January 25, 2022
This week Jenna and Angela interview Mike Schur! Mike Schur wrote on the first four seasons of “The Office” and played Dwight’s mysterious cousin, Mose Schrute. Mike also worked on “Saturday Night Live” and created shows like “Parks and Recreation”, “Brooklyn Nine-Nine”, “The Good Place” and “Rutherford Falls”. Angela talks with Mike about a scene where she slapped him so hard he spun, Jenna and Mike talk about the difference between acting on a TV show vs a movie, and of course, Mike talks about his love/hate relationship with playing the character of Mose. So take a trip down memory lane and enjoy the moments of a stringy beard man who works on America’s favorite beet farm.
Check out Mike Schur’s Book, “How to Be Perfect: The Correct Answer to Every Moral Question”: https://www.simonandschuster.com/books/How-to-Be-Perfect/Michael-Schur/9781982159313
Follow Mike on Twitter: @KenTremendous
107 — Interview with Mike Schur
OFFICE-107- Interview with Mike Schur
Jenna [00:00:03] I’m Jenna Fischer.
Angela [00:00:04] And I’m Angela Kinsey.
Jenna [00:00:06] We were on The Office together.
Angela [00:00:07] And we’re best friends.
Jenna [00:00:08] And now we’re doing the ultimate Office rewatch podcast just for you.
Angela [00:00:12] Each week, we will break down an episode of The Office and give exclusive behind the scenes stories that only two people who were there can tell you.
Jenna [00:00:19] We’re the Office Ladies. Hello, everyone.
Angela [00:00:25] Hi, you guys.
Jenna [00:00:26] We are really excited about this week’s episode.
Angela [00:00:29] It’s kind of special.
Jenna [00:00:30] It really is. We got to interview Mike Shur. You guys know he played Mose on the show. He was also one of our original writers. We got to interview him. And it was awesome.
Angela [00:00:41] It was delicious. We loved it. We re-listened to it and we’re like, this needs to be a whole episode.
Jenna [00:00:47] Yeah, we just had so much to talk with him about. But first, we’re still going to give you fast facts.
Angela [00:00:54] Always fast facts, guys.
Jenna [00:00:55] You know.
Angela [00:00:56] Always fast facts.
Jenna [00:00:58] Oh my gosh.
Angela [00:00:59] Jenna, I feel like you’re going to be like in your 80s and you’re going to be like sitting in a corner, mumbling like fast facts, fast facts, fast facts. And they’ll be like, What’s grandma talking about? Oh, she used to do this thing called fast facts.
Jenna [00:01:11] Well, these are Mike Schur fast facts. Fast fact number one, Mike was on the writing staff from season one through season four. He wrote 10 episodes. And here’s what they were. The Alliance, Office Olympics, Christmas Party, Valentine’s Day, that was one of our hidden gems in our relisten. Branch Closing, Traveling Salesman, The Return, The Negotiation, The Job- that’s the one where Jim comes in and asks Pam on a date at the end.
Angela [00:01:43] I know.
Jenna [00:01:45] And Dunder Mifflin Infinity.
Angela [00:01:47] You know, Mike told me The Negotiation was his favorite Angela Martin episode.
Jenna [00:01:51] Oh, really?
Angela [00:01:52] She’s like getting titillated by hearing people recount the Jim and Roy scuffles.
Jenna [00:01:58] Yes. Yes.
Angela [00:01:58] Yeah, he said that was his favorite episode to write for my character.
Jenna [00:02:01] I felt like he just liked writing for your character a lot. Your character always had great moments in his episodes.
Angela [00:02:08] They did. I loved it when Mike was assigned an episode.
Jenna [00:02:11] Well, Mike also wrote The Accountants webisodes with Paul Lieberstein. He played Mose in 13 episodes of the show, starting in season two. He talks a lot about playing Mose in our interview. It’s very fun.
Angela [00:02:24] It is. His love-hate relationship with Mose. Well, here is fast fact number two. I’m going to talk to you about shows he’s created. I think you guys know the show that he started on, SNL. He was there for six seasons. During his time on SNL, he produced the Weekend Update.
Jenna [00:02:41] Oh, yeah.
Angela [00:02:41] Yeah. From 2001
Jenna [00:02:42] That’s a big deal. That’s a prestigious position.
Angela [00:02:45] Yes, he did it from 2001 to 2004. He, of course, was a writer on The Office until 2008. He then went on to co-create Parks and Rec, Brooklyn Nine-Nine, and he created The Good Place and Rutherford Falls with our very own Ed Helms.
Jenna [00:03:01] Wow.
Angela [00:03:02] Yeah. His resume is full of other shows that he’s also produced on and written for. I have to give a shout out to one, Jenna, because I love this show. Did you know that he co-produced The Comeback with Lisa Kudrow?
Jenna [00:03:15] And he wrote two episodes, and I loved that show.
Angela [00:03:20] I loved it.
Jenna [00:03:21] And I found that out about him in the first season of The Office, and I was like enamored with him. Like, to me, that was like superstar status that he wrote that just amazing satire.
Angela [00:03:36] It makes me want to go back and rewatch it. I had forgotten that he worked on it, and when I was looking up his credits, I was like, Oh, I want to rewatch The Comeback.
Jenna [00:03:44] Well, fast fact number three, Mike Schur wrote a book. It’s called How to Be Perfect: The correct answer to every moral question. Here is how he described it to us in an email. He said, It’s a book about how hard it is to be a good person and how we can use ethics and moral philosophy to try not to screw up all the time. But in a funny way, not like in a homework way. The basic idea was to explain all the stuff I learned for The Good Place without giving everyone a headache. You guys, when we did this interview with Mike, our copies of his book had not arrived yet. But we have them now, and this is a truly special book. I started reading it and I can’t stop. I’m like bingeing a book.
Angela [00:04:29] Same. I love it. I couldn’t put it down. I was reading it last night. This morning I was like, I want to read more. Like, I woke up thinking about it. Do you know what I mean?
Jenna [00:04:36] Yeah.
Angela [00:04:37] So Mike is such an amazing writer. We already know that. But he takes this conversation of morality, and he makes it funny and interesting and relatable. For example, there is a chapter titled- and by the way, all the chapter titles are hilarious, but here’s one that cracked me up. There’s a chapter titled “Do I have to return my shopping cart to the shopping cart rack thingy? It’s all the way over there.”
Jenna [00:05:01] Yes. And then basically what he does is he answers that question, and the answer is based on all of these ancient philosophers and, you know.
Angela [00:05:13] Ethics and morality and your moral compass.
Jenna [00:05:16] Yes. So listen, I think we should take a break, and when we come back, you get to listen to Mike Schur.
Angela [00:05:23] And we get to find out so much about Mose.
Jenna [00:05:26] It’s a treat. We promise. Mike Schur, welcome to Office Ladies.
Angela [00:05:32] Woo hoo!
Mike Schur [00:05:33] I’m so excited to be here. I’m a huge fan of you as people, first of all, first and foremost. Second of all, you as actors. And then third of all, you as podcasters. This has been such a delight to watch you do this thing to celebrate this show that we all made together. I’m so happy to be here. It’s a real honor.
Angela [00:05:51] Oh, Mike, thank you so much. We love you. We’re so thrilled to have you here, and I know the fans are going to enjoy just hearing your voice. Jenna and I both listened to you quite a bit before this, and we both found you really pleasing to listen to.
Mike Schur [00:06:06] Really?
Jenna [00:06:06] Yeah. We like your voice quite a lot.
Angela [00:06:06] We like your voice.
Mike Schur [00:06:08] You listened to me in what context? Where was I talking?
Jenna [00:06:09] Other podcasts, Mike.
Angela [00:06:10] Interviews, podcasts.
Jenna [00:06:12] We do our research here on Office Ladies.
Angela [00:06:14] Yeah.
Mike Schur [00:06:15] That’s very nice of you to say because I’ve always found my own voice to be slightly annoying, which I think maybe most people do. That you’re like, it’s the phenomenon of hearing your voice played back to you in- this is how old we are- is like on an answering machine message or something if you would, you know, you’d be like, Oh, is that what I sound like? I always feel like I sound a little annoying and nasally, but I’m glad to hear you say that.
Jenna [00:06:36] Well, I felt that way about myself, too, and I sort of brushed it off like, Oh, that’s just everybody feels that way about their own voice. But then we recently rewatched an episode where Michael is trying to get Jim to say something bad about Pam. And he gets Jim to admit that Pam’s voice is rather shrill sometimes.
