The Visual Performing Arts Center Theater at Oklahoma City Community College was filled with laughter on the evening of Thursday, April 28th.
OCCC alumni and multimedia broadcaster Lacey Lett hosted the discussion panel with two stars from the TV sitcom the Office.
For those who don’t know, The Office is an American adaptation of a British show that depicts the work environment and everyday interactions between employees. The show highlights the staff of a paper company called Dunder Mifflin, and is set in Scranton, Pennsylvania.
Oscar Nunez who plays Oscar Martinez, and Brian Baumgartner who plays Kevin Malone, joined Lett at the VPAC Theater to discuss student submitted questions, and other topics related to the Office.
As everyone settled into their seats on stage, Lett began by asking if either had been to the state of Oklahoma before. While Nunez said he had not, Baumgartner replied, “Just think of me as Oklahoma, and Oscar as Oklahoma State,” referring to the local rivalry between the University of Oklahoma and Oklahoma State University.
“He just asked the kids in the back, ‘Who do people root for more?’ no wonder,” joked Nunez as the crowd burst in laughter.
OCCC students were given the opportunity to submit questions online leading up to the panel, and some were pre-approved and chosen to be asked at the event.
An OCCC student, who wanted to remain anonymous, asked, “How often do you guys get recognized in your daily lives, and when you do your daily activities?”
Nunez joked, “I get recognized I think like 92% of the time, and Brian gets recognized 32% of the time.”
“I don’t know, not so much in L.A., where people don’t care,” he added.
Baumgartner responded, “You know it’s interesting because when the show was on, the Office was the number one show on NBC. But at the time it wasn’t like we thought of as like Friends.”
“Friends was billboards, cover of Vogue every week, Jennifer Aniston, and like the whole thing. But this weird thing has happened since the show ended, that the show is bigger now than it was I think when it was on.”
“And in point of fact, you know you’ve got new shows that are out, the hot shows, right? Despite all of that, today, right now, more people are watching the Office than are watching any other show on television.”
Lett went through the list asking another anonymous question, “Why do you think it has become more popular?”
“I was listening to your podcast with Billie Eilish, and she’s seen it probably now more than 14 times. Why do you think it has become more and more popular?” continued Lett.
Baumgartner also hosts a podcast discussing the series, in which he included an episode with singer-songwriter and the Office superfan, Billie Eilish.
“I don’t know. I think you know, you guys, everyone here probably has a different answer. I will tell this funny thing. So yeah, I talked to Billie Eilish for the podcast about being a superfan, and I posted something on social media and was like you know, Billie Eilish has seen the show 14 times. I can’t tell you how many people replied going like, ‘I’ve seen it 32! 14, she’s an amateur,” said Baumgartner.
He continued, “I think that there’s a lot of reasons actually that the show has kind of endured and stayed with us, and I can get a more serious later but honestly, I think that the big discovery that I had, when we made the show, we were making it for people who worked in an office, right?”
“It was like okay, if people who work in an office kind of get this humor, then we’ll be pretty successful. But I think in terms of the universal experience of being in a group of people: an unreasonable boss that makes his employees do unreasonable or stupid things, while sitting next to people like Creed.”
“That’s a really clear translation between that and the experience of an unreasonable teacher, making their students do unreasonable and stupid things, while sitting next to people that you don’t necessarily choose to sit next to, year after year.”
Nunez chimed in with a quick quip, “I can’t disprove that. I want to, I don’t want to agree with everything he says. Are you sure? If we look at the people at the very core—,” inciting laughter from the crowd yet again.
Further questions were asked as the actors interacted with the crowd and discussed topics including how they think the different array of characters would have handled COVID-19 in the office, to where they think their characters would hypothetically be today.
Following the panel, Nunez and Baumgartner took additional time to sign autographs and memorabilia for students and fans, as well as take a quick picture before saying their goodbyes.
Watch the panel below.