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Whatever Happened To B.J. Novak?

If you recognize B.J. Novak, there's a good chance you know him as Ryan Howard, a.k.a. "The Temp" from the U.S. version of The Office. Ryan starts as a disillusioned twenty-something office worker, wins a shocking promotion to become one of Dunder Mifflin's top executives, loses his job for defrauding the company, and eventually returns to the Scranton office through the good graces of Michael Scott (Steve Carell), whose fixation on the younger worker borders on the creepy. Throughout the series he has on-again/off-again flings with the bubbly Kelly (Mindy Kaling), who he eventually runs away with in the series finale. 

Novak wore a lot of hats on The Office. Along with portraying Ryan Howard in front of the camera, Novak wrote for the series, directed episodes, and was co-executive producer on over 60 episodes. 

Since the series shuttered in 2013, Novak's probably seemed a lot less visible to Office fans. But the truth is he hasn't been sitting on his hands since leaving Dunder Mifflin behind. Keeping reading to find out what's happened to B.J. Novak since the conclusion of The Office.

B.J. Novak never left the small screen

While he definitely isn't appearing on TV quite as much (unless you count your Office binges), B.J. Novak never left television. The year after The Office ended, Novak had a cameo on the comedy Community and a recurring role on Aaron Sorkin's The Newsroom. Novak played Lucas Pruitt in four episodes of The Newsroom — the owner of the company airing News Night. Along with a bit of voice work for the animated show Arthur, Novak enjoyed a recurring role as Mindy Lahiri's (Mindy Kaling) ex-boyfriend Jamie on The Mindy Project for three years and played a satirical version of himself on two episodes of the musical romantic comedy series Crazy Ex-Girlfriend.

Novak is also doing a lot more work behind the camera, particularly in terms of his work on The Mindy Project. Just as he did for The Office, Novak has worked as writer, director, and producer on The Mindy Project – which isn't surprising considering his long history with the show's creator and star, Mindy Kaling. 

B.J. Novak, budding film star

B.J. Novak was showing interest in more film work long before The Office shut its doors — winning small roles in 2007's comedy Knocked Up, the buddy drama Reign Over Me released the same year, the 2012 political satire The Dictator, and most visibly as one of the few lucky survivors of Quentin Tarantino's 2009 bloodbath Inglourious Basterds

With the exception of the series finale, Novak wasn't around for The Office's last season, and his film credits are probably a big clue as to why. Novak was busy in 2013 – The Office''s final year — doing more work on the big screen. He reprised his role as Baker Smurf in 2013's The Smurfs 2. That year he also had a small role in the comedy The Internship and a meatier role in the comedy-drama Saving Mr. Banks. The latter film revolves around the development of 1964's classic Mary Poppins; Novak plays songwriter Robert Sherman who — with brother Richard Sherman (Jason Schwartzman) — co-wrote the film's songs. 

The following year Novak played Alistair Smythe in Amazing Spider-Man 2, a character who may have eventually gotten some spotlight if that franchise hadn't died — Smythe is the supervillain called the Spider Slayer in the comics. More recently, he appeared in 2017's The Founder, about the creation of McDonald's, as Harry J. Sonneborn, the McDonald's Corporation's first president and CEO.

B.J. Novak is also an author

In 2013, B.J. Novak signed a two-book deal with publisher Alfred A. Knopf, and the following year his literary career premiered with the short story collection One More Thing: Stories and Other Stories. The book enjoyed a six-week stay on New York Times' Hardcover Fiction Bestseller List

One More Thing is imaginative, playful, occasionally emotionally crushing, and often hysterically funny. The Washington Post's Jen Chaney described Novak's writing as being gifted with a style "part Steven Wright and part Charlie Kaufman, married with a sharp ear for (and satire of) contemporary pop culture." Many of the stories have hilarious premises like "The Man Who Invented the Calendar," which appears as diary entries from exactly who you'd expect. Then there's "No One Goes to Heaven to See Dan Fogelberg," when the narrator dies, goes to Heaven, and is shocked to find his grandmother spending her afterlife as Frank Sinatra's groupie. Many stories are only a few sentences long, and those tend to be some of the funniest.

While many critics point to screenwriters and comedians as Novak's influences, he proves his literary chops with "One of These Days, We Have to Do Something About Willie" — which proves to be a nod to the postmodernist writer Donald Barthelme, whose short story "Some of Us Had Been Threatening Our Friend Colby" is about a group of friends deciding that one of their number needed to be hanged and working out the minutiae of the hanging.  

B.J. Novak's Book with No Pictures

The next book B.J. Novak wrote targeted an entirely different audience. Released after One More Thing: Stories and Other Stories in 2014, his children's book The Book With No Pictures spent 55 consecutive weeks on the New York Times Picture Book Bestseller List. 

If you're wondering how a children's book that advertises it doesn't have pictures might appeal to children, a video from the Waterstones book chain may help. In the video, Novak reads from the book to a group of children, and he doesn't have any trouble keeping their attention. The beginning of the book explains "Everything the words say, the person reading the book has to say. No matter what." The rest of the book, in large colored letters, then forces the presumably adult reader to say ridiculous things that get the kids laughing like "BLUURF," "I am a monkey who taught myself to read," or "my head is made of blueberry pizza."  

Based on the video and the sales, the lack of pictures hasn't slowed down the book's success. Though it's a shame Novak published it after his time with The Office. It's easy to imagine how easily Ryan could've entertained Michael Scott with the book. 

