B.J. Novak: One More Thing @ Assembly George Square
Looking every inch the stereotypical university arts lecturer, with the blazer, shirt and jeans combination donned in that nonchalant way, B.J. Novak takes to the lectern to deliver a wonderful lesson in how to write comedy. While some may look at One More Thing’s billing as a spoken word event with scepticism, Novak demonstrates how cerebral, subtle humour shines through, irrespective of the setting. Standing alone in a university lecture theatre, Novak has only his collection of inventive short-stories for company. His first request to an already captivated audience is that they open their textbooks; and that quip sets out the stall for a performance laden with perspicacity. Though perhaps better-known for his acting roles in film and TV, most notably in the shape of the vastly underrated US version of The Office, Novak’s writing talent is arguably his strong suit and this is evident from his readings.
Tales of varying lengths are read out; the brevity of stories on letting love go and friends’ suicides showcasing Novak’s knack for taking clichés and inverting them without succumbing to cliché himself. Even when some stories do stray closer towards the contrived or even pretentious, he conveys a sense of knowing in his delivery; a sort of “Yeah, I know, right.”
Where the event almost becomes a standup show is when Novak immerses himself in the characters of the pages before him. Those familiar with Novak’s The Office character Ryan Howard will revel in seeing him play self-involved, vacuous characters such as Julie from the absurd first-date story, Julie and the War Lord. Some might yearn to see more a bit more improvisation in what is a polished recital, but such is Novak’s gift as a raconteur that you tend to live and let live (Yeah, I know, right).