B. J. Novak

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B. J. Novak
B.J. Novak, Actor.jpg
Novak at SF Sketch Fest 2008
Born
Benjamin Joseph Manaly Novak

(1979-07-31) July 31, 1979 (age 42)[1]
Alma materHarvard University (AB)
Occupation
  • Actor
  • writer
  • comedian
  • producer
  • director
Years active2001–present
Parent(s)
RelativesJesse Novak (brother)

Benjamin Joseph Manaly Novak[2] (born July 31, 1979) is an American actor, writer, comedian, and director. Novak is best known as one of the writers, executive producers, and directors of the NBC sitcom The Office (2005–2013), in which he also played Ryan Howard. As an actor, he has also appeared as PFC Smithson "The Little Man" Utivich in the film Inglourious Basterds (2009), Robert B. Sherman in Saving Mr. Banks (2013), and Harry J. Sonneborn in The Founder (2016).

Early life[edit]

Novak was born on July 31, 1979, in Newton, Massachusetts. His parents are Linda (née Manaly) and author William Novak.[3][4][5] Novak's family is Jewish. His father co-edited The Big Book of Jewish Humor, and has ghostwritten memoirs for Nancy Reagan, Lee Iacocca, Magic Johnson, and others.[6][7] Novak has two younger brothers, Jesse, a composer, and Lev.

He attended Solomon Schechter Day School of Greater Boston for elementary school and middle school.[8] He went to Camp Ramah in New England in Massachusetts for several summers when he was in 6th, 7th, and 9th grade.[9]

He attended Newton South High School with future The Office costar John Krasinski,[10] and they graduated in 1997.[10] Novak edited one of the school newspapers, The Lion's Roar, and cowrote a satirical play with Krasinski.[11]

Novak graduated from Harvard University in 2001, where he was a member of the Harvard Lampoon. He majored in English and Spanish literature, and wrote his honors thesis on the films of Shakespeare's Hamlet.[12] Aside from the Lampoon, he occasionally staged and performed in a variety show called The B.J. Show with fellow Harvard student B. J. Averell.[10]

Career[edit]

Following his graduation from Harvard, he moved to Los Angeles, California and began working in clubs as a comedian. His first live stand-up performance took place at the Hollywood Youth Hostel on October 10, 2001.[13] He was named one of Variety's "Ten Comedians To Watch" in 2003.[14]

Novak was a writer for the short-lived The WB sitcom Raising Dad.[10] He performed on Comedy Central's Premium Blend and on Late Night with Conan O'Brien.[12][14]

Novak's television acting career began on MTV's Punk'd.[10] He was the lead accomplice to Ashton Kutcher on the show's second season in 2003, playing pranks on Hilary Duff, Rachael Leigh Cook, Usher, and Mýa.[citation needed]

Novak in June 2007

The Office[edit]

After hearing Novak's opening joke at a comedy club, executive producer Greg Daniels decided he "wanted to do something with him."[10] Novak was subsequently cast as Ryan Howard, who is first introduced on the show as a temporary employee at Dunder Mifflin in Scranton, Pennsylvania. Novak's character goes through ups and downs throughout his work career and has an on and off relationship with Kelly Kapoor (Mindy Kaling).

Novak was a cast member on the show and also a producer and writer. He, along with Kaling, Greg Daniels, Michael Schur, and Paul Lieberstein, were the original writers for the show. Novak is credited with writing 15 episodes of the show, including the Writer's Guild of America nominated episodes "Diversity Day" and "Local Ad".

On July 21, 2010, news reports indicated Novak had signed a contract to remain with the show for its seventh and eighth seasons. Under the new terms, he would be made an executive producer midway through Season 7 and direct two episodes of the show. Novak left The Office after the ninth season premiere "New Guys", however, he returned to guest-star in the final episode of the series. In a podcast interview Novak did in 2021 on Dax Shepard's show, he confirmed that he had been offered the Season 9 showrunner position but declined it because he decided that his fire for the job had burned out, and it was simply time for him to move on to new projects.

Novak and his fellow writers and producers of The Office were nominated five consecutive times for the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Comedy Series from 2007-2011.

