Interview with B.J. Novak AKA Portrait of the Bozo as an Old Man
I started reading Hello Giggles when I saw this really cool-seeming person named @sofifii on twitter who was verified and friends with all these cool people and asked my brother who she was and he played a very mean prank on me and told me that she was the person in charge of verifying people on twitter and that I better get in good. So like an idiot, I believed him and asked her if she could verify me and she told me the truth (ironic that a stranger was way more real with me than my own family. Ha, welcome to my world).
But anyway, then I started reading her site HelloGiggles and liked it a lot and then I noticed my brother Lev and my cousin Autumn wrote for it and I was like, WHAT THE WHAT IS GOING ON? Get out of my world, thanks!!! (Actually, Autumn is completely cool but Lev is definitely way too much like a younger version of Ben, sorry, I mean “B.J.” Really cool initials. You’re really cool, Ben.) Then Rivka aka @sofifii told me that they were supposed to do an interview with Ben about his new book of short stories One More Thing and she suggested that maybe I could do it. Okay, real talk: the last thing in the entire effing world I wanted to do was talk to my brother about his book, but I have basically no extra-curriculars and this was a chance to be a HelloGiggles contributor, falling in my lap. So add that to an A-average (assuming I get a couple of things up this semester, which I will) and some good letters of recommendation (I already know who I’m going to ask), and then when it comes time for college applications, hiiiiiiiii haters. ? I’m joking, but they say that “in all joking there is at least a little truth.” So, there you go. And now, presenting, my interview with B.J. Novak, entitled “Portrait of the Bozo as an Old Man.” –Keough Novak
Q. I think it’s hilarious that there are people out there who say that I’m fake when you are basically the fakest person I have ever met – no offense.
A. I don’t know where to start with this, Keough. First, you might notice that it says “Q” before everything you are supposed to type, which stands for “Question.” What you wrote after “Q” is not a question. Second, you may find this hard to believe, but it is actually considered rude in some circles to call someone “the fakest person I have ever met,” and even more so in public, and even more so when the other person is your brother, and even more so when the other person hasn’t said anything yet. I’m not necessarily saying I am offended – but just for future reference, some people might consider it rude. Finally, I am a little baffled as to why you took the trouble to include the phrase “no offense” when it appears your statement (rather than your “question,” which this was not) had no other possible intention than to offend me. Does that answer your question? Oh, wait, you didn’t ask a question.
Q. You are widely regarded as a world-class bozo. Does it hurt your feelings that so many people think you are a bozo? Or are you happy to be understood for who you really are?
Let me just say that I’m proud that you have learned how to focus on the existential questions.
Q. Your friend Mindy Kaling is not only an amazing actress and writer, but she is also famous for her charity work: hanging out with losers and making them feel like they have friends. Are you grateful to her for helping you that way?
Mindy is a good friend.
Q. Real talk. What do you think is the key to being a great older brother?
I think the most important thing is to convey a depth of unconditional, I’m-on-your-side support with people in your family. That way, when it’s time to be honest and there are those truths that are important to convey but may be hard to hear, there’s never any doubt that the love is there.
Q. Interesting. And why do you think you are so incapable of being that way?
This interview is not going the way I hoped it would.
Q. While the book is considered a humor book, many of the stories in the book aren’t laugh-out-loud “funny.” Is that fair to say?
The stories all have different lengths, tones, subjects, and themes. So some of them are meant to be more emotional or otherwise contemplative than straight-up funny all the way through.
Q. No, I should have clarified: I meant that the book is, like, really bad. Is that fair to say?
It would be perfectly “fair to say” if you came to this evaluation honestly and independently. But it seems like you are perhaps purposely trying to be negative without any independent reasoning or justification, which makes it technically not fair to say. So, no, it is not fair for you to say that.
Q. I know that a lot of people really like the book and I’m really happy for you and for them. Is there a doctor that you could recommend who could give me the type of brain damage necessary to think this is a really good book? I really do want to be able to enjoy it!
This speaks to a larger philosophical issue that has always interested me, but you present the question in a way that makes me not want to get into it. I hope that’s okay.
Q. Real talk. You are well-known not only as a writer of this book but also as an actor, especially for The Office and for being in some pretty okay movies as well. What is your HBO GO Password?
Sorry, that’s really personal.
Q. What was it like to write this book of stories?
It was an incredible experience, to be honest. I felt like I learned a lot about who I was – about things like which ideas and values were most important to me – not just by writing the stories, but by looking through them afterwards to edit them and realizing what themes and concepts kept coming up. I set out with the goal to just try to be as funny and straight-up entertaining for the reader as I could be, but it ended up being the most personal thing I’ve ever done.
Q. Are you aware that while you were answering that question, everybody reading this clicked ‘Close’ to find an interview with somebody more famous?
I guess we’ll never know.
Q. Real talk. I think your publisher and book agent and people like that all did an amazing job. Do you think your book agent or publisher or whoever would be interested in an edgier, cooler book about real life written by a teenager called, “No Filter”? It would be like a cross between Alexa Chung’s book and J.D. Salinger.
I’m sure they’d love such a book — but who would they ever find to write it?
Q. I’d write it!!!!!!!!
Ohhhhhhhhhh. Finish school first.
Q. Do you remember where you were when you heard that Osama Bin Laden had been killed? And were you nervous that now that he was dead, that you were going to be the person that everyone thought was the worst person in the world?
That’s another great question. Let me think about this one and we’ll talk about it at Thanksgiving or something.
Q. Thanks for doing this interview. I know I came off a little bratty sometimes, but I’m actually maybe sometimes kind of proud of you or whatever.
Too little, too late, Ke. But thank you.
Q. What is your HBO Go password?