'Conference Room, Five Minutes': Talking 'The Office' With Author Shea Serrano

I'm never not re-watching The Office.

OK, so I'm not literally watching The Office 24/7—but I've never tucked my favorite show away and put that chapter of my life behind me. Cooking dinner? Fire up The Office.

There's nothing on? Let's visit my old pals in Scranton.

Long day at work? Welp, let's do it again. [Writer's note: That's what she said.]

I'm not alone in my passion.

Go to the Dunder Mifflin Reddit page or search BuzzFeed, and you'll still find lots of people obsessively discussing a show that aired its finale half a decade ago. Netflix is a hell of a drug.

So it makes sense, in a way, that Shea Serrano—staff writer at The Ringer, two-time New York Times best-selling author, fearless general of the FOH Army and the namesake of a gymnasium—would put out a project on The Office in 2018.

"I took on the project because…I don't know," Serrano told Newsweek in a phone interview this week. "[Artist Arturo Torres] and I were bored. That's really all there is." He continued, however, that "it definitely feels like [The Office has] gotten this second life. And it's cool to see a lot of other people talk about it. I watch it all the time, and it turns out a million other people are watching it, even though it's been off TV for years."

The project, called Conference Room, Five Minutes (CRFM), will look a bit like Serrano's best-seller Basketball and Other Things—Torres did those illustrations as well—but it's not a book (Serrano wanted to be clear about that). For $20, in July you'll get 10 illustrated essays about The Office delivered via the magic of the internet—"a digital packet for a paperless world." [Writer's note: Here's a link to where you can buy CRFM.]

It has been a long time coming [Writer's note: That's what she said]. Serrano started working on CRFM last year. And if you have ever read his work, you know it'll take an off-center and inventive look at The Office, by doing things like dissecting the pickup basketball episode in a hilariously detailed fashion.

That in mind, we called up Serrano and put him through the ringer, asking a bunch of weird questions about The Office ahead of CRFM's debut. Here's that conversation, edited and condensed for clarity.

[Writer's note: If you didn't watch The Office, no worries. All you have to do to understand this article is go on Netflix, watch Seasons 1 through 9 in their entirety, then come back and read this post.]

Let's do a little lightning round with The Office. Rank these regional managers: Michael Scott, Deangelo Vickers, Ed Truck, Robert California, Dwight Schrute.

You listed a lot of them. [Laughs]. Michael's gotta be first. It's gotta go Michael, then Dwight, then Robert California, then Deangelo and then Ed Truck. We don't find out anything out about Ed Truck. We don't learn anything in the show with the exception of he hired Darryl. And he got his head chopped off. So I'm gonna put him last because every other Dunder Mifflin person kept their head except for him.

We never really learn if Deangelo Vickers got his memory back…but he technically kept his physical head. OK, what's your favorite underrated quote?

A quote that stuck with me is when Kelly thinks that the branch is closing, and she's talking to the camera and crying. And she says if she gets to stay and Ryan has to leave she's going to kill herself. Not that part though! She says, "I'm going to kill myself." And then there's a pause. And she says "like Romeo and Juliet." And then there's another pause. And then she clears it up and says "the Claire Danes one." And for me, when she says "the Claire Danes one," it's just really, really funny. That one sticks out.

And also one where Creed is talking to the camera. He's talking about how he's going to get Pam's chair. Everybody's getting a new chair. He says, "If Michael gets a new chair, then Pam gets Michael's old chair. And then I'll get Pam's chair."

You expect it to go one way. Like, "Finally I'll get a new chair, or somebody else will have my chair." But he says, "Then I'll have two chairs." And then he says... "Just one more to go." That's great. Very representative of the way Creed works.

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A promo image for "Conference Room, Five Minutes," which is a digital packet for a paperless world. Courtesy of Shea Serrano

So many good Creedisms. Who has the better jumper: Kevin Malone or Jim Halpert?

Kevin Malone probably has the better just straight-up jump shot. I was reading about that particular moment where Kevin [played by Brian Baumgartner] comes out onto the court and shoots around and makes four in a row. In the extended, director's version or whatever, Rainn Wilson [who played Dwight] explains he made 14 in a row at one point. So I'll go with Kevin.

What's your favorite Christmas episode?

Probably the one where…oh, that's a tricky one. I feel like it's easy to pick one of the earlier ones, like where Bob Vance introduces himself to everybody [Writer's note: "Bob Vance, Vance Refrigeration. Bob Vance, Vance Refrigeration. Bob Vance, Vance Refrigeration. Bob Vance, Vance Refrigeration"]. It's a great moment.

But I think, for me, I'm going to go with toward the end of the series. When they play the Christmas song that Dwight likes. The heavy-metal orchestra, symphony one. They play that, and then they just do a montage of all the scenes happening at the Christmas party. Meanwhile, Dwight and Creed and Gabe are air-guitaring and air-drumming. I really liked that part.

Is Toby good or bad?

Toby is… I guess he's good. A little creepy. Like, on the rewatch, the Pam stuff is kinda weird. But I think, in general, you probably gotta mark him down as good.

What's the hardest job at Dunder Mifflin?

I feel like sales. It's got to be hard to sell paper to somebody. Probably that.

The moment that made you cry the hardest? I'm just assuming you cried at some point.

Yeah, everybody's cried watching The Office. The moment that made me cry… I feel like when, I'm stuck between when Michael proposes to Holly and finally gets a happy moment like that.

And then a sad one. When [Michael is] leaving, and he talks to Jim before he leaves. They do the whole thing where Jim's like "I'll see you tomorrow." That's probably it.

Out of all the characters, if there's a hypothetical massive game of Monopoly, which Office character wins?

Oscar. For sure. He's too smart. He'll know all the rules. He'll know to buy all the things he needs, he'll have the most strategic battle plan. So it'd have to be either him, or you would go Phyllis. Because that sort of stuff just happens to her. Like when she beat Kevin in poker even though Kevin was like a World Series [of Poker] winner. She just lucked into having all the "clovers" as she called them.

We talked about a bunch of the characters. Did you come away with a character you thought was underrated? Or somebody who was overrated?

I think Phyllis is definitely underrated. You could do that with any of the background characters. But Stanley seems to be very beloved. Oscar has gotten this second fame with commercials. Yeah, Phyllis is the most underrated. Her, and then after that is Kelly. Who is hilarious.

I think Kelly gets...not a bad rap, but not enough of a rap if that makes sense?

She's just so funny. Like little things. I really like when she does little things with the camera. Like when she tells Ryan she's pregnant, and they cut to her and [she] just shakes her head no.

There's another one where Jan comes down to talk to all the women in the office. She started to get bored with Jan, so she starts messing with her. And she's like: "Michael said he got to second base with you. Does that mean this or that?" And then Jan starts to get flustered. And [Kelly] turns to look at the camera and sort of just smiles to let you know. Kelly's great.

I like when Ryan comes in and is talking down to everybody, and he asks, "Do you have any questions?" Kelly goes, "Yeah, I have one: How dare you?"

Yeah, [laughs] yeah, yeah.

What are you hoping people get out of this project?

I just hope that people will open it and be excited by what they see and have fun reading stuff about The Office. At this point, people who are gonna buy this thing have watched the series multiple times—there's no new Office stuff. This is just a new thing about something you like.

'Conference Room, Five Minutes': Talking 'The Office' With Author Shea Serrano | Culture