The Northwestern community helped out with the creative process of The Office comedian, B.J. Novak on Saturday night at Pick-Staiger Concert Hall. A&O’s Winter Speaker stood on stage with an open briefcase to his left, a big white trashcan to his right and a stack of jokes on notecards in his hands. After a boisterous laugh, he would smoothly place the notecard in the briefcase; after a laugh mixed with a few groans, he would shake his head and toss the notecard into the trashcan. “It’s never going to work,” he would affably explain.
Novak’s notable ease on stage made him a pleasure to listen to as he joked about everything from anger at the OnStar lady to the declining panda populations to accidental Twitter posts. However, most people at the event knew Novak from his role as Ryan Howard in The Office, not as a stand-up comedian. “I don’t know what to expect," said Weinberg sophomore Billy Morrison before the performance. "I’ve never seen him do stand-up before, only situational comedy.”
If the ratio of briefcase to trashcan jokes was any indication, Novak was a success in both arenas.
Fans of The Office still got their fix during the Q&A session afterwards, where Novak revealed that there were no plans for an Office movie in the works. Novak hopes the finale will “break open another dimension with the show” and that hopefully that will be enough to satisfy the fans. Novak explained that in real life Rainn Wilson, who plays Dwight Schrute on The Office, is a “philosopher,” a “spiritual person and “someone who likes to fuck with people.” Moreover, onscreen couple Kelly (Mindy Kaling) and Ryan are just best friends in real life, and in a game of Fuck, Marry, Kill for Office characters Toby, Mose and the Scranton Strangler, Novak would marry Toby, kill the Scranton Strangler and fuck Mose.
Three student comedians from Comedy Forum, a Northwestern student group promoting stand-up, opened for Novak. Communication sophomores Charlie Gingold and Aimee Hechler and Communication senior Dan Selinger warmed up the crowd. The students were selected by A&O after sending in clips of their previous stand-up acts.
It was “the coolest gig I’ve ever done,” Selinger said. All three said they chose jokes that they had tried many times before in other venues for such a large event.
According to Gingold, jokes come from daily life. If he thinks something is funny, he’ll write it down. "Most of the things I write down end up not working,” he said. This leads to the necessity of testing jokes out on an audience, in much the same way Novak did with his show.
All three wanted to be professional comedians after college. “If I can,” Gingold said. "It’s like a dream.”
Given that Novak thanked his opening acts as “the future of comedy,” perhaps not too long from now, Northwestern will be seeing them at Pick-Staiger standing in Novak’s place.