B.J. Novak was a standup comic in Los Angeles and spent time as a prankster on MTV's "Punk'd" before joining NBC's "The Office," which airs Tuesdays on NBC at 9:30 p.m. He is a writer for the show and also plays office temp Ryan Howard. The Massachusetts native and former Harvard student revisited his Little League baseball fame, his college days and discussed life as a displaced Red Sox fan.
What sports were you into as a kid?
I was a huge Little League star -- for about four months. I was no good, and then one year I think I went through puberty a little early and had an unfair advantage. One year I was just an all-star, and I've never really relived it. I never really got to that level in anything in my life since then.
I resented those kids because I was always the small one.
Yeah, this is how pathetic the glory that I'm clinging to is. This was the "minors" in Little League; not even the real 12-year-old big league. This was like no stealing, no bunting.
Are you able to keep up with the Red Sox while living out in Los Angeles?
Most members of our cast are huge Red Sox fans except for Jenna Fischer [Pam Beesly on the show], who is from St. Louis. She was the only person with Internet access during the Red Sox-Cardinals World Series. So she had to announce pitch by pitch, every second between takes, what had just happened. And she's enough of a trouper that she would smile every time the Red Sox got a hit because she knew we were all going to cheer. So, yeah, she took one for the team.
What about the departure of Theo Epstein, the Sox' general manager?
That's a bummer. That was my sort of hero, Theo Epstein. That's a guy I could relate to having a World Series trophy. The Jewish guy from suburban Boston. That was the most identifiable champion to me, so it's very hard for me to lose him.
He still has to be an icon among Red Sox fans everywhere, right? I mean, he'll have people buy him dinner and drinks forever.
The one thing Red Sox Nation has in common with The Nation of Islam is that they are a nation spread around the globe. That's a very long, odd way to say that Theo Epstein can get drinks anywhere he wants. Although there's much more beer in Red Sox Nation than in The Nation of Islam.
What's the sports scene like at Harvard from a student's perspective?
Once a year, you go to the Harvard-Yale football game. You don't go in the actual stadium. You tailgate outside. You are told in passing who won the game, and you forget within five minutes. That's the extent of the Harvard sports scene.
What about the scene in L.A.? Do you get to any games out there?
Oh yeah. This is how I know the show is doing better. Last year NBC would call up and offer me Clippers tickets. This year they call and offer me Lakers tickets. That's how I know we're on the ups. I'd be very disturbed if it were the other way around.
-- Rich Campbell