Mike Schur [00:06:55] Yes.
Jenna [00:06:55] And I thought, Oh, I guess, maybe in the writers room when forced to come up with something annoying about me, we settled on my shrill voice. So thank you so much. That didn’t give me a complex or anything.
Angela [00:07:06] Which writer hated your voice?
Jenna [00:07:09] I don’t know. Mike, do you know?
Mike Schur [00:07:10] I’m very, very pleased to say that I think I was gone by the time that was written, so I do not have to answer for that crime.
Jenna [00:07:15] It wasn’t you.
Angela [00:07:16] Well-played.
Jenna [00:07:18] It wasn’t you.
Mike Schur [00:07:18] No.
Jenna [00:07:19] Well, listen, we always like to ask people when they come on the podcast, how did they get their job on The Office? And we know that you did double duty. You were a writer, but then you were also a performer. But let’s start with how did you get your job as a writer on the show?
Mike Schur [00:07:34] So I was writing at Saturday Night Live from 1998 to 2004. My then girlfriend, now wife of 16 years, had moved out to L.A. and in- permanently in like 2002, and we were dating long distance. And in like 2003, it was like, All right, if this is ever going to really work, either she had to move back to New York or I had to leave and move to L.A. and it made more sense for me to move to L.A. because there are more jobs there. So I gave my like year’s notice to Lorne Michaels and said I was leaving at the end of the year and got an agent for the first time in my life because I never needed one and I was like, All right, I’m moving. And the first thing he told me was, You know, this guy Greg Daniels is adapting the British Office for American television, and I responded, uh what a terrible idea, just a disaster. He shouldn’t do this. No one should do this. Because I was a huge fan of the British show. This is such a classic story, right? I I was a huge fan of the British show. I thought it was absolutely brilliant. I didn’t think there was any way it would ever work in America. But it was like, Well, you know, beggars can’t be choosers. Like, I have to get a job out there. So I came to L.A. some time in I don’t remember, like, like winter. I think like February on an off week at SNL, and I had a bunch of meetings and one of them was with Greg. So most of the meetings I had with producers were pretty standard hour-long chats. You know, hey, here’s our- here’s our pilot. Watch the pilot and let’s talk about the show. And I dutifully tried to, you know, say nice things about whatever they were working on. And then I met with Greg, and my meeting with Greg was two hours long, more than two hours long, and it was so different from every other meeting. It was… it was like intense and in-depth and fascinating. In the middle of the meeting, he said. I’m very sorry, but my back is acting up. Would you mind if I laid down? And I said no. And so he lay on the floor on his back in front of me while I sat on his couch. So I think to an outside observer, it would look very much like we were in like Freudian analysis where I was his therapist and he was like free associating. But he just asked the most incisive questions, the most penetrating questions about the nature of storytelling and about the British show and why it worked and what he had to do to make it work here. And I left the meeting and I I texted on my like Motorola Razr. I texted my agent and I said, I don’t know if that guy’s going to offer me a job, but if he does, I’m going to take it because I think he’s going to teach me how to write. And my agent sends me that text, like every four years back to me, he sends it back to me and says, like, You were right, you were right, you were right. So, so Greg offered me the job and I happily took it and I thought, this is obviously not going to work. It’s a it is a it is a fool’s errand to try to adapt this show for an American audience, but he’s going to teach me how to write, and that’s exactly what happened in that first season. You know, the only full time writers really were me, Mindy and B.J., because Lester Lewis, the late Lester Lewis and Paul Lieberstein and Larry Wilmore were consultants. And Mindy and B.J. and I had never written anything, we didn’t have any idea what we were doing. And Greg basically taught a class. He taught a, like the true professor he is, he taught a class on how to write and, and it changed all of our lives forever. So that’s my Office origin story.
Jenna [00:11:26] Wow.
Angela [00:11:26] That is so good.
Jenna [00:11:27] Mike, I remember you guys that first season, there were so few of you. And how close you all became because of that.
Mike Schur [00:11:37] Yeah, it was a tiny little- Greg used to call it a strike force. He was like, This is an elite strike force, which I think was just him trying to boost our confidence because we had no idea what we were doing. But he was really, you know, it was it was a very, very small group of people who were working really, really hard on a very small number of episodes. We only had- we only wrote five scripts like, you know, we each wrote we we actually wrote, we wrote six to make five. I’m not sure if you remember this, but we wrote, or even if you even knew this, Greg- one of the only things that Greg was able to squeeze out of NBC in that first year was he let us write one more script than we would shoot. And so we wrote one extra episode that I think he wrote. And then we just we picked the best five out of the six that we had written and threw the other one away. And I wish I could remember what that other one was. There is there is a lost season one.
Angela [00:12:34] Oh, that’d be a great question for Greg.
Mike Schur [00:12:36] Yeah, there’s a lost season one Office episode script out there somewhere that we just never that we never produced. So he was- and it was like, you know, it was really intense work and it was a combination of sort of like story breaking, but also just like a masterclass in how to create television and what makes a good story. There are times when- I’ve told this story before, but there are times when Greg was talking, we would be pitching and I had a notebook where I would like just jot down ideas and there would be moments when Greg would say, Well, let’s talk about what, let’s just pause for a second and talk about like what makes a good story? And then he would start kind of like going through the list of things that he felt were crucial to good TV stories. And I would realize, like, Oh, he’s in lecture mode is what the way I thought of it was lecture mode, which was a good thing. It sounds like a bad thing, but it was a good thing. And I would turn the page and I would start taking notes like I was in college. And I would just like, write down as if he were an actual professor and I had a test coming up and I would start just writing down. And I still have those notes and I still go back and look at them every once in a while to like, remember to refresh my memory about what he told us all about storytelling. It was that that intense and that sort of foundational and meaningful to all of us.
Angela [00:13:53] Oh man.
Jenna [00:13:53] Wow.
Angela [00:13:54] I do remember those early days about what a small collective we were. Even our table reads, Do you remember? We would just pull up chairs on the stage where we were filming. We would just all grab like a desk chair and sit in a circle and read the script. And I loved that.
Jenna [00:14:11] Mm hmm. It was really intimate.
Mike Schur [00:14:13] There were so many cool things about that first season, including that the the the place where we worked was on this weird soundstage in the middle of Culver City or something. And so Hollywood soundstages are often, you know, these big, gigantic, empty rooms where you put sets and then attached to them, usually you’re above them, are a suite of offices where the writers and the production staff works. But the that suite of offices became the actual set, like the set that we built was modeled on the crappy offices where the writers were working and right down to the layout like Greg was in Mike- what, what would be Michael’s office. And there was like a reception desk right outside it that became Pam’s reception desk and, and so we would do these drills. Greg would have us do these drills where he would go like, OK, take a half an hour and like, go sit at Pam’s desk or go sit in Michael’s office or what will be Michael’s office or go, go, sit where Jim sits and like, just get a sense of like, like, what is your eyeline to Pam? Right? So he would put he would put Mindy at at Pam’s reception desk and he would put B.J. at Jim’s desk and he would say, like, just sit there and like, absorb the vibe of like, imagine that you’re in love with that person and that you have to like, angle your chair in such a way so that you can catch a glimpse of her out of the corner of your eye or whatever. And it was fascinating. It was really interesting. And I remember at one point he had me go in to work in Michael’s office, or what the office that would be the model for Michael’s office, and I remember hating it because it was like I was in this- I was far away from everything. And all this- and I would see people talking through the windows and I’d be like, What are they talking about? And I had the urge to like, go out and like, do what Michael did all the time, which was like, Hey, what’s going on, you know? Like and it was like he was just so um he knew so much about what he wanted out of the show that he would he would practice not just the skill of writing the characters, but the the skill of like embodying them or emotionally connecting to them. And it was just that’s what I mean when I say he was professorial, it was it wasn’t just like, all right, what’s episode two? What the act break? What’s the first act break for the for the season finale? It was really like we had to embody the characters and understand them emotionally and and socially in a way that I think led to great episodes, you know?
Jenna [00:16:37] Well, it’s so interesting because when all the actors got there than they did that to us too, they made us sit at our desks and just sit there and feel it. We’ve talked about that before, and so I love that that started all the way back with you guys writing the episodes.
