Entertain Me: A love letter to B.J. Novak

By The Beacon | February 26, 2014 2:30am
Junior Cassie Sheridan with B.J. Novak at Powells Feb. 19. Photo by Cassie Sheridan

Cassie Sheridan |

I’ll be honest, I was nervous. Everybody, their little sister, their dog and their weird neighbor have been writing books lately and I didn’t want you, B.J. Novak, to ruin your genius by adding to the menagerie. However, I had no reason to be hesitant, you never let me down.

Your collection of short fictional stories, One More Thing, encapsulates everything that makes your writing so distinct, an eclectic mix of hilarious and dark humor with an edge of somberness.  Comic relief expertly placed in larger philosophical enquiries, the kinds of things that make your knees shake but then a well placed cuss word reminds you to breathe, that the trials and tragedies of life must be examined but that’s doesn’t mean you can’t make an inappropriate joke time and again.

Your stories range in length and compliment each other: an epic rematch between the tortoise and the hare, a sex robot that falls in love with her user, a literalist love poem, missed connections. They made me laugh, but also reflect in a way that most writers are not capable of doing to people.

My favorite episode of The Office, the one I return to when I need to be reminded about brilliant writing, writing that flirts with that tender line between hilarious and offensive; you wrote it. The first time I watched ‘Diversity Day,’ I was 14. My first instinct was that this writing was special. The scene in which Stanley’s identity notecard reads ‘black’ is still a moment I turn back to as the perfect example of hovering right in that sweet spot of gray humor.

I fell in love with your writing and then I even fell in love/hate with your character Ryan, his mistrials, his douche-ness, his horribly misguided blond tipped hair, his short-lived success and subsequent cocaine addiction.

I loved/hated it all.

I even loved it all when the Office started to falter, when Steve Carell left and things never quite felt the same. I believed in your comic vision and I believed in your writing.

When I found out you would be coming to Portland to do a book reading at Powells, I prepared endlessly for all the things I wanted to say to you. I calculated perfect and well-placed office jokes, I obsessed over social commentaries I thought you’d find humorous, I wanted to make you laugh, to return the hours upon hours of laughter you’ve given me.

Then, when the fateful day came and I finally got to experience being in the presence of a writing idol, I felt oddly calm despite my rather clammy hands from nerves.  You read some stories, I laughed too loud, and you chose my sweaty hand to ask a question.

I had prepared dozens all involving jokes and then when you picked me I couldn’t do it; I froze. I asked you about the inspiration for your book trailer instead of quoting The Office at you with brilliant comedic timing. Somewhere while listening to you something changed. You were so passionate about your new collection and about the direction your writing was taking, I realized I had to let my long time crush on Ryan Howard and your Office writing go.

I had to move on with you.

So, keep pursuing fiction, making contractually obligated ‘that’s what she said’ jokes and brilliantly satirical book trailers.  I’ve read One More Thing three times already and am desperate for more so please quit acting with all those Oscar winners and get back to being a lonely writer. Your fans are waiting with sweaty palms.

Love, Cassie