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Novak Set to Round Out “The Office” Comedy Series

Cassie Belek | Friday, April 11, 2008

Fans are happy enough that “The Office” returned last night after a long, writers’ strike-induced hiatus, but students can continue their big, long sigh of relief with B.J. Novak’s appearance tomorrow night at Washington Hall.

Novak, who portrays former temp-turned-corporate-sleaze Ryan Howard and is a writer on the show, is the third “Office” cast member to visit campus as part of SUB’s “The Office” Comedy Series. Both Mindy Kaling (Kelly) and Craig Robinson (Darryl) appeared at Washington Hall on March 29.

Novak, who in 2003 was named one of Variety’s “10 Comedians to Watch,” will perform stand-up and will be accompanied by an opener who is not affiliated with “The Office.”

SUB’s special events programmers Pat Gartland and Matt McKenna first had the idea to bring Novak to campus during the writers’ strike, but then decided to expand the appearance into a series.

“We knew that some of the other cast members had backgrounds in stand-up and decided that we could do a stand-up series instead of just presentations and Q&A, as we did with the ‘SNL’ speaker series last spring,” Gartland said.

In her stand-up routine opening for Robinson, Kaling joked about everything from Observer headlines to Scarlett Johansson’s deep voice and she even made a phone call to Novak so that he could announce that he was coming. Robinson used his keyboard to integrate music and sing-a-longs into his comedy. Both actors came back onstage after their performances to answer questions from the audience before posing for pictures and signing autographs.

Gartland said that earlier in the day, he took Robinson, who had first visited family in Chicago, for a tour around campus and to the bookstore while Kaling slept since shooting on “The Office” had not ended until 3 a.m. in Los Angeles. But despite Robinson’s “Office” fame, he was not recognized by everyone on campus.

“Craig and I actually did get stopped by the campus guards at the gated entrance,” Gartland said. “The guard would not let us on campus without a pass or a reason.”

Robinson alluded to the incident in his stand-up routine, which drew big laughs from everyone familiar with the strict guidelines of the guards at the entrance gates.

Coordinating the actors’ appearances proved to be somewhat challenging since “The Office” is shot and written every day of the week. Gartland said that Kaling, Robinson and Novak were only available on Saturdays, and even then Gartland and McKenna had to make sure that Washington Hall was available for those appearances.

Eventually, everything came together and “The Office” Comedy Series was created. Gartland said that SUB specifically looked for “Office” cast members with a background in stand-up and that it got its first three choices. While Novak’s appearance marks the last one by an “Office” cast member this semester, Gartland isn’t ruling out more “Office” appearances in the future.

“That will be up to the new programmers as they plan for next year’s events over the summer,” he said.

In the meantime, Gartland is just grateful to be able to bring people like Kaling, Robinson and Novak to campus.

“It is a great feeling to be able to program events that students are interested in attending,” he said. “I think one of the best things about SUB is that we can put on events or shows that students truly want to experience.”

For the most part, Kaling and Robinson appeared to enjoy their time here as much as the audience.

“Mindy’s first reaction to landing at the airport was texting Matt that ‘South Bend is so pretty!'” Gartland said. “We could not tell if she was being sarcastic.”

Contact Cassie Belek at [email protected]