Mike Schur [00:16:53] Yeah. June of June of 2004. Like, they’re right from the from the jump. There were things like that that we did that weren’t that weren’t the typical things that you would do with a writing staff. Another thing he did all the time, which I thought was so smart, which I still do on shows that I work on now, is we would come into work one day and he would he would have he would put all the characters names on a board and he would pick two of them at random and he would give them to he would say me and Larry Wilmore like, go come up with five story ideas for Oscar and Kelly. And then and then you, Mindy and Paul, like, go come up with five story ideas for, you know, Jim and Stanley. And it- for an hour we would just pitch, OK, well, what the hell could a story be with Oscar and Kelly? But it it led to some really cool stuff. And like some of those, some of the little the B stories and the C stories of of that came that were in the first couple of seasons were just brainstorming like random pairings of people. He he understood fundamentally that one of the great advantages that the show had over other shows is that we had 20 people. We had, like most shows have whatever, six main characters or something. And so pretty quickly you get tired of a story with involving these two people or these three people. And he was like, That’s not what this is going to be. This is going to be a- the whole point of this show is to observe like an anthropologist, observe the comings and goings of a large number of people and in the same office environment. So like go work on random pairings and like sometimes really fun stuff would come out of it. You know, like he just so thoroughly understood what what made the show special and what the potential was for how good it could be that he had all of these machinations and he was moving, always moving pieces around the chessboard with the writers in those early days, you know?
Angela [00:18:51] Yeah, I remember telling my dad- I was trying to describe this group of people and the show to my dad, who was not at all in entertainment, you know, he’s a drilling engineer. But sometimes we could talk sports, and I said, Dad, here’s the deal. We have a deep bench, dad, and as like a basketball term like our team is so good. There are so many layers to this team. And and then when he came and you know, Greg invited them to sit at a table read at lunch, my dad was like, I get it. I get it.
Mike Schur [00:19:22] I get it now. Yeah.
Angela [00:19:22] Yeah, I get it. Like, there were laughs I think coming from him in all these places, you know?
Mike Schur [00:19:27] Yeah.
Jenna [00:19:28] Well, I was going to say that in season nine, John and I were invited to be producers on the show to kind of help carve out Jim and Pam’s final season. And we got to come into the writers room, mostly as observers. And Greg was running the show that season, and he was still doing those exercises, and it was fascinating. Except in this case, it was more like homework. I remember the day started and Greg said, OK, get out your homework and the homework had been that everyone had to come up with five ideas for- I can’t remember what it was, but it was like for a Dwight and Stanley cold open. Go. And and then you would just sit and listen. And then when there was an idea that piqued his interest, he would say, Oh, OK, you two go off, flesh that out. And then two people would leave the room and then we would keep listening to the homework. And I, I remember thinking, Oh my gosh, I would be so terrified to present my five ideas, because sometimes it was just crickets. Like you could just hear the ideas just die in the room. I mean, what an intense and vulnerable thing to pitch your creative ideas in front of, like a room of people who are all judging whether or not you should follow that thread.
Mike Schur [00:20:52] Yes. One of his greatest strengths is that he is unafraid, I would say, of failure. And I think I believe that that comes- I’m guessing that that comes partially from working at Saturday Night Live, because what you just described of like pitching ideas and and having them bomb, right? That is the essence of working at SNL. Except your failures at SNL are public. Like you write sketches and there’s a read through with the entire cast of the of the show and Lorne and all the producers around a giant table, and the audience is 100 or 150 people who work on the show. And by the way, a very famous person who’s hosting the show like, you know, Drake is reading your sketch or whatever.
Angela [00:21:40] My God.
Mike Schur [00:21:40] And you- there are moments at SNL where, you know, your sketches are 12 pages long or whatever, and your sketch starts and you get to page two and like the joke of the sketch is sprung and no one laughs. And in your head, you’re like, there’s 10 more pages of this. Likem we have to sit here for 10 more pages as no one finds my premise funny. And so for the first, I don’t know what Greg’s experience was. I’ve never really talked to him about his time there. But for the first, like six months, you it’s you fall into a deep depression. Like it is just like it’s so embarrassing to fail that way publicly. And then the week goes by and the show happens and then it’s like, All right, it’s Monday again. Do it again. And you like do it again and you fail again and you fail and you fail and you fail. And eventually, at some point, hopefully you kind of figure it out and you write a sketch and it gets some laughs and you’re like, OK, it’s not the end of the world. Like, I’m still here, and then you get a little better and a little better. And that like that theory is it’s pretty brutal on your ego. But when you’ve already had it driven out of your ego from working at SNL, like five five Stanley cold opens? I can, who cares?
Angela [00:22:52] No problem.
Mike Schur [00:22:53] Yeah, exactly. So I that and his theory is really like, this is a numbers game like the way to get to the best ideas is you have to create a thousand ideas in order to find the two that are good. And he took that approach with everything. He took that approach when he was hiring writers. He took that approach when he was casting people. I mean, how long did the casting process go on for for the show? Endlessly long, endlessly, endlessly long. And that’s just his um he’s just the most thorough person when it comes to that. He doesn’t settle for anything. He he demands that you walk down… I mean, when we’re when we’re when we were breaking stories like we would get five sixths of the way down the line toward breaking a story, and we would get to a point where he would realize it didn’t work and he would go like, Meh, this doesn’t work, throw it away, start over. And it’s really exhausting. But also, the show lasted for 10 years, and it was really good. So.
Angela [00:23:50] And here we are still talking about it.
Mike Schur [00:23:52] Yeah, exactly. Yeah. 17 years later.
Jenna [00:23:55] Well, now I think we have to ask you, Mike.
Angela [00:23:58] Yeah, we do.
Jenna [00:23:59] How did you come to play Mose? Something we understand you hated.
Angela [00:24:04] You hated being Mose, but we love Mose.
Mike Schur [00:24:07] Let me let me let me just delineate here importantly. I love the fact that I played Mose. I hated actually doing it. Because- for two reasons. So, so here’s the story. The story was in the in the- Greg always had it as part of Dwight Schrute’s back story that he he himself was not Amish or or Mennonite or anything like that, but he was sort of Amish adjacent, that he had relatives- he was a Germanic- he was of Germanic descent living in Pennsylvania. That is that’s that alone is sort of Amish adjacent. So Greg always had it in the back of his head that there was a sort of cousin, a Schrute cousin farming community that was that was either Amish or something in the Amish family. So there- in in 2004, there was a reality show called Amish in the City.
Angela [00:25:08] Yes. Yes, I saw that.
Mike Schur [00:25:10] Yes, it was a terrible, terrible program.
Angela [00:25:14] It was so hard to watch.
Mike Schur [00:25:15] It was so awful. And I, my wife and I watched it and I was sort of trying to express how cringey it was to the writers room one day. The premise of the show was they took a bunch of idiot club kids from L.A. who were on spring break and they were like, You guys are going to come stay in this awesome house in the Hollywood Hills. And they were psyched and they were like, We’re going to get so drunk and party and whatever. What they didn’t know that also invited to stay in the house were a bunch of young Amish folks on Rumspringa who had been released for their year of exploration and they were going to live together. And and then, you know.
Angela [00:25:58] Hot mess ensues.
Mike Schur [00:25:59] Hot, hot, hot mess ensues, right. So one of the characters on the show, who is Amish, was named Mose. And Mose was this delightful, kind hearted, fragile egg who would- tried his best to become friends with the idiot club kids from L.A. And among other ways that he tried this where he fashioned his own wooden toys, like little like a little wooden airplane or a little wooden car in like like
Angela [00:26:29] he made them himself.
Mike Schur [00:26:31] He made them himself, and he presented them to his new friends. And they were just like, What the hell is this, right?
Jenna [00:26:37] Ugh.
Mike Schur [00:26:37] And so I was relating this story to the room about how awful this show was and Greg pointed at me with his giant finger- I remember it so clearly- and said, You’re going to play Mose. You’re Dwight’s cousin, you’re Mose. And I was like, Ha ha ha. And he was like, No, I’m serious. We’re going to do this. You’re going to play Mose. And I thought it was a joke for a couple of reasons. First, because I thought it was a joke. Second, because all of the other writers, as you may know, got to play essentially like versions of themselves or significant characters in the show. Like Mindy was in the show all the time, and Paul was in the show all the time, and B.J. was in the show all the time. And Greg was essentially saying, You are a joke and I’m going to turn you into a joke. And then so the first time that we did it, it was in a photo. It was when Rainn just says I have a cousin, I run a beet farm with my cousin, Mose. It was in an episode I wrote, it was the one where Michael buys a condo.
Jenna [00:27:36] Yes.
