B.J. Novak and Marcus Monroe made for an entertaining ISU AfterDark


B.J. Novak virtually appeared at ISU AfterDark on Friday.

Margaret Troup

At the third ISU AfterDark event of the semester Friday, B.J. Novak and Marcus Monroe provided both virtual and live entertainment.

Members of the Student Union Board, Max Harfst and Brooklin Border, started the interview off by asking Novak if his unique first name B.J., is short for anything.

“No, I just chose the name B.J. to have an easy childhood,” Novak said sarcastically. “It stands for Benjamin Joseph.”

After breaking the ice with the moderators, Novak went on to talk about his first credited acting job.

“I thought ‘Punk’d’ was going to be the highlight of my career,” Novak said. “You guys are a little young, but MTV was so cool. Even after everything [in my career] I still can’t believe I was the newest prankster on ‘Punk’d.’”

Novak went on to speak about how thoughts of quitting the acting industry is prominent no matter how experienced one’s career is.

“I probably thought about it last week,” Novak said. “People say talent is more important than resilience. I don’t believe that. Resilient people with medium talent are more successful than brilliant people without resilience.”

Border and Harfst continued by asking which of Novak’s roles are his favorite.

“‘Punk’d’ and ‘Inglourious Basterds’ are up there,” Novak said. “One part of me was saying I had to remember what Quentin Tarantino said [when I was on set], but another part of me was saying ‘Enjoy this! It’s never going to be this fun again!’”

Novak opened up about the first time he was recognized in public after his first big break.

“I had been doing standup for a while,” Novak said. “I just filmed ‘Punk’d’ and I walked down the street afterwards and nothing had changed. Then a week later, I was at Starbucks and a guy walked past the window and looked at me. Then, the next guy. Then for like, the next hour, everyone was looking at me as they walked by.”

One of the biggest roles Novak is known for, Ryan Howard from “The Office,” still has impacts on his life today.

“I remember it going from ‘You’re the guy from ‘Punk’d?” to ‘You’re the guy from ‘The Office?’’ to ‘You’re Ryan from ‘The Office!’’” Novak said. “I remember how insane it was to think that people would be singing ‘Ryan Started the Fire’ to me for the rest of my life. But it’s still happening to this day.”

Novak proceeded to expand on his role in “The Office.”

“The audition was kind of different for me,” Novak said. “I had just done ‘Punk’d,’ and I was doing standup, and Greg Daniels saw me do standup and he wanted a meeting with me to maybe be a writer-actor. ‘The temp’ was an easy role for that.”

John Krasinski, another actor who is well known for “The Office,” and Novak have known each other since they were teenagers.

“As soon as [Krasinski] showed up [to the interview], I knew he was going to be Jim,” Novak said. “I knew this guy most of my life. I remember thinking ‘Great, at my high school reunion, I won’t even be the most famous cast member of ‘The Office.’” 

Novak went on to explain what inspires him to write.

“What inspires me to do anything is the idea that I just got to get this out there and find out if I’m crazy or not,” Novak said. “I carry around these notebooks with me all the time for ideas, and by the end of ‘The Office,’ I had a box full of those notebooks.”

Novak talked a bit about how the COVID-19 pandemic halted his plans for his long-awaited film, “Vengeance.”

“We had to stop in March last year,” Novak said. “Seven months later, Ashton Kutcher saved the day again, and he said he would only do this if every single person [on set] gets tested every single day.”

He then went on to say what inspired him to star in “Vengeance.”

“I was at the Cannes Film Festival and saw a poster for a film called ‘Vengeance,’” Novak said. “And I thought to myself, ‘I want to write a movie called ‘Vengeance.’”

Novak ended the interview with some advice for prospective actors, writers and directors.

“You can’t plan your life in terms of how you’re gonna be seen,” Novak said. “I was 40 by the time I got to make my first movie. But in the meantime, I was on this amazing TV show. Everyone I know, no matter how successful they are, there’s always something else they had planned to do but haven’t yet. So I would say, just do what you want to do in the moment, because things always change.”

Monroe preceded Novak at 9 p.m. in the Great Hall.

Monroe is a New York-based, award-winning juggler and comedian. Monroe has performed at countless venues such as comedy festivals, performing arts centers, college campuses and many more. Monroe’s next performance will virtually take place at the University of New Mexico on April 6.

The next ISU AfterDark event will be April 9.