“That’s what she said” jokes instantly struck a chord with the congregation of Tech’s Office fanatics that filled Ferst Center on Sunday, Sept. 19, for an evening of stand-up comedy. The show was courtesy of the Student Center Programs Council and presented actor/writer B.J. Novak.
Most of the crowd knew Novak as “Ryan the Temp” from NBC’s The Office or as a Nazi hunter alongside Brad Pitt in Quinton Tarantino’s latest masterpiece, Inglorious Basterds. However, the show allowed Novak’s fans to see a different aspect of his comedic genius that is not conveyed in the roles he typically plays.
Novak’s engaging stage presence and connection with the audience proved him to be a talented performer that can hold his own. Even his appearance, an untucked, button-down shirt and jeans, conveyed a markedly different disposition from his usual roles.
To those outside of New York City’s comedy club scene, Novak is not primarily known for his stand-up routine.
Novak said he would choose writing over acting, stating that he will always, first and foremost, be a writer.
This comes as no surprise, as he studied History and Literature at Harvard and was a writer for the well-known college publication, the Harvard Lampoon.
Greg Daniels, the executive producer of the “The Office,” saw one of Novak’s performances and cast him as Ryan Howard. After being cast, Novak utilized his writing talents to write several well-known episodes for the series.
Fresh off the plane from Los Angeles, Novak was quick to begin the show with a jab at Google Maps for its estimated travel time from Hartsfield-Jackson to Ferst Drive being four minutes.
He then went on to describe his favorite comedians in history, noting that Benjamin Franklin is certainly at the top of his list. After all, he did ask to be put on the one hundred dollar bill with the declaration that “One-day they’ll rap about me!”
Then, he shared with the audience his “new children’s book” featuring Wikipedia Brown, a personification of Wikipedia.com where “everyone contributes” and “you never really find out what you were looking for in the first place because you keep getting distracted.”
After a routine in which he tried to make a “shy puppet” tell a joke and a test run of a bunch of jokes with the rejects being tossed in the trashcan, he opened up for a Q&A session with the audience.
Most of the questions concerned “The Office”. Novak talked about what is was like to work with Jenna Fischer (Pam) and Angela Kinsey (Angela), saying they were both “natural to work with” and then punctuating with “that’s what she said”.
He also commented on the big news that Steve Carrell, who plays regional manager Michael Scott, is leaving but has no definite word on who his replacement will be.
Novak proved to have an excellent live stage presence and appears to genuinely love doing what he does. The show, about an hour long, seemed to be too short and the audience was left wanting more of his witty observations.