Mike Schur [00:27:36] And it was just a photo, and I was like, Great, I’ll I’ll put on a fake beard and and actually, I don’t even think I had the beard for the photo, but I’ll dress up in these wool clothes and we’ll take a photo, and that’ll be the end of it. But then the writers, my so-called friends, got very excited about me playing Mose and started writing me into episodes all the time. And it was the episode B.J. wrote that where The Initiation where Dwight was trying to initiate Ryan into like some kind of salesman fraternity by bringing him to his farm, and they wrote Mose into the show. And so so Greg insisted for this episode that I have a real beard. He didn’t. He didn’t believe that a fake beard, according to him, would look real. And I was like, Listen, I don’t grow facial hair very easily, like, it’s going to take me a long time. He’s like, Well, you better get started. It was basically just hazing. That’s all it was. So I grew a real beard for months and months and months, and in that time the show was nominated for an Emmy. And Greg and I and some of the other producers went around and had a bunch of like fancy Hollywood events that we went to. And in every one of those photos I have the disgusting, wiry Mose beard. And then so that episode was supposed to be the first one we shot that in that in season three. But then there was a- I can’t remember why, there was some kind of production issue or script issue or something, and it got delayed like two or three more months.
Angela [00:29:16] Oh no.
Mike Schur [00:29:16] So now that I had to and I and I realized, like, I remember, like this sweating panic of like I was counting down the days until I could shave. And I was like, Oh no, now I can’t shave now and then grow the beard back in time. So I had to keep it like another three months. And then by the time we finally shot it, it was like mid-September in in deep in the valley on that Disney Ranch valley location where we shot Rainn’s- Dwight’s farm. It was the day we shot that first episode, the high that day was 105, and I was wearing long johns and wool pants and a wool shirt and suspenders, and these old work boots that were incredibly uncomfortable. And I had to run around and pretend to wrestle Ryan. And like, I was just like, I was like a ghost. Like, I was just like running. I was like a horror movie ghost running through the background of scenes. It took an entire day. I had to get up at 4:30 in the morning to get to Disney Ranch by 5:30. And I was like, Well, at least I’ll never have to do that again. And then the writers, my so-called friends, wrote me until like a hundred more episodes. So I’m I’m very honored and happy to have played a small, silly role in the in the history of the show on screen, but the actual act of doing it, it was always one hundred and five and they always- I was always shirtless on a seesaw or running alongside a car like a dog or in in probably the scariest moment of my life being slapped like like being punched in the face, essentially by Angela Kinsey.
Angela [00:30:54] I know.
Mike Schur [00:30:54] It was- this- that was one of the most terrifying moments of my- do you remember that when we had to do that?
Angela [00:30:59] Yes, I was going to talk to you about it because Angela and Mose had so many actual scenes together and a lot of them are in the deleted scenes. I’m watching the DVDs, some made it in. But, you know, a few really cracked me up. But I have to talk to you about that one. First, I want to say there was a deleted scene in The Surplus where I’m at Schrute Farms with Andy, we’re wedding planning. Dwight is our wedding planner. We’re trying to discuss a butter sculpture and Andy’s signing all these papers, and you’re coming in the kitchen and I hiss at you like.
Mike Schur [00:31:35] Like a cat, yes.
Angela [00:31:36] And then you run away. And we kept breaking at this because it was so absurd. So there’s that that moment. Like what? What is the Angela and Mose? What is their relationship? But then the episode he’s talking about, I want to look because I wrote it.
Mike Schur [00:31:50] It’s the finale. It’s the series finale.
Angela [00:31:51] No, that’s when you kidnap me.
Mike Schur [00:31:54] Oh, right, right, right.
Angela [00:31:56] Wait. There. No. OK. The episode was Free Family Portrait. And Angela is chasing who she thinks is Dwight in Dwight’s car but it’s Mose dressed as Dwight because she wants to find out if Dwight’s found out about her baby. Right?
Mike Schur [00:32:11] Right, right.
Angela [00:32:12] And one of the things I remember, which is crazy in hindsight, Mike, is that you and I did our own stunt driving where we had to screech into a cul de sac and pull side by side. Like really fast. Turn on a dime. And then I fly out of the car because they didn’t want to waste any time, lose all that footage. And I run up and I swing open the door and it’s Mose and not Dwight. And you won’t tell me where Dwight is. And they wanted me to slap the shit out of you.
Mike Schur [00:32:40] Right. So what happened was we were like, OK, you and I just were like, So let’s just like, walk through how this happens, and you were kind of like, OK, so I’ll come over here and then I’ll get out here and you’ll stand against the car and then I’ll and then I’ll slap you and you, like, just sort of moved your hand in the motion of what it would be.
Angela [00:32:55] I did a fakey.
Mike Schur [00:32:56] You did a fakey. And I was like, OK, yeah, this seems OK. So we do the first take, we screech up. We do a good job of doing our own stunts, by the way, you and me. You pull me out. You’re like, Where’s where’s Dwight? Where’s Dwight? I’m like, I don’t know or something or something? And then you slap me, but you slap me for real. You hit me so hard. I spun around like a top. And, and like, hit the roof of the car and was like my ears were ringing. And I remember, like, I was like, Oh, I can’t hear what she’s saying to me because my ears are ringing so loudly.
Angela [00:33:31] Oh my god, Mike. I’m so sorry, you know, Matt Sohn told me he was like, Angela, you’re going to have to really hit him because we’re pretty wide. It’ll be- you won’t be able to do the fakey.
Mike Schur [00:33:39] Yes. And and I and I, I also remember- this is not your fault. None of this is your fault.
Angela [00:33:45] I feel so bad. I felt so bad.
Mike Schur [00:33:45] No because and I because I remember saying, no, really hit me because I’m six feet tall. You are not six feet tall.
Angela [00:33:52] I am five one.
Mike Schur [00:33:53] Right? And I was like, No, I I hate it when there’s like a fake slap on TV. I’m sure this will be fine. Just just really hit me. It’ll be fine. I remember telling you that, like, just really hit me. It’ll be fine. It’ll be fine. I had no idea that you were a mixed martial arts professional and you hit me so hard. I really like lost my- I did not know where I was. I didn’t know what was happening. I my eyes went blank and my hearing dropped out and I had no idea what was happening. It was wonderful. I’m so- it- and that’s the take they used, thankfully. Because afterwards also, I remember afterwards you were like, Oh my God, I’m so sorry. And I was like, No, no, no, I just didn’t understand how strong you were.
Jenna [00:34:35] Oh my gosh. Muggers, beware. OK? Angela Kinsey.
Angela [00:34:40] I do remember I felt so bad, and I remember saying I was trying to like, Think why? Why? Why was that so hard? Maybe it was the momentum, because I’m running. I was like trying to like, think about, I don’t know where the ninja came from, Mike.
Mike Schur [00:34:53] I think that slapping is just like a more shocking thing than you th- I’ve never been slapped in my life, I’m proud to say, and so I think I just greatly underestimated the force of the blow that was about to hit my face. But this is this is all part of this larger conversation of why it wasn’t fun to play Mose. It’s because not only was it always a sight gag, but also like the sometimes the writers would write actual lines for me. And then in the edit, it would always be like, it’s funnier if we don’t hear from Mose, right? So we cut all the lines. And then it was like, What is the most humiliating way that we can use him, and it was like being slapped, be like in an outhouse with his pants around his ankles while the door’s slamming closed. Like it was just it was Greg’s and the writers’ way of just like enjoying tormenting me. So now when I look back, I’m it’s I’m so happy that I did it. But every time I had to, like, leave the writers room, a place where I knew what I was doing, and go be a performer where I did not know what I was doing, I was always a little bit like, This is a- this is torture. I always felt like it was a little bit of torture.
Jenna [00:36:02] Mike, do you get recognized for being Mose very often?