B.J. Novak helped out on The Mindy Project

After The Office, the show B.J. Novak has worked on the most behind the scenes is The Mindy Project. Premiering on Fox in 2012, moving to Hulu partway through its run, and ending in 2017, The Mindy Project was created by and starred Mindy Kaling, who played Kelly Kapoor on The Office and has a long friendship with Novak. Along with appearing onscreen as Mindy's ex-boyfriend Jaime in five episodes, Novak was a producer on almost 30 episodes, directed two, and co-wrote 2013's "Harry & Sally," the 2013 episode in which his character first appears.

The day "Harry & Sally " aired, Novak spoke to Entertainment Weekly. In terms of how it differed from working on The Office, Novak said Kaling's higher level of responsibility on The Mindy Project made it a lot less volatile. "We would fight constantly at The Office," Novak told EW. "We would have friendship-ending fights about four times a day, and start the next day as best friends again." In comparison, Novak said on The Mindy Project, Kaling was so busy that "we really could not afford a fight."

He also doesn't think The Office's Ryan Howard would get along with The Mindy Project's protagonist. Asked what Mindy Lahiri would think of Ryan Howard, Novak said she "would have absolutely no patience" for the temp. He described both Kaling's and his characters as more mature than their Office counterparts, adding that it felt like "that was our Muppet Babies relationship, and this is us as real Muppets."  

B.J. Novak, app developer

In the season six finale of The Office, B.J. Novak's character Ryan Howard gets his co-workers involved in his website WUPHF.com. He convinces most of them to invest in the venture, and in the seventh season, we learn Ryan is being less than honest about WUPHF's profitability. 

Novak eventually proved himself to be a much savvier entrepreneur than Ryan Howard. In 2015, he released an app initially called the List, which invited users to "[s]hare your experiences, opinions, and expertise and enjoy lists from friends" as well as from celebrities. The app initially did well and was nominated for a 2016 Webby Award. That year the app changed its name to li.st and expanded its availability to Android users.

Unfortunately, like the fictional WUPHF, li.st didn't have long to live. In September 2017, li.st users received a message that the app was shutting down, citing a lack of sufficient growth. But unlike Ryan with WUPHF, as far as we know, Novak never lied to his coworkers about an "Investors ski weekend," nor did the app email you, fax you, tweet you and a bunch of other things all at the same time. 

Ryan & Kelly

In May 2015, news broke that B.J. Novak and Mindy Kaling were going to collaborate on yet another project, and this one wasn't going to be on television. The same month The Mindy Project was canceled by Fox and subsequently picked up by Hulu, the New York Daily News reported that Novak and Kaling had signed a $7.5 million deal to write a book "about their off-and-on romance." 

The following month, Kaling talking to Vanity Fair about the deal, saying that she and Novak didn't "know all that much about it" yet, explaining that they were still in the early stages with the book and that they weren't completely sure where they were going with it yet. "I think it's going to be great and funny, though," she clarified. In spite of what some may have assumed for the New York Daily News story, however, Kaling said that while she and Novak would be talking about their romantic relationships as well as their friendship, that the book "won't be a tell-all."

So far, nothing has materialized as a result of the deal, but keep your eyes on your local bookstore.

B.J. Novak's growing meat

You might argue that it's unfair to compare Novak's work on the li.st app with Ryan Howard's fictional and ridiculous WUPHF.com venture. However, there is at least one thing about Novak's post-Office career that, at first, sounds so very Ryan Howard — specifically, a business move he made after appearing as McDonald's first president and CEO Harry J. Sonneborn in 2017's The Founder. While speaking to different members of the cast during a screening of the film, WWD's Kristen Tauer learned that once again Novak was working to make life imitate art. Just like his Founder character, Novak is hoping to become an innovation supporter... of meat. 

"This sounds sci-fi," Novak told Tauer. "Do you know about the companies that are using meat stem cells to clone meat in a lab?" Novak went on to describe the process, saying it was possible to take the cell of an animal "and grow and grow and grow it." Meaning that, as opposed to the high numbers of animals butchered for meat now, "you could just get one unlucky cow and feed the world forever."  Novak said he supports a number of companies doing the work and singled out Memphis Meats as one of them.

It honestly sounds like an incredible idea. It's just... you know. He played Ryan and now he's growing meat. Actually, Dwight (Rainn Wilson) would be so jealous...

B.J. Novak, meat thief

In February 2019, Us Magazine reported on the most scandalous of celebrity scandals. B.J. Novak is apparently not just growing meat — he's stealing it too.

Invited to the 2019 Vanity Fair post-Oscars party, Mindy Kaling brought Novak along as her plus-one. Unfortunately, in spite of their long friendship, Kaling was soon taking to her Instagram to report a crime. Talking about their post-Oscars party dinner, Kaling told her Instagram followers, "[Novak] ordered broccoli and I ordered a chicken burger and french fries." Kaling turned to Novak and asked "And what did you eat for dinner?" Novak, laughing, said, "I ate your chicken burger for dinner."

It's hard not to wonder a few things in light of this news. First, did Dwight — in his capacity as volunteer Sheriff's Deputy — follow up on this report? Second, if he is a chicken thief, does having an interest in meat companies represent some kind of conflict of interest for Novak? Third and finally, he just said he ate the burger. What happened to the fries?