‘The Office’ Used an Unconventional Comedy Tactic to Captivate Audiences
Part of what makes The Office a great show is its authenticity factor. For showrunners, creating a show that felt real took the use of an unconventional comedic strategy.
Find out what comedy tactic helped the employees of Dunder Mifflin become so hilarious.
Brian Baumgartner is pulling back the curtain on ‘The Office’
Brian Baumgartner played Kevin Malone on the show. Now, he’s the host of the podcast An Oral History of The Office.
It boggles Baumgartner’s mind how The Office has managed to entertain generations of viewers. To understand why that is, he interviewed his castmates, showrunners, and camera crews.
In episode 3, “Everything That Makes It Harder, Makes It Better,” Baumgartner comes one step closer to the answer.
Directors invited the cast to do their scenes instead of demanding it
Showrunners made several tactical decisions so they could create a world that felt authentic. Director Ken Kwapis found ways to keep the cast and crew honed in to the reality that was Dunder Mifflin but in a way that didn’t feel forced.
Instead of saying, “Action!” Kwapis would invite his actors to “Go ahead.” In this way, the actors never felt too removed from their roles. “You’re not just suddenly turning on…you’re already in it — just go ahead,” Kate Flannery recalled.
“I stopped using the word ‘action,'” Kwapis said. “I feel like actors find that it does take a bit of the own-ness off of the acting part. It’s like there’s real life, and then there’s the scene. So if you can erase the line between real life and the scene, that might help.”
Long, awkward pauses helped make ‘The Office’ a great show
Everything that went on behind the scenes, including the actor’s prep work and the showrunners choices, helped create the show so many people know and love. But the interesting rhythms and unique comedic timing are what makes The Office so special.
“The rhythms were not like any kind of comedic rhythm you would ever see,” co-executive producer Teri Weinberg explained. “We took pride in the super long pauses.”
At the time, shows on television didn’t feature the “talking head” shots The Office did. “The only kind of ‘confessionals’ that you would see were the Bernie Mac confessionals where he would talk to America,” Weinberg recalled. “We were kind of defying all of the conventional broadcast comedy rhythms, tropes, and things like that by just being a fly on the wall in one of the most boring places in the history of a paper company.”
That unique approach is what has allowed The Office to remain relevant. “Eveyrthing we did was kind of like ‘F*ck it, this is the natural life of what happens in this workplace, and we’re going for it,'” Weinberg added.
Baumgartner pointed out how many of the people who worked on the show didn’t think it was going to last. Fortunately, they were very wrong — and continue to be! The Office continues to entertain generation after generation, thanks to its new home on Netflix.