Mike Schur [00:36:07] There are certainly times when I am recognized for that. Yes, I mean, I’m older, I’m I’m 17 years older and my hair is a lot grayer. And so people don’t don’t recognize me as often as you would think they would, given how popular the show still is. I will say that like my son went to a basketball camp a couple of summers ago and I went to pick him up from the camp and my son had just watched the show. I think he was 10 or 11, and he had just watched the whole show, and he was very excited to tell people that I wrote for it and that I played Mose. And so I went to pick him up from the camp and one of his counselors, I walked over to where the kids were, and one of his counselors saw me coming, and he just broke into this huge smile and was like, Hey! And I was like, All right, this guy knows that I was Mose. And like, you know, I can kinda tell when people recognize me. I did also, when the pandemic first hit I, I did a fundraiser for L.A. Regional Food Bank, which is a charity I really like. The L.A. Regional Food Bank gives out food to a lot of people in L.A. County. And I said, like, All right, I’m going to try to raise money for L.A. Regional Food Bank, and I’ll match donations up to I can’t remember what it was, some $25,000 or something. And it and like very quickly donations started pouring in. And then, like a true moron, I said, if we raised $50,000 by the end of the day, I will shave my head. And that um and it was a joke, but like that caused donations to really pour in and to the point where, like, it was like within an hour, we were at like $50,000. And so then I was like, Oh, I see, I see the game. The game is humiliation, right? Like, if I just if I offer humiliation, like we’ll raise more money. So then I put it up as a poll and said, Would you rather have me shave my head or grow the Mose beard? And grow the Mose beard won in a landslide. So I had- so over the in the early in like May, May, June, July of 2020, I spent like again, like three months growing the beard out and then shaved my mustache. So I just had that neck beard. And around that time I got recognized even with masks, I got recognized like every everywhere I went like, that was a big that was like a big Mose moment. Because it was right when the pandemic hit, everybody was streaming the show, like the popularity of the show really surged. And then also I was walking around with the beard. So that was a there is that was a real high, high frequency Mose sighting, I would say.
Angela [00:38:43] Oh my gosh, OK, OK. We’ve we’ve talked a lot about the crazy things you had to do as Mose that were sort of torturous. Was there any moment being Mose that you had fun? Was there a scene? Was there one moment that you really enjoyed?
Mike Schur [00:38:58] It was always fun, like the like even when I was being tortured, it was always fun because I really like, I revere actors, in a very sort of childlike way. I don’t- I fundamentally don’t understand how actors do what you do. I find it to be the most difficult of all of the performing arts by far. It’s so much harder than writing. I think it’s harder than directing. And I I really- that was really hammered home to me even when I was doing this ridiculous sight gag and had to say a few words here and there. I was always like, God, I I’m so much worse at this than I am in my head, which is why I’m a writer. Because this is like what a writer is, right? I know, I know what it should be. I just don’t know how to actually do it myself. So I – there were times when, for example, do you remember the episode where- of course you do- the episode where where Jim and Pam are excited because Schrute Farms has become a B&B?
Jenna [00:40:03] Yes.
Mike Schur [00:40:04] And they go and check in. It’s the one where I run along the side of the car like a dog at the beginning, right?
Jenna [00:40:09] Yes, I want to mention quickly, Mike, for anybody um… John Krasinski was not driving slow. I was- I was in the car and I, I remember that it was 100 degrees that day because that’s the day that John thought it would be really funny to prank me and put the car heater seat on. Because we weren’t allowed to have the air conditioner for sound, and I was like so hot. But then you were running next to the car, so I thought, Well, I can’t complain about being hot because I mean, look at Mike out there like running his hardest. And John was like going fast. I don’t know how you did it.
Angela [00:40:45] Very fast.
Jenna [00:40:47] I don’t know how you did that.
Mike Schur [00:40:49] That was the hardest- that was the hardest acting I’ve ever done. And all I was doing is running. Because I was in those wool clothes and I was wearing those work boots and John was driving like 15 to 20 miles an hour on that dirt road, and I had to keep up. And I- but I also I had to run up to the window, disappear behind the car and then run fast to catch up to the other side of the window.
Jenna [00:41:10] Exactly. And also, you weren’t allowed to use your arms. Your arms were like- so there was like a lack of momentum that you could create because you were only using your bottom half.
Angela [00:41:21] I want to read you what Dunderpedia, the fan website, how they explained Mose’s running. They say, Mose proceeds to run away in his usual running, with his arm swinging no higher than his waist style.
Mike Schur [00:41:37] I don’t know where that came from. Like one of the early one of the early Mose appearances it was like Mose runs in to the- I think it was in the in The Initiation, like Mose runs into the room. And I don’t know why, but I just did that really awkward run. That’s not how I run when I’m running.
Jenna [00:41:54] I hope not.
Mike Schur [00:41:55] I just did that for some reason. And then it just became the thing that I that Mose does. But what Jenna is saying is true, though, because after I ran and caught up to the car, I then had to run past the car. I had to speed past it and run like 100 yards all the way over to where the farmhouse was. And I knew I wasn’t on camera anymore because obviously the camera’s- What’s interesting is not is not (COUGHS) excuse me. What’s interesting is not Mose running anymore. What’s interesting is Jim and Pam reacting to this weird dog person that just ran alongside their car. But they made me run all the way like 100 yards every single time. And we did like 11 takes of that.
Angela [00:42:40] Oh my gosh.
Mike Schur [00:42:40] And I’ve never been more sore in my life than I was the day after that.
Jenna [00:42:45] I bet.
Mike Schur [00:42:45] Because I didn’t know that I was going to have to run a run a dozen 100 yard sprints.
Angela [00:42:50] You were like an Olympic contender. You like, outran a car.
Mike Schur [00:42:54] Yeah, it was the it’s the most athletic I’ve ever been. I would say it’s the most, the highest level of athletic achievement in my life.
Jenna [00:43:03] Well we have it on camera. It’s for all time.
Angela [00:43:06] Forever, forever documented.
Mike Schur [00:43:08] Proof. There’s proof that I used to be a good runner.
Jenna [00:43:11] But I’m sorry because you were going to say something about that episode that you enjoyed.
Mike Schur [00:43:16] Yes. So there was a scene that I don’t even know if it made it into the episode. I don’t think it did, but there was a scene where Jim and Pam, in that episode at night, Pam hears Dwight kind of moaning and sad because Angela has broken up with him, I think.
Jenna [00:43:33] Yes.
Mike Schur [00:43:33] And and then in the morning, Dwight’s gone. And in Jim and Pam come down and are being- Mose is serving them breakfast.
Angela [00:43:42] Bacon, tons of bacon.
Mike Schur [00:43:44] Just nothing but bacon. And it was actually it was the closest I ever came to having a scene because there were like it was like a page of dialogue where I was serving you and you were you were saying, like, I think Jenna, you say, like, Mose, do you know where Dwight is? Or do you know where- is he sad about Angela or something? And we actually had an exchange where I like, had to memorize lines and like, know what my cues were. And I remember thinking, like, I’m not- this isn’t- what I’m doing is not per se good, but I’m enjoying that process of learning what it’s like to be an actor and to actually try to, like, be like, be aware of the camera, be be be present in the scene, like, listen to what you’re saying and respond with the lines that were written for me. And it was weirdly kind of thrilling and I was like, This is never going to make it in. Like, I had worked at this show long enough to know that we didn’t have time for this weird, dumb Mose/ Jim/ Pam scene. But, but I really did have fun doing it because it felt like I think it gave me a greater appreciation just for like what- how hard it is to do that. How hard it is to just be in a scene, have lines that you have to have memorized and know how to say them properly and in an interesting way, while there are cameras on you, while there’s people in the room. It’s just a very difficult skill. I think that the the world of television and movies would be better if every writer were forced to act sometimes and if every actor were forced to direct and if every director were forced to write. Like if we all switched positions every once in a while just to remind ourselves, like, the other skills that are involved in making TV are each of them is so hard. It’s so specific and so hard. So I really did like that. I liked I liked acting in those scenes just as a way to like, remind me of how difficult a skill it is.
Jenna [00:45:37] Now I have a question.
Mike Schur [00:45:38] Yeah.
Jenna [00:45:39] Because of your experience with Mose and knowing everything that would go into some of the physical comedy bits that you were asked to do, as a writer, does that ever get in your head when you come up with a really great gag? Do you think to yourself, Oh no, I’m going to have to put this actor through this horrible thing?
Mike Schur [00:45:59] Yes. Yes.
Jenna [00:45:59] And like, does it ever like, affect your writing?
