‘The Office’: This Ben Franklin and Dwight Schrute Moment Was Improvised
If there is one person who is going to find out if a Ben Franklin impersonator is lying it’s going to be Dwight Schrute (Rainn Wilson.) Wilson also really loved improvising in The Office so it’s probably not a surprise that there is a line in “Ben Franklin” that was improvised. But how it all played out took everyone by surprise.
A Ben Franklin impersonator appears in ‘The Office’
The episode “Ben Franklin” shows the office throwing Phyllis Lapin (Phyllis Smith) and Bob Vance (Robert R. Shafer) parties ahead of their wedding. Jim Halpert (John Krasinski) hires a Ben Franklin impersonator (Andy Daly) instead of a stripper for the women in the office.
The impersonator is full of facts about Ben Franklin. But he’s also weirdly spending his time trying to hit on Pam (Jenna Fischer.)
Dwight at first knows he’s an impersonator. But then is told he’s the real deal. The episode ends with him trying to catch the impersonator in a lie with a line of questioning.
Rainn Wilson improvised to try to trick Andy Daly
Many people wonder what’s scripted and what’s improvised in the funny show. Daly talked about his time being the impersonator on Office Ladies.
He said most of his work was scripted. However, Wilson did throw him a curveball in the scene where Dwight questioned Ben Franklin. Luckily, Daly did some research to prepare for the episode.
“This is where my research into Ben Franklin came in handy. There were a bunch of scripted lines in that scene where Rainn Wilson is challenging this Ben Franklin impersonator, trying to trip him up to find the lapse in his knowledge about Ben Franklin,” Daly said.
“But one that he improvised was ‘Are you near-sighted or far-sighted?’ That was not in the script. It was never discussed beforehand that he was gonna’ say that. He just threw that out in the middle of a take,” continued Daly.
“And I because I had just read the Wikipedia page about Ben Franklin, knew that Ben Franklin invented the bifocals,” he said. “And he invented the bifocals because he needed them. Because his distance sight was challenged as well as his reading sight. So I was able to say without having to think about it or hesitate ‘Both that’s why I invented the bifocals.'”
He said this was a “magical improvised moment.” Daly said Mindy Kaling asked them if they planned that. But Wilson is known for thinking fast on his feet and having his new lines make it into episodes.
The actors of the show were often allowed to improvise in case their ideas helped the scene. If what they said worked, then they were included in the aired episode.
It’s a good thing Daly wasn’t tricked by Wilson. It makes the episode funnier thinking Dwight couldn’t catch the impersonator with false information.