For fans of the wildly popular and highly quotable TV show “The Office,” there isn’t much that can top the sarcastic humor, colorful characters and memorable one-liners — until now. Parody writers Bob and Tobly McSmith have spent the better part of their career creating epic parodies of some of your favorite shows including “Saved by the Bell” and “Friends,” and now they have set their sights on the employees of the Dunder Mifflin Paper Company. What the comedic writers want to showcase with each musical parody is a highlight of all of the aspects that make the shows so memorable, along with some of the ridiculous antics that come with these pop-culture icons. Bob McSmith sat down with Metro to give the scoop on what to expect when attending the over-the-top shows and chat about why he hopes these parodies can help create an escape from the world, even just for an hour.
For fans of the shows you parody, what do you think this experience adds for them?
When we do parodies, it’s always loving — it comes from a place of love. Tobly and I kind of grew up without a lot of friends so we were obsessed with TV and Comedy Central, and just comedy specifically. So a lot of the shows that we started with were shows we grew up watching. Like “Saved by the Bell,” we always imagined ourselves at Bayside, and then when we got to high school we realized, well, that’s not exactly what it’s like. Also, “Friends,” our last show, both [Tobly] and I moved to New York the same day and that was a huge reality crash being, like, “Wait, people don’t have gigantic apartments? You don’t have breakfast with your friends every single day?” So I think that’s part of the fun of it for the people who come. It does come from a deep, deep loving place for this material, but it also does shed a light on the reality of it and makes you think, “Huh, this is kind of ridiculous.”
What was it about “The Office” that drove you to parody the show?
This is our seventh musical parody, and while working on our previous shows we always had “The Office” on in the background. It was our happy place and a way to relax because it’s still a great show to this day. It’s so funny and so well written, and after doing “Friends” it seemed like the next logical step. It was something we loved and something we thought we could bring justice to, but it was also something we were a little scared of as well because we really did love the show that much. Everybody who’s worked on the show is a huge fan of “The Office” and they all bring their own take to the table.
When you’re creating the parodies, how do you come up with the story line?
We basically cover all 10 seasons in two hours and that takes place in a single day at the office. We cover pretty much every episode. I think at some point in the writing process literally every character who has ever been in “The Office” was in there, but as we were going on we had to start slimming them down. But you’re still going to see everything you would want to see in an “Office” parody.
What are some of the challenges of trying to combine all of that content into a show?
It definitely can be tricky, but as fans we know our favorite moments, and so it’s really about knowing what the fans love and trying to cover that in a way that makes it feel real and like it could all happen in a day. We’ve kind of learned that by doing these episodic parodies — again, like “Saved by the Bell.” But this one we really wanted it to feel like a self-contained story that didn’t follow the entire series throughout it, but you still get everything you would want.
Would you say you have to be a fan of “The Office” to enjoy the show?
I think it definitely helps, especially with those deep jokes. But we have had people who have never seen “The Office” but they love the show itself. I think that’s one of the things about the TV show, is that the themes are so universal. It’s a story about family, it’s a story about love and it’s a story about people you work with. I think anyone can relate to that. Our audiences are very young for this show: I’ve seen kids as young as 5 coming to the show and I think, “You’ve never worked a day in your life, how would you understand this?” But then I remember when I was a kid, I was watching “Cheers” and I had never been in a bar or had a drink. But you still relate to these stories because they’re human stories at the end of the day.
The Office: A Musical Parody PROVIDED
What do you think it is about “The Office” TV show that makes it so wildly funny and popular still?
I think it’s the writing of the original, it was so smart and every once in a while they would just gut-punch you with these beautiful moments that leave you sobbing in the middle of the day. So we tried to sneak a couple of those in there as well.
How much original music and dancing is in the show?
It is a full-blown musical. There are big dance numbers. It’s all Broadway-caliber singing, dancing and acting. The kids going out on the tour are absolutely amazing.
What do you hope audiences take away from the show?
What Tobly and I really hope is that the show is an escape. Life now is so hard, you wake up every day pretty much thinking the world is going to end at any moment, so this is just a two-hour escape to spend with these characters you love. It’s joyous, it’s funny and it’s heartfelt. Also, a message that Tobly and I really wanted to get through is when you spend your day at work, you spend so much time with these people who are now your family and your friends. Take time out of the day to say you love them, go to the watercooler and share a joke, or do a prank. Love the company of your company — that’s what we really wanted to get across to people.
Catch “The Office: A Musical Parody” Sept. 28 and 29 at the Merriam Theater. For tickets, visit kimmelcenter.org.