Mike Schur [00:46:02] It really does. And and I have found myself talking to actors a lot and saying, like, we have this idea for this silly thing, are you cool with this? They always say yes. Like actors are incredibly adaptable people by and large. They’re always happy to- or in my experience, I’ve been always happy to say like, Oh yeah, that sounds fun. The one one time I didn’t do this and wish I had, although it was fine, nothing bad happened, but we wrote it- there was a scene in the show, The Good Place that I created, where William Jackson Harper played a character who was sort of a he was a he’s sort of a tortured soul. He wants to be sort of morally perfect, and he believes that such a thing is possible. And there’s an episode where he’s sort of going through a an existential crisis and he’s just sort of walking around lost in a daze. And he, like he goes into- he’s like walking around and some sprinklers go off and they just soak him and he just kind of stands there and just gets soaked by the sprinklers. And then he just kind of like takes his shirt off and just kind of keeps walking. And then you cut to him and he’s in a grocery store shopping shirtless. And then- excuse me- and then like a woman comes over and is like, sir, you have to wear a shirt in here. And he just grabs like a shirt off a rack and just puts it on and smiles and keeps walking. And it turns out that William Jackson Harper is like, cut. Like he’s he’s like a very like, physically fit person, which I did not know. Like that, which I had never seen him with his shirt off before he shot that scene. But him taking his shirt off caused the internet to, like, explode because it was like, Oh my God, the like the dorky philosophy professor guy is also jacked. And and I mean, it was he was only good for him. Like, it wasn’t like th- everybody was happy with the result. But I was like, Oh my God, I never asked him if it was OK that I wrote this thing where he takes his shirt off. Like I should- I should ask actors that more. Like I should say, Are you OK with this? And I think if there were, it’s a it’s a gendered thing in a way it shouldn’t be, right? Like if it obviously if there had- if it had been a woman, I would never in a billion years have written any scene where a woman disrobe in any way without clearing it with her first. There would have been a million discussions and meetings and whatever. And it didn’t occur to me that a man might also be uncomfortable with that. And so I remember thinking, like, I’m so happy that it was OK, that he was OK with it, that whatever. But I also, again, like- and this weirdly comes from playing Mose and all the ridiculous- I had to pick up cow patties and throw then at Rainn Wilson and do all sorts of like humiliating things. No one ever asked me if I was okay with any of it. And it- I do think that those conversations should happen more often, even when you don’t think there will be any problem with this. I think there should be generally more communication between writers and directors and actors to just say, like, Hey, just want to make sure you’re cool with this? If you’re not, it’s totally OK, we can write something else. So anyway, I don’t know if that answers your question or not, but.
Jenna [00:49:23] Well, it’s really interesting because as an actor, I feel like this comes up a lot in television because you agree to play a character, but you don’t know what is going to be written about your character beyond the pilot episode.
Angela [00:49:38] Yeah.
Jenna [00:49:38] And so there could be years and years and years of stories, and they are a surprise to the actor every week. And so… with a movie, well I can see the movie script. If there’s like three weird sex scenes or like a weird scene that makes me uncomfortable, I can just say, Oh, this isn’t the part for me.
Angela [00:49:59] Right. You know the whole story.
Jenna [00:50:01] Yeah, I know everything that’s being asked of me when I accept that movie role. But when you accept a television role, you don’t know what’s going to be asked of you. And I’ve always thought that that communication, you know this, this came up on our show later when they came up with the really funny idea that Pam would have a male lactation consultant who would be massaging her breasts in front of Jim, and that Pam and the lactation consultant would find this very clinical and that Jim was trying to also find it clinical.
Angela [00:50:33] Trying to be cool.
Jenna [00:50:33] Yeah, but was also like, this handsome man is massaging my wife’s breasts right now. And and I remember they came up to me and said, We think this is really funny… but we imagine that it would be weird for you to have a total stranger that you met that day, come and handle your breasts, and the joke only works if they’re actually touching your breasts. So what if your fiancee, Lee, played the role and then it’s someone who’s already massaging your breasts, massaging your breasts? And I was like, Well, he does massage them so that it is true. And so it was great.
Angela [00:51:13] So then it was just weird for John.
Jenna [00:51:14] Yeah, then it was just weird for everyone else. Because we were super comfortable.
Mike Schur [00:51:20] Well, I think that’s that’s first of all, good for them for obviously bringing that up. But also like that there is an enormous leap of faith that you’re taking as an actor when you sign on to a TV show, right? You’re you’re you’re really like, you’re using a very small amount of data, which is usually like a pilot script and maybe a meeting with the show creator or the showrunner, and you’re extrapolating over potentially 10 years and 200 episodes of like, am I putting my faith and trust in this person? And is it going to be rewarded or are there going to be constant battles and fights about creative directions and things that they ask me to do that- and the and that- this is part of why being an actor, I think, is so difficult is you only your only advocate is yourself. Like you don’t have, you know, you maybe have an agent or a manager who can have your back in those moments. But it’s like this idea of like the quote, difficult actor end quote. Like, I think that is a horrible misnomer that has come from now 80 years of actors being- getting a new script every week and not having any idea what’s in it and those ideas coming from people who maybe haven’t run a bunch of things by them and just being like, Oh man, now I got to do this this week? And the range of how it can make an actor feel uncomfortable is enormous. It can be anything from like a strange man has to massage parts of your body that you might not want that person to massage all the way to just creative decisions about the character, the choices the character makes, things that the character does that you don’t agree with, like it’s just really hard. It’s it’s a very difficult thing, and the chance for it to go sideways is enormous. So the more communication there is between writers and actors, the better. To bring this full circle, that’s another thing that I remember thinking I could attribute to SNL a little bit with Greg, because Greg worked there. At SNL like everybody does everything. Writers act and actors write. And it’s very like community theater kind of feeling. And there’s no division between actors and writers really at all. Like, it’s all one big hodgepodge. And that was Greg’s whole theory was like, let’s let’s break down these artificial barriers between the writers and the actors. That’s why he wanted Mindy and B.J. and Paul to act in the show. It’s why he want- it’s why he gave the the season two finale where Jim and Pam- where Jim tells Pam that he likes her or is in love with her and that they kiss for the first time, Steve wrote that. He gave that to Steve. Like, that’s traditionally the kind of thing that, like, he would write or like the co-EP trusted writer would write that script. But Greg saw the big picture, and he understood fundamentally that the more there was- that he broke down the divisions between writers and actors, the healthier the organism of the show would be. And he was totally right.
Angela [00:54:14] So true. I mean, Jenna and I have talked about that a lot on this podcast. Other shows that we have done since The Office, I did a guest star on a show and the writers room was in New York and we filmed in L.A. And I thought, Wow, they they they never meet the writers. They never interact with them at all. And it’s just been such an interesting and wonderful perspective to look back at how fortunate we were to have that sort of creative collaboration as our biggest job in our life.
Jenna [00:54:46] I’ve bounced up to writers on sets at other jobs thinking that the way we had it on The Office was normal and they seemed terrified to speak to me. They are terrified that I am talking to them. They are afraid to say anything. I’ll be like, Hey, what’s up? What do you think like next week? What do you think is going to be like? How’s this story going to play out? And they’re like, No, I don’t, um I don’t want to speak to you.
Angela [00:55:13] The first time I did a multi-cam after The Office, cuz I’d never done a multi-cam, all the writers were like huddled in a corner. You know, like, we’re filming. It’s like filming a one act play and they’re all in the corner because I knew this joke wasn’t working and I had like a few ideas. So I went up to the huddle and I was like, Hey, guys, I got like a two or three pitches and they were like, What? It was like a record scratch.
Mike Schur [00:55:35] Yeah, I know. And and again, Greg’s ethos was Greg’s ethos, in a nutshell, is the best idea wins, and he doesn’t care whether the best idea comes from a writer, an actor, a director, an accountant, a random person on the street who happens to walk by at the right moment and has a good pitch. Like it was just why would we not take the best idea? And so that fostered that sense of like everyone, everybody give us all your ideas. Like, let’s put all of the ideas into a pot and pick the best one. And that is very frequently, sadly not how it works on other shows. And it’s a shame because, you know, there were times when we would be battling about something in the edit bay about an episode and that he would have to alts and he would say, Which one do you like? And all of the writers would choose Version A. And he would go like- and then he would call in like the accounting department and be like, which one do you like?
Angela [00:56:24] Yeah.
Jenna [00:56:25] The real accountants.
Angela [00:56:25] The real accounting.
Mike Schur [00:56:25] The actual accountants. Yeah. Yes. Not not you and Oscar and Kevin.
Angela [00:56:31] Yeah, not me and Brian and Oscar.