In a June 2009 interview with The Philadelphia Inquirer, Novak spoke about sharing the success of The Office with his Newton South High School classmate John Krasinski:[15]

"Sometimes when this feels too good to be true, I think that if this were all a dream, that would be what should have tipped me off. I'd wake up saying, "I was in this incredible TV show and it was a big hit and the star was John [Krasinski] from high school. Isn't that weird?"

Post-The Office career[edit]

Novak has had supporting roles in Quentin Tarantino's acclaimed 2009 war film Inglourious Basterds, John Lee Hancock's 2013 period drama Saving Mr. Banks about the development of the 1964 film Mary Poppins, and Hancock's 2016 biographical drama The Founder about the founder of McDonald's.

Novak has also appeared in the films Unaccompanied Minors in 2006, Knocked Up in 2007, Reign Over Me in 2007, The Internship in 2013, and The Amazing Spider-Man 2 in 2014.

Novak voiced Baker Smurf in The Smurfs in 2011 and The Smurfs 2 in 2013.

He has starred in a few episodes each of The Mindy Project and The Newsroom, and made cameo appearances in the shows Community and Crazy Ex-Girlfriend. He also served as a consulting producer for the first season of The Mindy Project.[12]

Novak is set to star in his upcoming thriller Vengeance, of which he is also the writer and director. Filming began in March 2020 but was put on hold due to the COVID-19 pandemic. In May 2020, it was announced that Novak would be writing and executive producing an upcoming show entitled Young People on HBO Max.[16] He has also written, directed and executive produced an upcoming half-hour anthological series called The Premise, to be released on FX in 2021.[17]

Novak in September 2013

Book deal[edit]

On April 11, 2013, publishing house Alfred A. Knopf announced it had signed a seven-figure, two-book deal with Novak, with the first book slated to be a collection of Woody Allen-like fiction stories.[18] On February 4, 2014, a book of 64 stories, One More Thing: Stories and Other Stories, was published and spent 6 weeks on the New York Times Best Sellers Hardcover Fiction List.[19]

Novak also signed a deal with Penguin's children's books label and wrote The Book With No Pictures, which was released on September 30, 2014.[20] As of January 2021, The Book With No Pictures has spent a total of 174 weeks on the New York Times Best Seller Picture Books List since its release, with 34 weeks charting as #1. Its most recent listing was at #10 in September 2020.[21] A self-proclaimed lifelong lover of books, Novak has said he wrote the children's book partially because "to me, there is no more meaningful, important or exciting rule to introduce to children than the power of the written word."[22]

On November 19, 2019, My Book with No Pictures was published as a fill-in-the-blanks companion book to The Book with No Pictures to allow children to write their own story.

The List App[edit]

On October 14, 2015, Novak released an Apple iOS app along with co-founder Dev Flaherty called The List App.[23] The app was nominated for a Webby Award (losing in its category to Beme and Pocket) in 2016.[24] In May 2016, the app was rebranded as 'li.st' and became available on the Android platform.[25] In September 2017, the app was shut down due to lack of users.[26]

Personal life[edit]

Novak has a close friendship with Mindy Kaling, whom he met through writing for The Office, and called “the most important person in my life” (on Fresh Air with Terry Gross). The two dated on and off while writing and acting on the show, sometimes mirroring the on-again, off-again nature of the relationship between their respective characters Ryan Howard and Kelly Kapoor.[27] Novak is the godfather of Kaling's two children.[28][29]

Bibliography[edit]

Books[edit]

  • Novak, B. J. (February 4, 2014). One More Thing: Stories and Other Stories. Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group. ISBN 9780385351836.
  • Novak, B. J. (September 30, 2014). The Book with No Pictures. Dial Books. ISBN 9780803741713.
  • Novak, B. J. (November 19, 2019). My Book with No Pictures. Dial Books. ISBN 9780593111017.

Essays, reporting and other contributions[edit]

Publications:

Novak also has a chapter giving advice in Tim Ferriss' book Tools of Titans.

Instagram Live:

  • Current Mood with John Mayer (February 17, 2019). "Pants".
  • Special Report on Current Mood with John Mayer (April 19, 2020). "Coronavirus".

