Sunday, May 29, 2022

Interview: Brian Baumgartner Talks ‘Off the Beat’ Podcast and ‘The Office’ [EXCLUSIVE]

Nope, he’s not Ashton Kutcher. He’s better. You may know him as accounting superstar Kevin Malone in The Office, played by Brian Baumgartner. Since the finale of the NBC hit comedy, Baumgartner has guest starred in various TV shows including Criminal Minds, Melissa & Joey, The Goldbergs, and more. He also lent his voice talents to Netflix’s Trash Truck series.

Beyond the screen, Baumgartner is the host of the podcast Off the Beat with Brian Baumgartner, available on iHeart Podcasts and wherever you listen to podcasts. In it, he talks with guests within the television industry about their careers and more. Previously, he hosted The Office Deep Dive, where he talked with the minds behind the TV series, including its cast, producers, directors, writers, and even fans. He is the co-author of the New York Times bestseller Welcome to Dunder Mifflin with Ben Silverman. The book includes in-depth, exclusive behind-the-scenes secrets, stories, and photographs about The Office’s rise in popularity. It features musings from Baumgartner, Steve Carell, Jenna Fischer, Angela Kinsey, Rainn Wilson, John Krasinski, Greg Daniels, and many, many more.

Recently, we had the chance to sit down and chat with Brian about Off the Beat and the lasting impact of The Office. And while Kevin may believe saying few word do trick, Brian took the say lot word avenue. Keep reading to find out what he had to say!

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Note: This interview was edited for clarity.

Nerds & Beyond: In February, you transitioned the podcast from The Office specific to talking with people from television in general. How did hosting The Office Deep Dive help shape what would come with Off the Beat? What, if any, new challenges did you face, and what were some aspects that were easier to navigate?

Brian Baumgartner: There was always an expiration date for The Office because there’s only a certain number of people that I could talk to. So I loved going back ‘cause I was truly interested in the phenomenon that The Office has become. But as I started talking to more and more people, I enjoyed this as an art form. I enjoyed learning and talking to people, and I thought, “Well, shoot.” I mean I have worked with so many amazing people, and there are people who I haven’t worked with that are so interesting, but we’re just working. Like we’re not really talking about how we got into the business or moments that sort of shaped us. So again, there was a genuine curiosity from me on just learning people’s stories and having these conversations. So that’s why we transitioned, because there was an expiration date, and I was enjoying doing it.

And I think there are guests that we will still have that had a connection to The Office that, for whatever reason, we couldn’t schedule before. Like I’m talking to Catherine Tate upcoming, who was Nellie Bertram in The Office. And a lot of people don’t know her story. I mean she’s a huge star and has accomplished… you know [she] had her own show, The Catherine Tate Show on BBC in England. So letting people know the stories of people that they love and have watched for years, I’m really enjoying sharing those stories.

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Nerds & Beyond: Throughout the podcast’s lifespan thus far you’ve already talked with some pretty well-known people. Who’s someone you’d love to interview either in the near or distant future?

Brian Baumgartner: That’s a great question. I would say Ted Danson. Ted Danson because 1) I was a huge fan of Cheers, and 2) I really feel like The Office… a lot of people think – because when The Office started it was sort of new, and the genre was new and sort of different – and so people sort of put us in the line with Seinfeld. But I think our direct descendant from The Office is Cheers. I think that comedy… you know, it wasn’t a workplace, but it was a place where people were together day after day. A disparate collection of characters that all had stories. So yeah, Ted Danson. That would be my answer.

Nerds & Beyond: Something you’ve carried over to Off the Beat is taking the time to really dive in with your guests. Why is going beyond the surface with them so important to you?

Brian Baumgartner: Well, I feel like there’s tons of outlets [where] people can get the surface stuff. I mean, you know, all you have to look at is late night television, late night talk shows. They’re seven-minute increments, it’s very surface, it’s very, you know, what’s the project that’s happening now or talking about sort of big events that happened in people’s lives. To me what’s really interesting is that – I mean not to borrow the title of the podcast [laughs] but those off the beat moments. Those moments that happened that were unexpected or different or that people don’t know about. To me that’s really what’s gonna let people get to know the people.

