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BJ Novak confirms: Carell is leaving The Office

November 10th, 2010 Posted in Arts and Life

By Storee Powell

LOGAN–“That’s what she said.”

The generally nonsensical and comical line coined and popularized by the hit NBC TV show The Office was the obvious opener for BJ Novak Saturday night during his comedy presentation at Utah State University.

The show was organized by USU’s student government, ASUSU. Bringing Novak to USU cost $51,500, said Tom Atwood, director of student programming. The show was paid for by students’ activity fees and ticket purchases, which were $10 per student. The event sold 1,469 tickets out of the 2,168 seats available in the Kent Concert Hall.

Novak wears the hats of screen writer, producer and actor for the Emmy Award winning show, now in its seventh season. He plays the “douche-bag” character Ryan on the show and has written episodes such as “The Fire” and “Sexual Harrassment.”

Novak’s performance was centered on being “clean” as requested by ASUSU and USU officials. One of the highlights of the night was when Novak brought out “Shia the Puppet,” a Kermit the Frog-looking hand-puppet, which served as a parody of the popular Muppet character.

Perhaps the most exciting part for students was the audience Q&A with Novak. One student asked if he will incorporate Shia the Puppet into the The Office. The question took Novak by surprise, and he responded after several seconds of contemplation, “I will consider that, thank you very much.”

Another student asked the question most likely on many people’s mind: if the rumor that The Office actor Steve Carell will leave the show is true. Novak said there will be an eighth season, but Steve Carell is leaving.

“We will have to find a way to continue the Dunder-Mifflin saga anyway,” Novak said. Dunder-Mifflin is the paper company in Scranton, Penn., where The Office takes place.

Several questions were directed at the topic of why Novak was a “lame character” or why he was such a jerk on the show.

“In search of more comedy, Ryan was just a good fit as more of a douche-bag. I didn’t give myself many funny lines as a combination of being humble and being not that good,” Novak said. “It is hard to know what to write for Ryan because he is a tricky character, and there is a temptation as a writer to stand back and watch everyone else. It is complicated to write myself in.”

Novak said he’s always thought of himself as a writer. He wrote for the school paper in high school, and wrote a variety show in college, which was a parody of the hit show Full House with Bob Saget.

Novak’s advice for aspiring writers was “to always be hard on yourself.”

“If someone tells you its good, think how it could it be great,” he said. “My advice is to focus on being good. A lot of people get distracted by career aspects of it, when in fact if you have a really great script, that is so much harder to do than finding an agent.”

Office lovers in Utah may be pleased to know that Novak awarded a “Dundee award” to the Great Salt Lake for “saltiest wetness.” A Dundee is the award office workers receive on the show from the boss Michael Scott, played by Carell.

“I was just thinking how would Michael Scott give the Great Salt Lake an award that would embarrass it, like when he gave Phyllis the bushiest beaver award instead of the busiest beaver,” Novak said.

Novak also did some Q&A behind the curtain with the Hard News Café.

HNC: Are you more alike or different than your TV character, Ryan?

Novak: I like to think I am different, but I fear I may have some things in common.

HNC: What allows you to improvise on the set?

Novak: I try to know my lines very well so I can play with them. You can lose a lot of time trying to remember your lines. Knowing them allows me to manipulate them on the scene.

HNC: How do you wear all the hats of writer, producer and actor on the set? Is it difficult?

Novak: It is all I know, all I’ve been doing my professional life is The Office, so I don’t have much to compare it to. It feels like, in the best sense, a gang of people that are all working together on the same thing. So it doesn’t feel like now I’m officially the writer, now I’m officially the producer, it’s more like, Ryan would say something funny here, and I’ll do it. It all feels like the same thing, which is making The Office the best it can be.

HNC: Where do you get the original ideas for the show, which is very much unprecedented in TV?

Novak: From real life. We ask each other constantly what crazy stories we’ve lived through and what our friends go through, and its funny how many insane things you think are made up are completely real. Dwight is so much more real than it would seem. More people tell me they know someone like Dwight than anyone on the show.

HNC: Do you have an embarrassing moment on the set that you could reveal?

Novak: (Laughs) I guess I will choose not to reveal that. But I’ve lived so much of my life on The Office that I’m sure I’m not even aware of the embarrassing things I’ve done.


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