Mike Schur [00:56:33] And he would go, which one do you like? And they would say, We like B. And he’s like, Yeah, I think B is better. And it drove us crazy sometimes. But he was like, You’re not the audience, you’re professional comedy writers. Like, of course, you’re going to like this weird, offbeat thing that we did. You know, the best example of this is… So Jim’s proposal to Pam at the at the gas station, right? So three versions, I don’t know if you remember this, Jenna, we had three versions. One of them was the car pulls over, the camera is across the street and is shooting super long lens. And all you hear is traffic whizzing by in the foreground and you can’t- they’re not mic’d in this in this version. The sound was off, so you saw Jim walk up and you saw Pam in the haha and then all of a sudden they’re talking. You don’t know what they’re saying. Jim gets down on one knee, Pam reacts and they and then they hug and they kiss and it’s over. And second version was or that the final version was like very traditionally shot like you were right with them in the gas station, sort of looking in a classic TV coverage, and you could still hear traffic whizzing by in the background. But you couldn’t really see it, and the cameras are right up close. And then there was a sort of intermediate version where you were a little bit further away, but you could hear what they were saying. And he screened all three of them and the the one that was where the camera was super, far away and you couldn’t hear a word gave me like the greatest goosebumps feeling of my life. Like, I was like, That’s so beautiful. It’s so perfect for the show. It reminded me of the scene in the British office, where Tim takes off his mic and goes in and talks to Dawn. That was the sort of model of that. And you don’t hear what they’re saying. Then he comes back out and grabs the mic and says, she said no, by the way. And and it’s terrible and sad. And I was like, Well, that’s that’s a home run. That’s like the most beautiful. It’s so perfect. It’s the most beautiful thing ever. And he was like, Yeah, we’re not using that version. And I was like, why? And he was like, Because this is a moment that fans of the show have been waiting for for five, six years, whatever it was. And it’s not- it’s just fundamentally not fair to deny them the ability to hear Jim say, Will you marry me? It’s just mean. It’s like- and and this might be the most sort of like beautiful, artistic, you know, like highfalutin version. But if if what- what are we doing, if we’re denying fans the ability to hear Jim say, Will you marry me? And hear Pam say, yes. That’s just cruel. And I always fought him on all of those decisions and he was always right. It’s just like at the end of the day, I was like, Of course, of course you need to hear, will you marry me? Yes. Like that, that’s such a foundational moment in the history of the show. And so he had that- he had that thing of like, let’s develop and explore every possible idea. Let’s walked down every path. Let’s pull every name out of the hat. And at the end of the day, we will choose the one that is the best for the show, not the one that’s loved the most by the people who work on the show or the writers who write things or any anything else. Just what is the best thing for the show? And that’s why the show, over the course of its decade long run, had such integrity to it I think. It’s because it was always the decisions were always made in terms of what’s best for the show, not not what a bunch of like jaded writers thought would be the coolest thing or something like that.
Jenna [01:00:10] Do you want to ask Mike about the Christmas lights?
Angela [01:00:14] Oh, yeah, I do. It’s such a hard pivot, but we OK. So in the first Christmas episode, which oh my god, I just love that episode so much. I can watch it like every year. It’s almost like, you know, what do you like to watch the holidays? Oh, that you know, Christmas Vacation with Chevy Chase? I like to watch the very first Christmas episode.
Mike Schur [01:00:34] Yankee Swap? Yeah.
Angela [01:00:35] I have had a Yankee Swap party for years inspired by that episode. I love everything about it. So there was this moment that we heard was inspired by your real life where when they put up the Christmas tree, that the tiny, tiny Christmas lights and Angela’s so mad at Phyllis. She’s so pissed off. And we heard that was like actually based on something in your life where there was- is that true? And were there other moments like that, like things that were in your life that made it into the show?
Mike Schur [01:01:05] Totally true. My first Christmas in L.A., my my then fiancee, now wife JJ and I got our first tree as cohabitants and we were so excited. We both love Christmas. We love like decorating the tree. We love everything and we bought the tree and we took it home. We put it up and we played Christmas music and we had bought these- my in my house growing up you always did only white lights. I don’t know why. That was that that was like what our family preferred. And JJ had been like, I like the big colored ones. They’re so like cheery and happy. And I for some reason won the argument. I don’t know why, but I was like, Trust me, it looks great. It looks great. And so I went and bought those little tiny white lights, and I very carefully strung them around the tree and everything. And then we, we like we’re playing Christmas music, and it was like a big countdown. And I turn them on and you absolutely could not see any of them there. Just it was the saddest, the least the least- it was the opposite of the Rockefeller Center Christmas tree lighting. And and I was immediately humiliated and my wife was just laughing at me so hard. Like just what a complete failure this was. And I immediately went out and went to the drugstore and bought big, big colored lights and came home and we strung them up. So but I remember that that feeling and like that episode is so much about like expectation vs. reality. And so I was like, Oh, that would be a good like little metaphor for what’s about to happen to Michael Scott when he gets the Phyllis’ oven mit. So I just I put it in as like- Greg was so into, and the show is so into those tiny, tiny, tiny, observable moments of real life. And and so I was like, Well, that makes perfect sense. And my favorite thing about that is after they turn the lights on and Michael goes, Not great. There’s a quick pan to Angela, who just looks angrier than she has ever looked in her entire life.
Angela [01:03:04] I know. That episode gave me a full headache because I was always so angry.
Mike Schur [01:03:10] Scowling. Just scowling at everybody. Yeah, I mean that so much of what happened in those first in that, especially in the first season and a half, you know, seasons one and two, so much of that stuff was real observation, like about people’s lives, like all of the gifts in that that I invented for the this, this was another great writing lesson that came from that episode. So in my original version, the person who had Angela, maybe- no Oscar had Creed. Who had?
Angela [01:03:42] Toby, Toby had, yeah.
Mike Schur [01:03:43] Toby, right, right. So Toby in the original version had a talking head where he was like, I don’t know a lot about Angela. I know that she’s religious. So I bought her this book. And the book was one of those sort of religious adjacent self-help books, you know, like sort of like leading, leading a spiritual life or something. It’s one of those kind of hokey books. And Greg was like, I don’t think that he should give her that book because we already know that Angela has that tendency or leans in that direction. And so you’re not- the audience isn’t getting any new information. And I was like, All right, well, we’re like, What could it be? And then someone, it might have been Greg, pitched that thing of a poster of babies who were dressed like adults. And we- nobody could understand why, but he was the perfect thing. It was just such a perfect thing that it was like, You’re learning more about Angela, right? You get a new piece of information about her character. And but it’s still very much in keeping with what we already know about her.
Angela [01:04:47] Right, right.
Mike Schur [01:04:47] And then that and then that poster became the basis of like four other stories over the course of the show.
Angela [01:04:52] Oh yeah, it became a huge source of contention between Angela and Oscar because she hung it by her desk.
Mike Schur [01:04:57] And then Oscar had to wear it as a as a shirt.
Angela [01:05:00] Yeah.
Jenna [01:05:01] Well, Angela in real life really likes animals who are dressed in costumes of other animals. So it’s very similar. It’s very similar to liking babies dressed as adults. I think.
Angela [01:05:13] I mean, animals dressed as any anything really like if on Halloween, you dressed your dog as a hot dog, I’m going to be like, Oh my gosh, your dog’s a hot dog.
Mike Schur [01:05:22] So we have two dogs, and this year they were ketchup and mustard.
Angela [01:05:26] I love it. Oh, I would love to see a picture of that.
Jenna [01:05:29] That lights up Angela’s life.
Angela [01:05:31] Yeah, it really does.
Mike Schur [01:05:31] So wait, animals dressed like other animals? You mean, like like a like a dog dressed like a cow or like a?
Angela [01:05:36] Oh yeah. Or like a teddy bear that but has like a bunny hat. Yeah, I know. Why?
Jenna [01:05:48] Mike, thank you so much for coming on Office Ladies today. This was such a treat. We want to tell people that you wrote a book.
Mike Schur [01:05:56] Yes.
Jenna [01:05:57] And the book is called How to Be Perfect. It comes out on January 25th.
Mike Schur [01:06:02] Mm-Hmm.
Jenna [01:06:03] Tell us about it.
Mike Schur [01:06:04] So this book came out of the show The Good Place that I created, which was about uh, it’s- if you haven’t seen it, it’s very hard to explain it in one sentence, but it’s essentially a- I pitched it as a show about like what it means to be a good person. And for the show, I read a lot of ethics and philosophy by a lot of very old, boring people. And I thought- I had this thought while I was researching it, which was that these people have such good ideas for how to be better people. Like as all of these ethical theories in this moral philosophy is like, it’s like a how to guide for like living a good life and being a good person on Earth. But their writing is so tortured and boring that that no one wants to read it. So maybe I could write a version where I sort of try to explain as best as I can what their theories are, but in a way that doesn’t give you a tension headache and make you sleepy. So that’s what it is. It’s sort of a summary of of a lot of different theories and moral philosophy. The way that the book is sort of organized is like I pose a bunch of boring questions or mundane questions that, that face us every day, like if my friend bought an ugly shirt and says, What do you think of my shirt? Is it OK to lie to her? Or or can you or can you- or do you have to tell the truth? And so it’s questions like that that are just things that come up in everyday life. And then I try to explain what, like different moral philosophers and ethicists would say about those questions. So that’s the idea, and it’s on sale, January. It’s on sale now. You can buy it now from any online bookstore that you prefer. And also, all of the proceeds are going to charity, so you can buy it and know that you’re doing something good in the world by having money go to charity.
