Rainn Wilson: Why the Awkward Humor on “The Office” Is Funny
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Ricky Gervais was able to capitalize on a generational shift with an understanding that so much of the comedy is not set up, set up, punch line. It really is about characters behaving and the reactions to that behavior.
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Rainn Wilson is an actor best known for his role as the egomaniacal Dwight Schrute in the NBC sitcom “The Office.” He grew up in Seattle, Wash., as a member of the Baha’i faith, and attended NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts. He is the founder of the Web site Soul Pancake (and the recently published book of the same name).
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TRANSCRIPT
Question: “The Office” relies heavily on embarrassing moments for humor. Why are we so into awkwardness in humor?

Rainn Wilson: Our show is the most kind of awkward, embarrassing and kind of real show on TV that deals with that color of comedy. I think we’re the best in that genre, which we inherited from the brilliant English show, but what is so interesting to me is how much young people like that kind of humor. They love it. Older people, they don’t like it. They’re like, “I can’t watch it. It’s too awkward. It’s too painful. The people are too gross. They’re weird. They’re mean and it’s awkward. I can’t stand it.” Young kids I mean down to 9, 10, 11, 12 year-olds they eat it up. They love “The Office.” They have it memorized. They love that kind of awkward humor.

I don’t know what it is, but it seems that Ricky Gervais was able to just capitalize almost on a generational shift with an understanding that so much of the comedy is not in the set up, set up, punch line. There is very few “jokes” on our show. It really is behavior, characters behaving and the reactions to that behavior. You know Dwight will do something stupid, but the laugh is on Pam watching it or Jim seeing it and then turning to the camera because that is I think how young people… that is how young people feel today. You know they’re seeing all this absurdity and it’s like if they could young people would just be like and just look at the camera, so it’s less say a comedy of awkwardness and more a comedy of reactivity.

Question: Do you have a similar sense of humor?

Rainn Wilson: I really like the stuff that is very absurd and very real at the same time. I think Anton Chekhov is the greatest comedy writer of all time. I think he would make a great addition to The Office staff. If you look through Chekhov plays there is a lot of awkward pauses in there. His mixture of pathos, absurdity, truthfulness and whimsy is just mixed together perfectly.
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20 Comments

  • Big Think 1 month ago

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  • Twonkie 1 month ago

    This show helped get me out of suicidal ideation. Not lying at all. I owe my life to these people.

  • zhu kevin 1 month ago

    Always seeing the office in meme reference then i finally decide to watch it from s1 last week and my life has never been better 😁😁😭 this show came out when i was like 5 lol

  • KriegerBR29 1 month ago

    I'm really into dark humor, weird, mean, absurd jokes. I laugh at a lot of heavy stuff many people won't. And embarrassment can be very funny, indeed. But I can't laugh at this show. It's a type of awkward that is silly. Dwight, for example, looks like he is mentally retarded. And then Jim comes and make some silly prank like that he is becoming a vampire because a bat bit him. WTF.

  • Jurel 1 month ago

    I'm sorry I didn't understand anything. It's the glasses. I'm so sorry.

  • Buzz Lightyear 1 month ago

    I think dwight is portraying rainn wilson

  • Jack Mahoney 1 month ago

    If you have to convince everyone you’re funny then you aren’t funny

  • Jake ONeill 1 month ago

    When I’m at work and somebody does something stupid I turn and look at the security cameras with my best Jim face!

  • Tomato Fettuccini 1 month ago

    That's not an explanation of why it's "funny" (its totally not) but an explanation of why it's popular.

  • Derek Derek 1 month ago

    omg chekhov!!!!! антоша чехонте, брат моего брата

  • Home Sweet home 1 month ago

    I wonder if he thinks his nose is small

  • Lemon Car 1 month ago

    Its because its relatable.

  • OneLazyLlama 1 month ago

    I love it because it’s something different and I’ve never seen anything like it. The humor isn’t what you’ll see in a normal comedy. Pls the office has emotional scenes and includes many things that are actually relatable. Not like the other comedies where they are trying to be “hashtag relatable.” The Office is by far the best and most unique show I’ve ever watched.

  • Jeff Wulf 1 month ago

    So true. It's so cringe-y I actually have to pause it and come back and watch it later.

  • Elad Lavi 1 month ago

    Humor is the most subjective thing there is,that's why it usually gets an extreme polarity of reactions… music can't beat it,not even abstract art..but its 2nd to humor…

  • Rose Thorn 1 month ago

    Still watch it to this day

  • Pill Bug 1 month ago

    The way he interpreted and explained this is amazing accurate

  • appleseedfanatic 1 month ago

    The show sucks. I didn't laugh once. The camera free movement and zooming in and out broke immersion.

  • Quaidworks Entertainment 1 month ago

    It's called cringe humor and you guys pioneered it

  • Roughman 1 month ago

    Adults don't like the Office because awkward situations look too real and you automatically go "Oh, no! That was stupid/crass/inappropriate" when you see Michael does something every five minutes. You automatically calculate the coming consequences of that and it almost physically pains you. Kids are stupid and have no frame of reference as many of them are too young, never worked or have worked for a relatively short period of time.

    Love the show

Comments are closed.