Nerds & Beyond: What are some of your main goals with the podcast going forward?

Brian Baumgartner: That’s a great question. I think it’s to continue to talk to people. I want to talk because I think that it translates in all medium, so I would like to eventually talk to people in other medium besides entertainment or television entertainment. I would like to talk to musicians or businesspeople or athletes, to share well-known people who have a story that people don’t know that we can dive in and talk substantively about how they got to where they are.

Nerds & Beyond: What’s been the most fulfilling part about hosting Off the Beat and previously The Office Deep Dive?

Brian Baumgartner: Well, I think that in some ways it’s two different answers. I mean, I loved getting back with my old friends on The Office and talking… because even since the show stopped airing, and we were sort of all together every day, the show has taken on a life of its own. So exploring why that is, or at least getting different people’s opinions on why the show has morphed and changed and exploded over the last seven years, that was really interesting.

But again, it’s the connection with the people, [and] that holds true through Off the Beat. Some of the people that I’m interviewing I know well, having conversations with [them] now on Off the Beat. Some I have – you know, like Wendie Malick. I’ve worked with her a couple of times… and admire her work but didn’t really get to know [her]. Or Jon Hamm. Some people I don’t know at all. So I’m really excited to continue talking to people that either I know or that I’ve always wanted to know.

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Nerds & Beyond: Shifting gears just a bit, I mean you mentioned it already, but The Office has just absolutely exploded over the past few years. What has your experience been like to be a part of and to watch this little show that could become such a staple in pop culture? What do you think makes it so special?

Brian Baumgartner: I mean, I spent the last couple of years exploring that very idea. [laughs] I think that ultimately there is no answer. I think that it – which was always confusing to me, because we were never making a show for young people, really. We weren’t really making a show for kids and certainly not 13, 14-year-olds. So we talked on set a lot about if people who work in offices, if a small percentage of the people who work in offices in the United States watch the show, we’re gonna be on for a while.

But I think what we [and] what I have found is that the translation between a group of people who work in an office, with an unreasonable boss, who makes them do unreasonable things, sitting next to people that they don’t choose to sit next to, that the correlation between that and a school environment gives a universality to young people with a teacher who makes them do unreasonable things, sitting next to people that they don’t choose to sit next to. I think the translation of those two ideas has brought the show a universality that even we did not expect or realize. So in addition to giving comfort to people who maybe do work in offices or are older or more experienced, I think that that universality, with the translation to the school, I think is a huge reason why it continues to generate fans as they turn to now seventh, eighth grade or whatever.

Nerds & Beyond: You’re also one of the New York Times bestselling authors behind Welcome to Dunder Mifflin, along with Ben Silverman. Can you tell us a bit about how the book came to be and your experience writing it?

Brian Baumgartner: Yeah, you know, it was a product of the interviews that I had been doing over the last couple of years and really wanting to explore in more long form the story of the show and potentially why it has gained in popularity since we finished. And in addition, the book format allowed us to – we had thousands and thousands and thousands of never-before-seen photos that were taken behind the scenes that had never been seen before, and so that long form book format allowed us to include so many photos that had never been seen and give people a tangible object that they can have as a keepsake for the show and the story of it.

Nerds & Beyond: One question we like to ask all our interviewees is, what’s something you like to get nerdy about?

Brian Baumgartner: Sports.

Nerds & Beyond: I love the no hesitation there.

Brian Baumgartner: Yeah, I mean that’s really it. I heard one time that a person’s brain – I don’t know if this is true, but a lot of people say it is. Don’t credit me. I heard this somewhere that a person’s brain has only space for music, so like titles, artists, songs, albums, all that stuff; sports, so like stats or, you know, who’s doing what and all that; or useless trivia. So mine is firmly in sports.

Thank you to Brian for taking time to chat with us! Be sure to listen to Off the Beat with Brian Baumgartner, available now on iHeart Podcasts, Spotify, and Apple Podcasts, with new episodes releasing every Tuesday. Purchase a copy of Welcome to Dunder Mifflin here. You can also catch him as chili connoisseur Kevin Malone on The Office, streaming now on Peacock.

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