After college, BJ Novak made the stand-up rounds for four years before landing his dream job: he was recruited for a new television show, the American version of The Office, which launched in 2005. Novak stayed for eight seasons — writing, producing, directing, and acting as the insufferable know-it-all Ryan.
Since then, he’s had small roles in movies and has continued to work in TV, but Novak says he thinks of himself as a writer first. His new book, One More Thing: Stories and Other Stories, is full of short character portraits and familiar parables gone awry. While his peers have opted for memoirs (including his close friend and collaborator Mindy Kaling), Novak tells Kurt Andersen, “I thought I could never reveal myself that way, I’m just not a very personal writer.” But when he was pressed to fill out the book’s 60-plus stories, “I ended up putting in lots of very private emotions and details and observations and fantasies and worries.” It’s more revealing, he thinks, than a work of nonfiction. “If I had written a memoir,” he says, “I would have been consumed with hiding how I really felt in the service of seeming witty and cool.”
To workshop the stories, Novak performed them at comedy clubs, making changes based on the crowd reaction. “Often I would do my best editing the hour before I went on stage when I realized ‘I can’t read this, this isn’t ready,’” he admits. “Or conversely, ‘this is so great, how can I milk this?’ Channeling that performer ego into being entertaining was the best editorial process I had.”
Tell Me a StoryArtist: Iggy PopAlbum: New ValuesLabel: Buddha Records