The Office Cast Does An Oral History For One Of The Funniest Episodes Ever, "Dinner Party"

Rolling Stone - ‘The Dinner Party’ was the most brilliantly excruciating episode of ‘The Office.’ John Krasinski, Jenna Fischer, Ed Helms and more look back on its 10th anniversary

As the first season of NBC’s The Office drew to a close in the spring of 2005, the show was on life support. Much of the press had dismissed it as a pale retread of the groundbreaking Ricky Gervais-led U.K. original, and its ratings had fallen each week it had been on the air. But over the next two seasons, the series, starring Steve Carell as the manager of a Scranton, Pennsylvania, paper company called Dunder Mifflin, gradually found its footing. Going into its fourth season, The Office had strong ratings and serious momentum, despite a looming writers’ strike that would eventually shut down most of Hollywood (including a good chunk of that season of The Office). But no one could have quite predicted how great the season’s 13th episode was. On April 10th, 2008, The Office topped itself with its best half-hour ever – and perhaps the best comedy episode of the decade.

Rolling Stone: That One Night: The Oral History of the Greatest ‘Office’ Episode Ever

As much as I dislike Rolling Stone, I’m an absolute sucker for oral histories.  And if you do an oral history for one of the funniest episodes of one of my favorite (maybe favorite I think) TV shows of all time, I’m gonna click it, I’m gonna read it, and I’m gonna blog it.  Bravo for finding my weak spot.  Hopefully you double and triple checked the reporting on this one to make sure you were using real sources who existed.

The obvious best moment:  Michael’s plasma flat screen.

I laugh every time this GIF loops on the page.

Every time.

And so did the cast.

“…When he’s showing us his flatscreen television. And it’s so tiny. We laughed so hard, like, tears were streaming down our faces,” Jenna Fisher said. “Every time they turned on the camera, either [Fischer] or me would just be absolutely in fits of laughter,” Melora Hardin, who played Jan Levinson, said.

“It probably took the longest of any of the other scenes, because we had to literally take a break and walk away to stop laughing. And I don’t even know what we were laughing about. I think we were hot and exhausted,” she added.

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So fucking funny.

There are so many good tidbits in here:

Greg Daniels (executive producer/co-creator): I had an expression that I used in the writers room to describe a scene where the situation was charged, where several characters had different opinions and there was an excuse for them to all sit around and fire off great lines one at a time. I called it a “killing field,” like it was just nonstop joke-joke-joke. They were usually scenes like a diversity-training seminar in the conference room. Once Jim and Pam got to the condo, this entire episode was a killing field.

Melora Hardin (Jan Levinson): Jan’s boob job came from the first year that we went to the [network] upfronts [where advertisers preview upcoming shows], and I turned to Greg and said, “It’s funny, I’m looking around at the females in our cast, and I’m thinking nobody in our cast has a boob job.” Now, I’m not sure that I’m totally right about that, by the way, but that’s what I thought. His wheels just started turning in that moment. It was just so funny to see. That was when he thought, “Ding-ding-ding-ding! Jan’s getting a boob job!” When Michael broke up with her, in order to get him back, she goes and gets her boobs giant. I just think that’s hilarious, and obviously the beginning of her losing her shit.

To Jan, Michael was this guy who was kind of an idiot, but also represented this possibility for her white picket fence, which is why the dinner party is so resonant. That really is Jan’s moment of white picket fence. It’s her moment of “here we are living together, and I’m gonna have a candle business, and we have a Warhol on the wall of me, and [Michael] adores me, and we’re gonna have this perfect life.” It’s her having a delusional fantasy of normalcy.

Lee Eisenberg (co-writer): We always got notes from the network, and sometimes those could be really contentious, but Greg Daniels always handled them really well and at that point we had a pretty good trust and a good shorthand with the network. So the writers got called in to the office to hear the notes. Greg gets on the phone and the executives are on the other line, on speakerphone. Only the writers have read the scripts so far and this is, you know, before the table read, and they get on the phone, and they go, “This script is really, really dark.” And Greg said, “Yeah.” And there’s a pause and they said, “It’s really dark.” And Greg said, “Yeah. It is.” And they go, “It’s really dark.” And he goes, “Yup.” And then he goes, “OK, anything else, guys?” And they said, “Uh . . . nope.” They hung up and that was it. They didn’t offer any other notes.

Jenna Fischer (Pam Beesly): I couldn’t stop laughing when we shot the scene where Jan catches me eating. It was insane. There’s a scene where they’re giving us a tour of the house, and Steve explains that he sleeps on the little chaise longue at the end of the bed, and we could not get through that scene. Every time he went to explain that that’s where he slept, the way he delivered that was so funny, and then he would, like, curl up. . . .

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Michael curling up on the chaise to show how he sleeps was a very close second for funniest moment.

Now if you’ll excuse me I’ve got to head over to Daily Motion for 25 minutes and 57 seconds.