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Gene Stupnitsky (co-writer): There’s a quote, “How do you make someone laugh? Lee Eisenberg (co-writer): An episode like this lives a lot in the awkward pauses.A line would happen and the audience, along with the people at the dinner, would just kind of sit there and let it hang.It’s that pressure-cooker aspect that heightens everything, plus the decorum of the dinner party, the sort of need to rise to a different sort of social construct, as opposed to just being co-workers in an office space.It’s just a boiling-hot crucible of comedy.” To celebrate its 10th anniversary, we tracked much of the cast and crew for an oral history of the landmark episode. Writing ‘The Dinner Party’ Gene Stupnitsky and Lee Eisenberg joined the “Office” writing staff in Season Two, penning memorable episodes such as “The Secret” and “Women’s Appreciation.” Gene Stupnitsky (co-writer): We kind of talked about “The Dinner Party” as Who’s Afraid of Jan Levinson-Gould? And just the world’s worst dinner party, the most awkward dinner party – with your boss.The dinner party was Jan and Michael’s attempt to show off their happy home; instead, they showed off how utterly dysfunctional their relationship was.The result was a master class of dark comedy that few other shows would dare attempt, as well as 22 of the most brilliantly cringe-inducing minutes in TV history.Shark Fest attendees hone their skills in the art of packet analysis by attending lecture and lab-based sessions delivered by the most seasoned experts in the industry.
They were usually scenes like a diversity-training seminar in the conference room.
And so the rhythms of this episode are slightly different.
Greg Daniels (executive producer/co-creator): I had an expression that I used in the writers room to describe a scene where the situation was charged, where several characters had different opinions and there was an excuse for them to all sit around and fire off great lines one at a time.
Michael Scott is always the fool, but in this moment he outsmarts Jim and Pam because he so desperately wants to hang out with them.
Jim has a talking head [where the actors speak directly to the camera], and he’s like, “I’m starting to think there was no work thing.” There’s a little bit of a grudging respect to Michael. Show a guy pushing a woman down the stairs.” I’m paraphrasing, but there’s something to that. We’re such huge fans of the British Office and we wanted to write an episode more in that tone.