Paul Feig on Finding the Humor in Steve Carell’s Tearful Exit from “The Office”

Paul Feig on Finding the Humor in Steve Carell’s Tearful Exit from “The Office” (photo)

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It’s true, Paul Feig is available for weddings and other special occasions, but only for “The Office.” The show, which has invited its former co-executive producer back to direct many of its biggest events, such as Jim and Pam’s nuptials (“Niagara”), once again turned to “Freaks and Geeks” creator to helm Steve Carell’s final turn as the often clueless Michael Scott on the show, which airs Thursday night on NBC. “Goodbye, Michael” will see the Scranton branch manager of Dunder Mifflin leave for Colorado while his replacement (Will Ferrell) and the veteran staff duke it out for his clients.

Even without his prior connection to the show, few directors would be better suited to manage the emotions of the occasion as well as keeping the laughs on track as Feig, having helmed at least one episode of nearly every great television comedy in the past decade. In two weeks, we will have a much longer interview with him about his career as a director on the eve of the release of his latest feature “Bridesmaids.” But in the mean time, we wanted to post this part of our conversation about what it was like to be on the set for Carell’s swan song as one of television’s most famous characters.

What was it like to balance the emotions of the day while doing a comedy?

It was just emotionally hard because I actually hadn’t been back in like a season-and-a-half since the wedding episode, which I loved and then I just got busy with the movie and other stuff. But when this popped up, I was thrilled to do it. It was hard because even though I was away for a season-and-a-half, the enormity of the fact that Steve was leaving was always around us.

I think Michael Scott is one of those seminal characters in TV history, just like Archie Bunker was or Ted Danson’s Sam Malone. And it was funny because Greg Daniels, [“The Office” creator] who is one of my heroes, he was very smart because every scene was so emotional — we were getting all choked up and.occasionally you’d [think] this episode’s going to be great just because it’s going to be so emotional and sad — and he kept going, “Yeah, but if it doesn’t work that way, it might just be too much. We don’t just want to roll around in this emotion all the time.”

Mindy Kaling was actually saying the scariest thing is you become the thing where you’re doing something where everyone’s sad and crying and the audience at home is going like, “Why’s everybody crying? It’s not that sad.” So if you make something more out of it than the audience is feeling, then you’ve just got disaster because that’s where everybody’s like “yech…” So it was interesting dealing with this emotion on the set where everybody was very emotional because like “this is my last scene with Steve” and all that, yet all of us still being able to go like, “Wait, okay, let’s make it funny. It’s still got to be funny.” So it was a real challenge, but it was a fun challenge and everyone was so good in it.

What was it like to working with Steve on his final show?

Steve’s just one of the best comedic actors…just best actors, period, but he has an ability to ground everything. Nothing he does is bullshit. And he has such a high meter of “No, that’s fake. I wouldn’t do that. The character wouldn’t do that. This feels unreal.” That’s that’s why he’s so funny because it’s all so human what he’s doing. Even when he’s doing stuff that’s bigger, it’s still coming from this very human place and so I’ve learned so much working with Steve. He’s just one of my heroes. But it was interesting. We’re actually going to shoot some more stuff for the episode because I think we’re going to try to expand it to an hour. [NBC did, in fact, supersize the show to be an hour long.)

I hope you didn’t have to bring Steve back.

No, Steve’s gone! Wouldn’t that be the best? Harmonies, tearful goodbyes. Oh, here he’s back. It’s like leaving your going away party and then you forget your keys, so [after] everybody’s tearful goodbye, you come back [sheepishly], “Oh I forgot my keys, sorry, goodbye.”

The “Goodbye, Michael” episode of “The Office” airs April 28th at 9 p.m./8 p.m. CST.

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Bro and Tell

BFFs And Night Court For Sports

Bromance and Comeuppance On Two New Comedy Crib Series

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“Silicon Valley meets Girls meets black male educators with lots of unrealized potential.”

That’s how Carl Foreman Jr. and Anthony Gaskins categorize their new series Frank and Lamar which joins Joe Schiappa’s Sport Court in the latest wave of new series available now on IFC’s Comedy Crib. To better acquaint you with the newbies, we went right to the creators for their candid POVs. And they did not disappoint. Here are snippets of their interviews:

Frank and Lamar


IFC: How would you describe Frank and Lamar to a fancy network executive you met in an elevator?
Carl: Best bros from college live and work together teaching at a fancy Manhattan private school, valiantly trying to transition into a more mature phase of personal and professional life while clinging to their boyish ways.

IFC: And to a friend of a friend you met in a bar?
Carl: The same way, slightly less coherent.

Anthony: I’d probably speak about it with much louder volume, due to the bar which would probably be playing the new Kendrick Lamar album. I might also include additional jokes about Carl, or unrelated political tangents.

Carl: He really delights in randomly slandering me for no reason. I get him back though. Our rapport on the page, screen, and in real life, comes out of a lot of that back and forth.