Podcast Appearances:

Filmography[edit]

Film[edit]

Acting credits[edit]

Year Title Role Notes
2006 Unaccompanied Minors Flight Attendant
2007 Knocked Up Unnamed Doctor
2007 Reign Over Me Mr. Fallon
2009 Inglourious Basterds Pfc. Smithson Utivich
2011 The Smurfs Baker Smurf Voice role
2012 The Dictator Uncredited
2013 The Internship Male Interviewer
2013 The Smurfs 2 Baker Smurf Voice role
2013 Saving Mr. Banks Robert B. Sherman
2014 The Amazing Spider-Man 2 Alistair Smythe
2016 The Founder Harry J. Sonneborn
TBA Vengeance Ben Manalowitz Post-production

Writing/directing credits[edit]

Year Title Notes
TBA Vengeance Post-production; Writer and director

Television[edit]

Acting credits[edit]

Year Title Role Notes
2003 Punk'd Field Agent
2005–2013 The Office Ryan Howard 166 episodes

Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Comedy Series (2006, 2007)
Nominated—Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Comedy Series (2007–2011)
Nominated—Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Comedy Series (2008–2012)
Nominated—Prism Award for Best Performance in a Comedy Series (2009)

2013–2016 The Mindy Project Jamie 5 episodes:
  • Season 1, Episode 13 – "Harry and Sally"
  • Season 1, Episode 14 – "Harry and Mindy"
  • Season 1, Episode 24 – "Take Me With You"
  • Season 3, Episode 21 – "Best Man"
  • Season 5, Episode 7 – "Revenge of the Nurse"
2014 Community Mr. Egypt Season 5, Episode 13 – "Basic Sandwich" (cameo)
2014 The Newsroom Lucas Pruit 4 episodes:
  • Season 3, Episode 3 – "Main Justice"
  • Season 3, Episode 4 – "Contempt"
  • Season 3, Episode 5 – "Oh Shenandoah"
  • Season 3, Episode 6 – "What Kind of Day Has It Been"
2015 Arthur MC Season 19, Episode 10 – "The Last Day" (voice)
2016–2018 Crazy Ex-Girlfriend Himself 2 episodes:
  • Season 1, Episode 13 – "Josh and I Go to Los Angeles" (cameo)
  • Season 3, Episode 10 – "Oh, Nathaniel, It's On!" (cameo)

Writing credits[edit]

Year Title Notes
2001–2002 Raising Dad Episodes written:
  1. Season 1, Episode 5 – "Fight for Your Right to Party" (November 2, 2001)
  2. Season 1, Episode 13 – "Mentor Matt" (February 1, 2002)
2005–2012 The Office Episodes written:
  1. Season 1, Episode 2 – "Diversity Day" (March 29, 2005)
  2. Season 2, Episode 2 – "Sexual Harassment" (September 27, 2005)
  3. Season 2, Episode 4 – "The Fire" (October 11, 2005)
  4. Season 2, Episode 15 – "Boys and Girls" (February 2, 2006)
  5. Season 3, Episode 5 – "Initiation" (October 19, 2006)
  6. Season 3, Episode 20 – "Safety Training" (April 12, 2007)
  7. Season 4, Episode 9 – "Local Ad" (October 25, 2007)
  8. Season 4, Episode 14 – "Chair Model" (April 17, 2008)
  9. Season 5, Episode 13 – "Prince Family Paper" (January 22, 2009)
  10. Season 5, Episode 22 – "Dream Team" (April 9, 2009)
  11. Season 6, Episode 21 – "Happy Hour" (March 25, 2010)
  12. Season 7, Episode 2 – "Counseling" (September 30, 2010)
  13. Season 7, Episode 17 – "Threat Level Midnight" (February 17, 2011)
  14. Season 8, Episode 1 – "The List" (September 22, 2011)
  15. Season 8, Episode 24 – "Free Family Portrait Studio" (May 10, 2012)

Writers Guild of America Award for Comedy Series (2006)
Nominated — Writers Guild of America Award for a Comedy Series (2005, 2007–2010)
Nominated — Writers Guild of America Award for a New Series (2005)
Nominated — Writers Guild of America Award for an Episodic Comedy (2005, 2007)