Angela [01:07:49] Oh, I love that.
Jenna [01:07:50] Just by buying the book, I am being a good person.
Angela [01:07:54] That’s right. That’s right.
Mike Schur [01:07:54] That’s right. That’s the idea. Yeah.
Jenna [01:07:56] So you’re really setting me up to succeed.
Angela [01:07:59] I know.
Jenna [01:08:00] I like it.
Angela [01:08:01] I like it too.
Mike Schur [01:08:02] You know right away that you’ve made the world a slightly better place just by buying the book. It’s that easy. It’s that easy to be a good person.
Angela [01:08:09] I love it. Well, this is what Mindy Kaling had to say about your book. She said, “As someone who worries that a deep dive into morality will ruin my fun and problematic life, I was certain this book wouldn’t be for me. Boy, was I wrong! It’s so brilliant and funny and warmly written, you don’t realize you’re becoming a better person just by reading it.”
Mike Schur [01:08:31] Yes, it was very nice of her to blurb the book. She’s- her blurb is actually the one that made the cover, which I don’t think I’ve told her yet.
Jenna [01:08:38] Cover blurb!
Angela [01:08:38] Oh, cover blurb. I found it online. That’s fancy blurb right there. Well, I’m so excited to read it.
Jenna [01:08:46] Yes, I have ordered my copy. And Angela has too and we’re going to get them. And Mike, thank you because I, well, I’m a huge fan of your Twitter as well. I feel like you’re very, very good at taking complex ideas or thoughts and making them really digestible and entertaining. You’re also very good at breaking down baseball statistics.
Angela [01:09:14] Yes, I have found I go to your Twitter if there’s a big game on because I’m like, Oh, well, I know that Mike is going to explain this to me because I don’t know what all the hullabaloo is about.
Mike Schur [01:09:26] It’s very kind of you to say, I often wonder who in the world is still reading my Twitter because it is either in ridiculous arcane sports data or just screaming about something that a politician said. And it’s like the the Venn diagram for the two groups of people that that that want both of those things has to be tiny. So I’m glad to know that you two are still in the Venn diagram overlap of people who read my Twitter.
Jenna [01:09:55] I am. I don’t understand your sports analysis.
Angela [01:09:57] Not always. No.
Jenna [01:09:58] But I find it just sort of fascinating to watch your brain work.
Angela [01:10:04] Yes, and we love data. Jenna and I have discovered one of the things we have in common is we love tracking things. We get very excited. Just you name it, we track it on the show. Like, I became obsessed about every plant that was at front reception, and I would document how every week there was a new plant. And that’s something that I find fascinating about baseball is there’s so many different stats. I don’t understand them, but I will go to your Twitter when there’s a big game and people are talking about stats.
Jenna [01:10:34] Yes.
Mike Schur [01:10:34] Yeah.
Jenna [01:10:35] Pitches. You really break down the pitches.
Mike Schur [01:10:37] Yeah. Well, part of what some people love about baseball and what some people hate about it is the amount of data that you can analyze. I love it because I’m the same way. I get nerdy about, like about numbers and stats and stuff. But again, like when I go to my Twitter account and post like 11 consecutive tweets about like whether a certain pitch was a ball or a strike, I do have the thought of like, who is this for? Like, like, who is reading this right now and enjoying it? But that’s the joy of Twitter is you don’t ever have to know if you don’t want to know. You can just send it out in the universe, and who cares?
Angela [01:11:14] Well, we have one final wrap up question for you. We always ask everyone who is on the show. We’re worked on the show if they took anything from the set.
Mike Schur [01:11:23] OK, so unlike probably many of the people that you’ve interviewed, I left in the middle. I was around for the first four seasons and in the beginning of season five, and then Greg and I started developing Parks and Recreation together. I worked out of The Office offices, like I was still around. But slowly, over the course of season five, I receded into the background, so I didn’t know, I think sort of intellectually understand that I was leaving, leaving. And so I didn’t really think to grab anything specific from the set because it was like they were still being used. You were still making the show. So I really didn’t take anything. I have a couple things that I do treasure that are related to the show, one of which was when I left, Lee Eisenberg and Gene Stupnitsky went to Phil Shea, Property Master Phil Shea, and got his contact for who made the Dwight bobblehead that Angela had given to Dwight as a present, and they had a Mike bobblehead made.
Angela [01:12:32] Aw.
Jenna [01:12:33] Aw.
Mike Schur [01:12:33] And as it was sort of like a parting gift, and so I still have the Mike bobblehead. The only problem is I used to wear glasses. I wear contacts now everyday. But back then I wore glasses pretty often because we would often work until like 1:00 in the morning and my contacts would dry out. And the bobble- the Mike bobblehead had had actual glasses on, and at some point I think when we moved, the glasses broke off, which is a bummer, and I’ve often thought about trying to repair them somehow and put them back on. So I have a Mike bobblehead and I do have somewhere, and I don’t even know where, there was a moment at which they- everyone realized that the world’s best boss mug would be a thing that was going to matter for the run of the show. And Phil ordered like 24 of them, just as- in case they broke or in case we needed more of them or whatever. And I asked him if I could have one, and he gave me one. So I have a world’s best boss mug, not one that was ever used. It’s not a famous one. It’s not the one from the opening credits or anything. But I do have a world’s best boss mug that is technically speaking from from the set I guess. If you want to, if you were to stretch the definition of from the set.
Angela [01:13:39] And you know what else you have is do you have your binder with all your notes. That is amazing to me.
Mike Schur [01:13:44] I have that. I have a lot of notebooks that I still look at from those early days. Yeah. And I’m sure there’s a couple other things here or there somewhere. Someone I think they’ll- after the finale, wardrobe asked me if I wanted to keep any of the Mose clothes, and I believe what I said was, please burn them in a fire.
Angela [01:14:07] Oh my gosh, Mike, this was so fun. Thank you so much.
Jenna [01:14:11] Thank you so much.
Mike Schur [01:14:11] Thank you for having me. It’s so nice to see you two. I’m so pleased that you are- you are the official voice of the show. It seems very fitting to me that that the world is seeing the show through your eyes.
Angela [01:14:21] Aw.
Jenna [01:14:21] That’s very kind of you to say. We’re loving it. That was amazing. I love talking to Mike, I could talk to him forever.
Angela [01:14:31] Me too. And he said to us, You guys, he was like, If you ever have any questions for me about anything for The Office or other things, let me know. And I was like, Jenna, how often can we text him?
Jenna [01:14:42] Exactly, exactly. Yes. Mike, get ready for an email flurry.
Angela [01:14:48] You love the word flurry.
Jenna [01:14:48] I- it’s cute. It’s a flurry. I mean.
Angela [01:14:53] Instead of Jenna’s blowing up your phone, she flurries up your phone.
Jenna [01:14:56] I’m going to flurry it.
Angela [01:14:58] Well you guys, Mike’s book is called How to Be Perfect: The Correct Answer To Every Moral Question. It is out now.
Jenna [01:15:04] And Mike really is giving away 100 percent of everything he’s making on his book to five different charities. And the book is awesome.
Angela [01:15:13] Well, that’s our show this week, guys. Thank you so much for listening to this episode of Office Ladies. Next week we have The Promotion.
Jenna [01:15:20] Yeah, Jim gets a little mini office in the office.
Angela [01:15:23] He gets a glass box.
Jenna [01:15:25] He does.
Angela [01:15:25] In the middle of the bullpen.
Jenna [01:15:27] It’s strange and interesting, and we’ll tell you all about it.
Angela [01:15:31] See you next week.
Jenna [01:15:37] Thank you for listening to Office Ladies. Office Ladies is produced by Earwolf, Jenna Fischer and Angela Kinsey. Our show is executive produced by Codi Fischer. Our producer is Cassi Jerkins. Our sound engineer is Sam Kieffer. And our associate producer is Aynsley Bubbico.
Angela [01:15:53] Our theme song is Rubber Tree by Creed Bratton. For Ad free versions of Office Ladies, go to Stitcher Premium dot com. For a free one month trial of Stitcher Premium, use code: Office.