By now many of you will have read the Vanity Fair interview on February 4, 2014 with BJ Novak and will have noticed the manner in which Andrea Cuttler conducts the interview. I have pasted the content of the interview below for convenience. Please read the interview again and note the questions she asks. It appears she has her own agenda and is more focused on digging for dirt on Michael Jackson than listening to what Novak is trying to say. This is typical for magazines/tabloids to get hits (with the use of Michael Jackson’s name). Please consider contacting the editor to question both Ms Cuttler’s motives and unprofessional approach and VF’s apparent continued attempts to perpetuate the negative meme attached to Michael’s name by the media. Please state your case calmly and eloquently but do not make emotional protests about Michael’s innocence, just point out the unfairness of the presentation to make your point heard. Please share your emails here to inspire others. The Editor’s name is Graydon Carter and you can contact him here
BJ Novak Peaked at 12 When He Met Michael Jackson /Vanity Fair by Andrea Cuttler
Since departing The Office less than one year ago, actor B. J. Novak has landed a supporting role in this winter’s Saving Mr. Banks, executive-produced 17 episodes of The Mindy Project, and filmed a role in this summer’s sure-to-be blockbuster, The Amazing Spider-Man 2. On a blistery night in New York City, VF Daily sat down with the Harvard grad at cozy East Village mainstay Gemma to discuss what might just be his most exciting project yet: his first book. On shelves this week, One More Thing: Stories and Other Stories is a collection of hilariously funny, often touching, sometimes absurd short stories.
VF Daily: You wrote for The Office, and you’ve been acting for so long. Was writing a book always something that you knew you wanted to do?
B . J. Novak: Yes and no. I always thought I would write a book someday, but I guess I didn’t expect it to turn out like this. Mindy [Kaling] wrote a book and told me, I want you to write a book and I don’t want you to wait until you’re 80. But it is not a natural instinct of mine to be personal. I feel I have a lot of interesting ideas, but I don’t feel I’m that interesting. I enjoy expressing playful thoughts in stand-up comedy or Twitter, or any forum like that. And then suddenly, after I left The Office, I started having thoughts in premises that were too long for Twitter and too emotional for stand-up. They were comic ideas, but I really wanted to see them through in a different way.
And when they’re not personal experiences, how do the ideas typically come to you?
During my years on The Office, I kept little pocket notebooks and I wrote down every idea I had for something after The Office. Two years ago, I had two weeks off from The Office and I rented a house in Malibu, by myself. It was very lonely. I brought all of my notebooks and I transcribed every idea I had over eight years. It was this crazy intense experience. And I kind of had this fantasy, looking back, that all of those ideas would add up to a screenplay. When, in fact, it was like 190 different opening scenes, you know? It’s kind of worthless as a complete thing.
But, I really did like the ideas. I thought they’d be useful someday. And then when I started writing this book, I had the idea to go back. I started going through them chronologically, and any idea that made me smile, I tried to turn it into a story, and a lot of them are from that.
Was the goal always to write? Like when you were a kid, what did you dream of being?
When 90210 was popular, I wanted to be an actor, because I thought—and, it turns out, correctly—that people would treat me better. But then I saw Pulp Fiction and decided, like everyone that saw Pulp Fiction in the theater, that I wanted to be a filmmaker. I applied to Harvard . . . and I got in. I knew that the kids there wrote for The Harvard Lampoon if they wanted to be comedy writers, and I thought that’s close enough: Maybe if I write for The Harvard Lampoon, I’ll get a job on a comedy TV show and then it won’t be long before I could write a movie. So, that’s the thing that I wanted to do.
Now that we are years away from the show, do you still like when people come up and say, “I loved you in this”?
You know, I didn’t until recently. Now I like it.
Really? That’s interesting. Why didn’t you like it?
I think that I didn’t feel I had earned it. I didn’t feel I deserved it. It felt like, Well, you’re inflating a bunch of things in your head. You’re thinking how much Dwight made you laugh and how much one of Mindy’s scripts made you laugh, and you saw my name in the credits, and you thought that was me. So, I’m happy that you like The Office, but I’m not who you think I am. Now I’m relaxed, because that was kind of my main thing creatively and now it’s not.
Do you think you will ever do nonfiction?
Yes, at some point. I want to write the essay version of these stories.
I always wonder if there’s not something a tiny bit self-indulgent about writing nonfiction.
The way that I am personal is by not talking about myself. I started with a lot of one-liners, and a lot of people encouraged me to be more personal. This book was the most personal thing I could write. Ironically, it doesn’t feel personal when I write about my life, because some incredible things have happened to me in my life. When I was 10 years old, and I’ve told this story before, but my dad invited us to dinner in Massachusetts and Michael Jackson was there, and it was a very bizarre night.
What? You have to expand on that.
