Brian Baumgartner played Kevin the accountant on "The Office" for all of the sitcom's nine seasons. Now he's the host of "An Oral History of The Office" podcast on Spotify, looking back on what made the show so popular, both in its original run on NBC and its second life on Netflix. (In 2021, the show will move to NBC's streaming platform Peacock.)
"To me what was interesting to me about doing this, which was different than any other television podcast that exists, is that I wanted to tell our story from the inside," Baumgartner said. "So it's a collage of voices -- writers, directors, actors, crew people -- telling a full oral history of what happened 15 years ago and all the way through to now.
"We thought we were making a workplace comedy that people who worked in offices could relate to," he added. "But with the shift to a younger audience -- 12- and 13-year-olds are consuming it over and over -- we've come up with a number of theories in the podcast as to why that is. One that I think has some merit is that there is a mirror between people who are working together in an office and people who are going to school. In school you might have the equivalent of an unreasonable boss or sitting next to people you don't necessarily choose to sit with. I think that experience of being stuck in a place and spending more time with these people than your family does have some resonance."
"The Office" remains a highpoint in Baumgartner's career. When asked about the opposite -- a cringe-worthy moment -- he recalled a movie audition that happened during his time on the show.
"This was the worst audition," he said. "Truly, when it runs through my mind today, my face gets hot."
My worst moment ...
"I got called to audition for the new movie version of 'The Three Stooges' (from 2012). I think, really, who they were going to cast was preordained and pre-organized and I don't know why they held auditions (laughs), but they did.
(Bobby and Peter Farrelly directed; Chris Diamantopoulos played Moe; Sean Hayes played Larry and Will Sasso played Curly.)
"Of course I was auditioning for Curly, the bald guy, right? And even in the days leading up to this audition I was like, 'This doesn't make any sense to me.' Because everything about this material is physical comedy and it was like, are they pairing us up? Are we going in with different groups of people? Even just the intricacy of this physical comedy -- this feels like something you should work out ahead of time if you're really auditioning people, because you need to see how their chemistry works with one another.
"So I go the audition and I go into the room -- I feel like I'm sweating just talking about it -- and stood in front of a group of people and did a 'Three Stooges' scene by myself. The physical comedy is that you're doing things to other people, that's literally what you're doing! You're saying nonsense words but poking them in the eye and hitting them in the groin -- but there's nobody else there.