2013 The Mindy Project Episodes written:
  1. Season 1, Episode 13 – "Harry & Sally" (January 29, 2013)

Nominated: Writers Guild of America Award for a New Series (2012)

2021 The Premise Episodes written:
  1. Season 1, Episode 1 – "Social Justice Sex Tape" (September 16, 2021)
  2. Season 1, Episode 2 – "Moment of Silence" (September 16, 2021)
  3. Season 1, Episode 3 – "The Ballad of Jesse Wheeler" (September 23, 2021)
  4. Season 1, Episode 4 – "The Commenter" (September 30, 2021)
  5. Season 1, Episode 5 – "Butt Plug" (October 7, 2021)

Directing credits[edit]

Year Title Episode Notes
2009 The Office Blackmail webisode series 4 episodes
2009 The Office Season 6, Episode 12 – "Scott's Tots" aired December 3, 2009
2011 The Office Season 7, Episode 14 – "The Seminar" aired January 27, 2011
The Office Season 8, Episode 1 – "The List" aired September 22, 2011
2012 The Office Season 8, Episode 11 – "Trivia" aired January 12, 2012
2013 The Mindy Project Season 1, Episode 15 – "Mindy's Minute" aired February 19, 2013
The Mindy Project Season 1, Episode 21 – "Santa Fe" aired April 9, 2013
2021 The Premise Episodes directed:
  1. Season 1, Episode 2 – "Moment of Silence"
  2. Season 1, Episode 3 – "The Ballad of Jesse Wheeler"

Awards and nominations[edit]

List of awards and nominations
Year Group Award Work Result
2005 Writers Guild of America Awards New Series The Office Nominated
Episodic Comedy – for episode "Diversity Day" Nominated
Comedy Series Nominated
2006 Screen Actors Guild Awards Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Comedy Series Won
Writers Guild of America Awards Comedy Series Won
2007 Screen Actors Guild Awards Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Comedy Series[30] Won
Emmy Awards Outstanding Comedy Series Nominated
Writers Guild of America Awards Episodic Comedy – for episode "Local Ad" Nominated
Comedy Series Nominated
2008 Screen Actors Guild Awards Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Comedy Series Nominated
Emmy Awards Outstanding Comedy Series Nominated
Writers Guild of America Awards Comedy Series Nominated
2009 Screen Actors Guild Awards Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Comedy Series Nominated
Emmy Awards Outstanding Comedy Series Nominated
Writers Guild of America Awards Comedy Series Nominated
Prism Award Performance in a Comedy Series Nominated
2010 Screen Actors Guild Awards Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Comedy Series Nominated
Emmy Awards Outstanding Comedy Series Nominated
Writers Guild of America Awards Comedy Series Nominated
2011 Screen Actors Guild Awards Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Comedy Series Nominated
Emmy Awards Outstanding Comedy Series Nominated
2012 Screen Actors Guild Awards Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Comedy Series Nominated
2012 Writers Guild of America Awards New Series The Mindy Project Nominated

References[edit]

