‘The Office’: This Hilarious Moment Between Michael Scott and Toby Flenderson Was Unscripted
The Office fans know Michael Scott (Steve Carell) loathed Toby Flenderson (Paul Lieberstein), Dunder Mifflin Scranton’s human resource representative. While there were many hilariously scripted moments between the two in the series, there’s one scene between Toby and Michael that Carell improvised.
Michael Scott and Toby Flenderson have an interesting relationship
As the head of human resources, Toby Flenderson was Michael Scott’s mortal enemy. Often, Michael was fighting to make the office a place full of fun and whimsy, while Toby was trying to prevent lawsuits against the company and maintain a civil workplace.
Michael Scott was a character who wore his heart on his sleeve. As such, he was never afraid to tell Toby how he truly felt about him. From his going away rock gift to his not-so-warm-welcome back when Toby returned from Puerto Rico, Michael often made Toby the butt of the joke — something The Office fans looked forward to.
Steve Carell improvised this hilarious scene with Paul Lieberstein in ‘The Deposition’
While the talented team of writers who worked on The Office had a lot to do with the comically cruel relationship between Michael and Toby, there was one hilarious moment between the two that Carell improvised on his own.
In season 4, episode 12 — “The Deposition” — Michael attended the deposition for Jan Levinson (Melora Hardin), who was suing Dunder Mifflin for wrongful termination. After nearly butchering his appearance as a witness, Michael went to the cafeteria for lunch. With a limited choice in seating, Michael begrudgingly sat with Toby.
“I know a little bit about what you’re going through, in a way,” Toby said, trying to relate to Michael.
When I was a kid, my parent’s got divorced. They both wanted custody and they both asked me to testify against the other one, so — I don’t know. I didn’t want them to get divorced in the first place. I loved them both so much.
As Toby finished his story, Michael cruelly slid his lunch tray off of the table. Though Toby appeared disgruntled, you might notice a smirk start to spread across Lieberstein’s face if you look closely. That’s because Carell improvised that moment.
“He slowly slides my tray right off the table — that was unscripted,” Lieberstein admitted in a TikTok (via Reddit). “As Toby, I had a lot of scenes with Steve Carell, and that was just a masterclass in acting. I couldn’t imagine a better teacher — you never knew what he was going to do.”
Other scenes Steve Carell improvised on ‘The Office’
That scene with Lieberstein wasn’t Carell’s only improvised moment on The Office. During the season 3 episode “Gay Witch Hunt,” Carell showed off his improvisational skills.
The episode featured a Jim-less (John Krasinski) Scranton branch, as he moved to Stamford after being denied by Pam (Jenna Fischer). In an effort to demonstrate tolerance in the workplace, Michael Scott got up close and personal with Oscar Martinez (Oscar Nuñez).
“Steve had an ability to understand the subtext of all the text [in a script],” writer Jen Salata explained on Office actor Brian Baumgartner’s podcast, An Oral History of The Office. She referred to Carell’s kiss with Nuñez as “one of the best moments of the whole show.”
In the original script, Carell was only supposed to hug Nuñez in that conference room scene.
“He just [kissed me],” Nuñez told Baumgartner, continuing:
I thought at the time he was just messing around because he was bored. [Then I thought] ‘No, no, no.’ He did it because he was just hugging me. Up to that point he kept hugging me, and that’s nothing — not for an Office scene. Not for a conference scene. Something’s gotta happen in that conference room.
Carell’s improvisation — as awkward as it may have been at times — is why many fans still enjoy watching The Office today.