With the sitcom sort of becoming a lost art, what is the key to making a good one like you’ve done with The Office?
Greg: Well, there’s the flip answer and the real answer, I guess. But, you know, I think it’s a lot about trying to be original and trying to be funny, and not being scared of also, you know, having some emotion in it or being real and taking the characters seriously. And developing a hit that was a hit in another country already.
Rainn: I think the multi-camera sitcom format, as it kind of petered out over the last couple of years, may just — we’re sticking to a — kind of tried and true formula.
And then the shows became more about the formula than about what the show was trying to say or trying to do. So it was more about a group of characters sitting in a common area.
Kind of — we’ve set up some punchlines and kind of making fun of each other. And it just got tired and worn out. And it just is — it’s the genre right now that needs some reinvention.
Question: If you could just continue on that for a minute because you were talking about how you want to be unique and different, and yet you also want to be funny?
I mean, you really did make some interesting — found a place along the spectrum here because if you had just done it with — as the British version with the very slow, dry humor, that wouldn’t have worked, right?
I mean, you found an American version which is a little sharper in the humor, a little quicker with the humor. Could you kind of talk about how you find that line?
Greg: Yeah, sure. Well I think the British version is really, really great and I actually love the British version. And they intentionally — when you look at the scripts for the British version, it’s — you know, they — I think they resemble the scripts for the American version.
But they made some decisions to really go very bleak with the production of it and it matched what they were trying to do which was to be very satiric and, you know, paint a very bleak picture of what this world was like.
And, you know, we had an aim to be more of a character comedy that was less satiric and more about the, you know, the ups and downs of the characters. And knowing that we were going to be on for a lot longer, you know, we wanted to see positive sides to the characters, too.
And I don’t think we really got it 100% right until the second season in terms of the mix and the tone, although I really like our first season. I think it’s really funny.
But, you know, once we started to have moments, you know, where — for example where, you know, Dwight is crushed at leaving his work or stuff like that, it kind of opens the characters up in a way where you feel a little bit more for them and you’re also, I think, uncertain as to what’s going to happen next because he might have a moment where you feel for them and then on the other hand, you might have a moment where they’re really just being played for laughs.
Question: Rainn, I’m sure you’ve been asked this before, but have you ever worked in an office — even if only as a temp when the, you know, the acting work got thin? And if so, what kind of office worker were you? Were you a Dwight or a Jim, or a Ryan, or what?
Rainn: Well I was kind of — I’ve worked in many offices before in my New York days of being a starving actor. I worked in a major New York charity as Assistant Office Manager and Special Events Coordinator. And I was also a Receptionist from the Pam Beesly mold at Kirshenbaum, Bond & Partners, an advertising agency in New York.
Question: And I didn’t expect that. So you were the office Pam?
Rainn: I was Pam. So I’ve done a lot of those things. I would — I guess, who was I closest to? I guess I was most like a Jim because my heart really wasn’t into it. So — but I was also very capable which is a lot like Jim, too.
I think Jim is very capable. So — but I don’t think they missed me. And then …
Question: I find a lot of creative people who go slightly mad when they’re in office or corporate jobs. What is your opinion about that or from your own personal experiences?
Rainn: This is Greg Daniels. I’m Greg Daniels. I created The Office. I’m so cool. This is Rainn Wilson. That’s a great question. Yeah. You know, we all go a little bit mad even in the office setting, about eight hours into sitting under those fluorescent lights on the set of The Office.
And surfing the web, and there’s only so many times you can check CNN.com to see if a bomb has gone off somewhere. We start to go a little bit stir crazy and things start to get out of hand. So I think that is true.
But recently we’ve kept ourselves entertained by doing Brian Baumgartner imitations and coaxing Ed Helms to do all of his imitations. He does an incredible Tom Brokaw and we love to have him say albondigas — the soup albondigas as Tom Brokaw and here’s my imitation of Ed Helms saying albondigas as Tom Brokaw.
Meanwhile, albondigas …
Greg: I think his Tom Brokaw is better than his Greg Daniels. I was going to say …
Rainn: Does he have a Greg Daniels?
Greg: No, you.
Rainn: Oh. And this is Greg.