Jake Michael/The New York Times

B.J. Novak, an actor, director and writer famous for his role in "The Office," will speak at Cornell on March 19.

March 6, 2023

‘The Office’ Star B.J. Novak to Speak at Cornell

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B.J. Novak, executive producer, writer and star of NBC’s The Office, is coming to Cornell as part of the Cornell University Program Board and Cornell Hillel’s event, “An Evening with B.J. Novak.”

The event will take place on Sunday, March 19 at 7 p.m. in Barton Hall and will consist of a question and answer session.

Novak is a Jewish-American actor, writer and director best known for his role as Ryan Howard in “The Office.” His acting career also includes roles in Saving Mr. Banks, Knocked Up, Punk’d, The Internship, Inglourious Basterds and Reign Over Me. In 2022, Novak made his directorial debut with the film Vengeance, a comedy-thriller that he also wrote and starred in.

Novak is also an accomplished comedian, performing on Comedy Central and Late Night with Conan O’Brien and placed on Variety’s “Ten Comics to Watch.” In addition to visiting Cornell, Novak has performed at several colleges, theaters and comedy clubs.

Novak noted the influence of his Jewish upbringing on his comedy.

“I think looking at things with an outsider’s eye is very Jewish,” Novak told the Jewish Boston in 2022. “I think, ‘How can I somehow outsmart this bad hand I’ve been dealt?’ is the root of a lot of Jewish humor, and I think my favorite type of Jewish humor.”

According to Novak, his connection to Jewish humor stemmed from his father, who co-edited The Big Book of Jewish Humor. Published in 1985, the iconic novel poked fun at the Jewish experience while commemorating Jewish ancestry. 

“I think it was just that [Jewish humor] became even more a part of my language,” Novak told the Jewish Boston. “The Jewish humor was just around us all the time.”

When reflecting on his career success, Novak said that establishing a career as an actor is attainable, but that it takes luck.

“A ton of creative people, myself included, came [to Los Angeles] to make their dreams come true,” Novak told GQ in 2022. “How can you fault the city you go to for that to happen? It does happen! Maybe that sounds like I’m praising the lottery because sometimes there’s a winner.”

Correction, March 6, 11:01 p.m.: A previous version of this article and its headline incorrectly stated that Novak would perform comedy at the upcoming event. The article and headline have been corrected.