I will. I am happy to. But my point is that, while these are amazing stories that have happened, they don’t say anything. I’m not saying anything. I’m just describing what happened to me. So somehow, I’m less personal so far when I use the first person.
Right, interesting. So, tell me about the night with Michael Jackson.
The night with Michael Jackson? I was about 12 or 13 years old, and my father was writing a book with Michael Milken at the time. Michael Milken did some charity event with Michael Jackson. Michael Milken invited our family to Deepak Chopra’s house, where Milken and Michael Jackson were going to be, for some reason. We showed up to dinner, [with] like 20 people there. Michael Jackson’s not there. Kids were all told Michael Jackson was supposed to be there. And that’s a crazy thing to be told as a kid. O.K. , we’ll see. And this is like ’91. This is, you know, pre-scandal; this is Michael Jackson. Then a guy sweeps into the room, in a black hat and a red jacket, sunglasses.
No way. No way.
That’s what I thought. What kind of joke is this? He goes in the corner, very anti-social, doesn’t say a word. It’s time for dinner. There’s a kids’ table, an adults’ table. I say, “Mom and Dad, I want to be at the adults’ table, especially if one of the adults is Michael Jackson.” I’m told, “It’s not up to you, you’re going to be at the kids’ table.” I’m very upset, devastated. I sit at the kids’ table. Who’s next to me at the kids’ table? Michael Jackson.
That’s a little creepy in retrospect.
In retrospect, perhaps. In retrospect, the whole thing is a little different. I report honestly that I never felt anything the least bit troubling. And I have a good radar.
I have a good radar for something being off. Nothing was off.
Except that he’s Michael Jackson.
So we eat in silence for the first two minutes. Every kid is too well behaved to ask him a question.
And are you sitting directly next to him?
I’m at the head of the table, I don’t know why. He’s right next to me. He says, “Do you like video games?” I said, “Sure.” He starts describing the arcade that he has at Neverland. Like Sonic the Hedgehog and stuff. Sega games.
Exactly. And then he pulls out CDs and says, “Do you guys like music?” And we’re thinking, Uh, yeah, and you’re Michael Jackson. He pulls out CDs and says, “I got these CDs the other day.” It’s Aerosmith and Kriss Kross. He says, “I went to the movies with Macaulay Culkin recently.” And we’re like, You don’t have to namedrop, you’re in. He’s really insecure. He doesn’t think he’s relevant to kids or something. He was trying to show us he was cool. We finish dinner, the Chopra kids say, “Let’s go play a game.” Mind you, this really happened. In Massachusetts. The one thing that didn’t happen in L.A.
This is crazy. I feel like when you’re done you’re going to tell me this was all a joke.
No, this happened. So we play Scattegories. My team loses; he wins. When he wins, he sings “We Are the Champions,” beautifully. Just to gloat. It’s gorgeous. Then he and the Chopra kids run upstairs, go in one of the bedrooms, doors are open. “Beat It” starts blasting. Someone says to me, “I wonder if he’s dancing.” I’m like, “Let’s go take a look.” We go upstairs, go into the room where “Beat It” is playing. Michael Jackson comes spilling out of the room giggling, slapping my shoulders, saying, “I didn’t put it on, I didn’t put it on.” The Chopra kids nod and say, “He put it on—he does this all the time.” That’s his joke. He blasts his own music and says, “I didn’t put it on.” And then it was time to go. I’m so shy, and you don’t ask for a picture in ’91. I didn’t ask for an autograph, because I had the experience. That’s why still, if I may say, that when people come up for a picture—someone that barely knows what show you’re on—and they say, “Can I have a picture?” It’s like, Are you kidding me? I was 11 years old, I had dinner with Michael Jackson, and I didn’t ask for shit. I experienced it.
So how did the night end? My heart is pounding.
He says to me . . . and again, I guarantee you, I felt nothing amiss—
Are you sure? Because you’ve said it seven times and I wonder if you’re overcompensating.
Well I’ve got to say it again before I tell you the last part. He says, “What are you doing tomorrow?” I said, “I’m going to school.” And he said, “Don’t go.” I said, “Why?” He said, “School’s no fun.” I said, “O.K., I’ll just tell them Michael Jackson told me not to go to school.” He thought I was the funniest motherfucker.
And look at you now.
And that was it.
Yeah, it’s unbelievable. I promise you. So my life has had some very interesting twists and turns, but nothing like that. I was done at 12.
You peaked at 12.
It’s awesome that I’ve worked with Tom Hanks. It’s awesome. But I have not since been told by Michael Jackson not to go to school. So that would be a really good essay, but then what? Where would I go from there?
Yeah, I would probably just stick to fiction.
Nothing can top that. But I do think fiction is stranger than truth. I know people say the opposite. But what if I told you that same story and said, “And then a dragon came and ate us all.” Then it’s fiction, and it’s even more interesting. Fiction is way stranger. That’s the only way to top reality.