IFC: In what way is Frank and Lamar a poignant series for this moment in time?
Carl: It tells a story I feel most people aren’t familiar with, having young black males teach in a very affluent white world, while never making it expressly about that either. Then in tackling their personal lives, we see these three-dimensional guys navigate a pivotal moment in time from a perspective I feel mainstream audiences tend not to see portrayed.

Anthony: I feel like Frank and Lamar continues to push the envelope within the genre by presenting interesting and non stereotypical content about people of color. The fact that this show brought together so many talented creative people, from the cast and crew to the producers, who believe in the project, makes the work that much more intentional and truthful. I also think it’s pretty incredible that we got to employ many of our friends!

Sport Court

Sport Court gavel

IFC: How would you describe Sport Court to a fancy network executive you met in an elevator?
Joe: SPORT COURT follows Judge David Linda, a circuit court judge assigned to handle an ad hoc courtroom put together to prosecute rowdy fan behavior in the basement of the Hartford Ultradome. Think an updated Night Court.

IFC: How would you describe Sport Court to drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?
Joe: Remember when you put those firecrackers down that guy’s pants at the baseball game? It’s about a judge who works in a court in the stadium that puts you in jail right then and there. I know, you actually did spend the night in jail, but imagine you went to court right that second and didn’t have to get your brother to take off work from GameStop to take you to your hearing.

IFC: Is there a method to your madness when coming up with sports fan faux pas?
Joe: I just think of the worst things that would ruin a sporting event for everyone. Peeing in the slushy machine in open view of a crowd seemed like a good one.

IFC: Honestly now, how many of the fan transgressions are things you’ve done or thought about doing?
Joe: I’ve thought about ripping out a whole row of chairs at a theater or stadium, so I would have my own private space. I like to think of that really whenever I have to sit crammed next to lots of people. Imagine the leg room!

Check out the full seasons of Frank and Lamar and Sport Court now on IFC’s Comedy Crib.

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Millennial Wisdom

Charles Speaks For Us All

Get to know Charles, the social media whiz of Brockmire.

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He may be an unlikely radio producer Brockmire, but Charles is #1 when it comes to delivering quips that tie a nice little bow on the absurdity of any given situation.

Charles also perfectly captures the jaded outlook of Millennials. Or at least Millennials as mythologized by marketers and news idiots. You know who you are.

Played superbly by Tyrel Jackson Williams, Charles’s quippy nuggets target just about any subject matter, from entry-level jobs in social media (“I plan on getting some experience here, then moving to New York to finally start my life.”) to the ramifications of fictional celebrity hookups (“Drake and Taylor Swift are dating! Albums y’all!”). But where he really nails the whole Millennial POV thing is when he comments on America’s second favorite past-time after type II diabetes: baseball.

Here are a few pearls.

On Baseball’s Lasting Cultural Relevance

“Baseball’s one of those old-timey things you don’t need anymore. Like cursive. Or email.”

On The Dramatic Value Of Double-Headers

“The only thing dumber than playing two boring-ass baseball games in one day is putting a two-hour delay between the boring-ass games.”

On Sartorial Tradition

“Is dressing badly just a thing for baseball, because that would explain his jacket.”

On Baseball, In A Nutshell

“Baseball is a f-cked up sport, and I want you to know it.”

Learn more about Charles in the behind-the-scenes video below.

And if you were born before the late ’80s and want to know what the kids think about Baseball, watch Brockmire Wednesdays at 10P on IFC.

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Crown Jules

Amanda Peet FTW on Brockmire

Amanda Peet brings it on Brockmire Wednesday at 10P on IFC.

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GIFS via Giphy

On Brockmire, Jules is the unexpected yin to Jim Brockmire’s yang. Which is saying a lot, because Brockmire’s yang is way out there. Played by Amanda Peet, Jules is hard-drinking, truth-spewing, baseball-loving…everything Brockmire is, and perhaps what he never expected to encounter in another human.

“We’re the same level of functional alcoholic.”

But Jules takes that commonality and transforms it into something special: a new beginning. A new beginning for failing minor league baseball team “The Frackers”, who suddenly about-face into a winning streak; and a new beginning for Brockmire, whose life gets a jumpstart when Jules lures him back to baseball. As for herself, her unexpected connection with Brockmire gives her own life a surprising and much needed goose.

“You’re a Goddamn Disaster and you’re starting To look good to me.”

This palpable dynamic adds depth and complexity to the narrative and pushes the series far beyond expected comedy. See for yourself in this behind-the-scenes video (and brace yourself for a unforgettable description of Brockmire’s genitals)…

Want more about Amanda Peet? She’s all over the place, and has even penned a recent self-reflective piece in the New York Times.

And of course you can watch the Jim-Jules relationship hysterically unfold in new episodes of Brockmire, every Wednesday at 10PM on IFC.

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