Robin: What year was the Dave Barry Page-A-Day from?
B.J.: Dave Barry was a huge influence on me as a kid. I read everything he wrote and I just couldn’t believe anything could be that funny. I also remember his writing voice as being classy and warm and joyful, and for those reasons I always thought Michael would be an unabashed fan.
It made sense to me that Michael would not only have a Dave Barry Joke-A-Day calendar, but also assume that they were so common that it wouldn’t be a distracting choice to convey the passage of time in an action movie.
I believe the props department got a current or recent calendar that luckily didn’t have the year on it, or any topical material.
GKCfan: Could you please explain what specific special effects were used for the “shooting Toby’s head” shot?
B.J.: Paul Lieberstein spent hours of time when he could have been producing the show in a full-face plaster mold that unnerved him greatly, all so that a realistic replica of his face could be made.
We made two Toby heads and put them on dummies dressed like Toby. We then rigged each head with mild explosives and filled one with some fake blood, and set up slow-motion cameras from three different angles to film the explosion.
In the end, the shots with the blood were too disturbing for us and arguably too disturbing for Michael. We knew that whatever lengths we were going to in order to make the Toby head explosion realistic, Michael would have gone to more.
what’s the dealio?: There were so many tiny but very significant choices you got to make in this episode. Like, how would Michael view a typical bartender? What cheesy movies did you (well, Michael) use for inspiration in the masterpiece, Threat Level Midnight?
B.J.: My favorite thing about writing the episode was creating a movie from Michael’s perspective. There are some elements of conscious and unconscious wish fulfillment (Toby’s head exploding, having lots of friends at the bar) and some examples of Michael’s innocence that he wouldn’t notice.
For example, in the hospital scene, after Michael is shot by Goldenface, Michael moans “more Tylenol” and the nurse responds “you’ve already had four.” To Michael, Tylenol is a pretty strong drug.
I think it was Michael’s choice to make Billy the Bartender an antiquated working-class stereotype, since he’d be more familiar with bars from movies than in real life; but it was Andy’s choice to really play that to the hilt, since he is even more unfamiliar with actual working-class bartenders than Michael is, and probably romanticizes them even more. Plus, we’ve seen Andy do regional theater, and this character is played as something of a stock type.
Sara: Curious as to how you managed the episode-to-movie ratio. I liked having both because it was great to see everyone’s reaction to watching themselves but was there ever a point where you just wanted to air the entire movie and not include any actual episode stuff?
B.J.: This was the most difficult thing about editing the episode: the balance between the movie itself and the story of showing the movie. Yes, in the early stages of discussing the episode, we seriously considered showing just the movie, but in the end that didn’t feel like our show. We thought it would feel like a gimmick or experiment.
In the end, we put a lot of work into the completed movie as a stand-alone, separate work and we will be including that on the DVD. I think it’s a very entertaining and substantial work on its own, as Michael Scott’s film; but it simply felt out of context to simply air that the way we normally air “The Office,” without including any background, reactions, or consequences to the characters.