At 8:15 p.m. Saturday night, devoted fans of B. J. Novak, star of ‘The Office” lined up in the bitter cold to get front-row seats in Strong Auditorium to hear the comedian speak.
Several signs posted on Strong’s doors announced the show was sold out, and on more than one occasion, staff workers politely reminded the audience not to save seats and to move toward the center of the aisles.
As the house lights dimmed, cheers erupted from the crowd, followed by excited chatter.
B. J. Novak strolled onstage with a briefcase, looking slightly older and more mature in person than on TV, albeit beardless, as someone in the audience astutely observed when she inquired, ‘Where’s your half-beard?”
His opening remarks included, ‘This is gonna be a fun night, I can tell already. That’s what she said,” utilized the favorite phrase of the Dunder-Mifflin boss, Michael Scott.
After making another reference to ‘That’s what she said” later in the show, Novak revealed his motive for originally establishing it as Michael Scott’s catch phrase.
Novak’s personal enjoyment of seeing Michael unable to restrain himself from saying ‘That’s what she said” whenever the oppurtunity presented itself, culminated during the season finale when his dream of seeing Michael use ‘That’s what she said” in a court trial came true.
Topics of the evening were of a wide variety, ranging from Google Maps, to the ‘ShamWow,” to crack houses, to Oscar the Grouch.
Much in the same manner, Novak’s style of humor varied from highly crude, with F-bombs and hand gestures abounding, to very innocent.
In one joke, Novak described the ideology of terrorists, explaining that if they wreaked havoc on earth to support their fanatical ideas while they were alive, they would be rewarded in heaven by being allowed to ‘f*ck all the virgins they wanted.” Elaborating on the more crude side of his humor, Novak then continued to bring to the audience’s attention what this must be like for the virgins. They lead a chaste life, always dress modestly in public and are rewarded in Heaven by… being ‘f*cked by terrorists?”
Conversely, on the cleaner end of the joke spectrum, Novak introduced the audience to Shy Puppet. From within Novak’s briefcase, Shy Puppet, a spotted frog with bulging green eyes, emerged. Although Novak assured us Shy Puppet was hilarious, the timorous amphibian was too bashful to share his joke about Kermit the Frog with the audience.
The segment of the evening that best captured and harmoniously combined both the lewd and clean aspects of Novak’s humor was a piece on pandas. Novak addressed the problem of the decreasing panda population according to Novak, virtually everyone believes pandas to be cute, except pandas. He then indulged us with his belief that if Novak was a panda, he would be ‘f*cking the sh*t out of it, just so I could cuddle after!” Unfortunately for the pandas, Novak is still part of the human species.
In closing, Novak brought out a series of cards with jokes on them for the audience to judge whether they were funny or not. Busts included jokes about a man who liked water so much, he ended up drinking a glass of water with ‘frozen water”(ice) in it and the audacity of winter lasting long enough for it to be white outside on Martin Luther King Jr. Day. Jokes well received by the audience included Novak’s contrasting opinion with Poe, Lord Byron and Liszt that there is no such thing as a ‘Romantic Period” and a segment on’Battered Women” sounds delicious, but that doesn’t make it right.
After seeing the show that night, I heard through friends that some people didn’t like the show because Novak seemed stiff onstage, being inexperienced in stand-up comedy. However, his inexperience gave Novak an advantage during his performance.
Novak’s candor and personable character throughout the night made him appear more natural onstage. Instead of an overly scripted, larger-than-life act that many comedians perform, Novak’s act gave him the appearance of a really funny guy you might know who just happens to be talking into a microphone onstage.Something else I found refreshing about Novak was that he did not have to incorporate sex into every joke in order to be comical.
Although there was a fair amount of sexual humor, it was not overwhelming. Novak was clever enough to create comedy in unexpected ways, such as in his new children’s mystery entitled ‘Wikipedia Brown and the Case of the Missing Bicycle.” In the story, character Sally reminds Joey, ‘We always get distracted by Wikipedia Brown and forget what we were investigating in the first place!”
It was well worth the cost of a mere $5 ticket to see B.J. Novak live. His range of humor made it entertaining for all different types of people. Various props used throughout the show made his comedy more exciting and helped to keep acts flowing smoothly. Novak’s comedic style stayed true to the form used on ‘The Office,” and any fan or casual viewer would have enjoyed the show immensely.

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