On the Spot: B.J. Novak, actor and author of ‘One More Thing’

B.J.Novak (credit: Jennifer Rocholl)
B.J.Novak (credit: Jennifer Rocholl)

In “One More Thing” ($25, Knopf), a book of 64 short stories, B.J. Novak uses fiction to slyly ask big questions: How do you plan your time in heaven when you have an eternity? What if the tortoise and the hare had a rematch? What’s the best way to find love? (The answer to that last one is a red T-shirt). Novak, who wrote for and starred in “The Office,” is at Politics and Prose on Saturday.

Why fiction instead of the personal essays many comics write?
A number of reasons. One is that I just didn’t feel like talking about myself. I was the only one who would be interested. Another is a lot of the biggest things I think about aren’t especially interesting from a guy who played the temp on “The Office.” It’s not the biggest life experience from which to explore the issues of love and perfection and the universal. Whereas in fiction I feel that you can because it’s not about who’s telling it to you, it’s just about what the story is.

But within fiction, you stayed in the vein of humor.
I love fiction and I read a lot of it. Unfortunately, a lot of the best stuff isn’t very accessible or entertaining. It’s deep, it’s profound, but especially in short fiction, a lot of the best stuff is internal and cold and distancing. I feel like for better or worse, I want to be an entertainer.

What inspired these stories?
They started with ideas I’ve had for years that I wanted to find a way to work into a script at some point, a television series or a screenplay. And when I looked at them, often they were too specific for that: It’s nothing Michael Scott would say, it’s nothing that a romantic comedy would have, but it’s something that was very much on my mind.

You’ll be performing some of the stories Saturday, right?
That’s another thing that I wanted to do with this book is make the live performance of fiction a night of entertainment, to make this something someone might actually want to leave their house and go see. I wrote the book while workshopping it at the Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre in Los Angeles once a month. So going to Politics and Prose, to me it’s not just about selling books, it’s about creating a night of entertainment.

Politics and Prose, 5015 Connecticut Ave. NW; Sat., 6 p.m., free; 202-364-1919, politics-prose.com. (Van Ness)

 

Beth Marlowe is a senior editor at Washington Post Express. She has written for The Washington Post, the Associated Press, Bloomberg Television and other publications.
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