Writer and executive producer of “The Office” B. J. Novak performed on Saturday as the headlining Winterfest Weekend comedian. The opening act set the bar fairly low, so Novak’s appearance onstage was a breath of fresh air.
Novak began his set with several Rochester-relevant jokes about the George Eastman Museum, the Museum of Play (or, as he called it, the “Toy Museum”), and Salvatore’s trademarked slogan, “We deliver everything… but babies!” He joked that the Museum of Play is corrupt for failing to induct such classic games as checkers and chess into its toy hall of fame until years after its inception. He shocked us all with the fact that the common blanket is actually considered a toy.
Novak is appealing because his aesthetic is that of a relatable, normal guy. But, it felt at times like Novak was blatantly advertising his app and his book. He referenced an argument that he had had with super-famous colleague Mindy Kaling to draw attention to his app, dubbed “The List App.” Yes, the quarrel between the two was funny, but it was fairly obvious that he wanted a comedic segue to publicize his product. Novak also read several of his short stories from his new book,“One More Thing: Stories and Other Stories,” at various points during the show. To be fair, the stories were fantastic and, again, relatable.
Novak ended the show with jokes he had written, but wasn’t entirely sure were up to par—so he read them to the audience. The jokes that received positive reactions went back into his briefcase, and the ones that fell flat went into the garbage (recycling) bin. At one point, Novak trod on thin ice with a joke about attending a transgender meeting. But his punchline took a potentially offensive joke and did a 180 by making everyone aware of what not to joke about regarding transgender issues. My personal favorite joke discussed how honey often comes in bear-shaped jars, which is completely unfair because bears steal honey, rather than make it, like bees. Novak noted that if he were a bee, he would totally sting everybody if he knew about this.
Overall, Novak’s performance was witty, worthwhile, and impressive.