  1. ^ Hoys & Brooks 2013, p. 194.
  2. ^ "B.J. Novak". TV Guide. Archived from the original on December 15, 2018. Retrieved December 15, 2018.
  3. ^ Courtney Hollands (December 20, 2007). "Molly Goodson has stars in her eyes – and on her blog". The Boston Globe. Archived from the original on November 3, 2012. Retrieved March 6, 2009.
  4. ^ Berman, Alyssa R.; Beborah B. Doroshow (May 14, 2001). "BJs Bring a Full House to Sanders". Harvard Crimson. Archived from the original on September 3, 2009. Retrieved August 19, 2009.
  5. ^ Novak 2006, p. vii.
  6. ^ Getlin, John (September 17, 1992). "Ghost to the Stars – William Novak Is the Invisible Writer Behind Memoirs by Lee Iacocca, Nancy Reagan and—Soon—Magic Johnson". Los Angeles Times. Archived from the original on March 24, 2011. Retrieved August 19, 2009.
  7. ^ Uriel Heilman (November 19, 2006). "Better than Pork, Isn't it? Jewish Joke Book turns 25". JTA. Archived from the original on September 4, 2009. Retrieved March 13, 2009.
  8. ^ "Class Notes-Solomon Schechter Day School". www.ssdsboston.org. Archived from the original on January 27, 2016. Retrieved January 21, 2016.
  9. ^ Josh Edelglass (July 17, 2018). "B.J. Novak visits camp!". Camp Ramah New England. Retrieved January 3, 2021.
  10. ^ a b c d e f Christopher Muther (December 6, 2005). "Class reunion". The Boston Globe. Archived from the original on February 24, 2009. Retrieved March 6, 2009.
  11. ^ Viser, Matt (February 20, 2005). "Double scoops: At Newton South, two papers vie to make headlines". The Boston Globe. Retrieved May 14, 2020.
  12. ^ a b c B. J. Novak at IMDb
  13. ^ The Tim Ferriss Show (November 25, 2015). "#121: BJ Novak of The Office on Creative Process, Handling Rejection, and Good Comedy" (Podcast).
  14. ^ a b "B.J. Novak: Videos, Jokes, Tour Dates, Biography and more". Jokes.com. ComedyCentral. 2009. Archived from the original on October 20, 2008. Retrieved March 11, 2009.
  15. ^ David Hiltbrand, "B.J. Novak gives at 'The Office' and out of it" Archived March 4, 2016, at the Wayback Machine, Philadelphia Inquirer, June 11, 2009.
  16. ^ "B.J. Novak to Develop Multi-Cam Comedy 'Young People' at HBO Max (EXCLUSIVE)". Variety. May 18, 2020. Retrieved January 8, 2021.
  17. ^ "FX Picks Up B.J. Novak Half-Hour Anthology To Series; Guest Cast Includes Lucas Hedges & Jon Bernthal". Deadline. May 6, 2020. Retrieved January 8, 2021.
  18. ^ Julie Bosman, "B.J. Novak, Actor and Writer, Signs Two-Book Deal" Archived June 24, 2017, at the Wayback Machine, nytimes.com, April 12, 2013; accessed September 21, 2013.
  19. ^ "Best Sellers". The New York Times. March 30, 2014. Archived from the original on December 2, 2014. Retrieved November 30, 2014.
  20. ^ Towers, Andrea (January 22, 2014). "On the Books: B.J. Novak lands children's book deal". Entertainment Weekly. Archived from the original on December 5, 2014. Retrieved November 30, 2014.
  21. ^ "NYT Best Seller Children's Picture Books List". New York Times. September 13, 2020. Retrieved January 3, 2021.
  22. ^ "B.J. Novak's keynote address to the American Library Association". Youtube. September 18, 2014. Retrieved April 3, 2021.
  23. ^ "B.J. Novak introduces new app for people who 'just love lists'". EW.com. Archived from the original on January 13, 2018. Retrieved January 13, 2018.
  24. ^ "Webby Award Nominee". The Webby Awards. Archived from the original on January 3, 2021. Retrieved January 3, 2021.
  25. ^ Perez, Sarah. "B.J. Novak's "The List App" rebrands to li.st, arrives on Android". TechCrunch. Archived from the original on January 13, 2018. Retrieved January 13, 2018.
  26. ^ "List App Shuts Down App, Moves On To New Project". Commaful. Archived from the original on October 2, 2017.
  27. ^ Burton, Summer Anne. "33 Times Mindy Kaling And B.J. Novak's Best Friendship Killed You In The Heart". BuzzFeed. Archived from the original on October 11, 2016. Retrieved May 12, 2016.
  28. ^ "Mindy Kaling Reveals B.J. Novak Is Godfather to Her 16-Month-Old Daughter: He's 'Family Now'". May 4, 2019.
  29. ^ "Mindy Kaling's Big Announcement: She Has A New Baby Boy Named Spencer!".
  30. ^ Andrew Krukowski, "'Sopranos,' 'The Office' Win SAG Ensemble Awards," Archived September 4, 2009, at the Wayback Machine TVWeek, January 27, 2008.

Works cited[edit]

External links[edit]