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Bloopers that made the final cut on The Office

Based on the British sitcom of the same name, The Office became an American comedy classic, running for nine years and launching stars like Steve Carell, John Krasinski, and Ed Helms to fame. Audiences embraced what was, at the time of the show's premiere in 2005, a revolutionary production style — it was shot to look a documentary about a branch of a struggling paper company, so out went the studio audience and the laugh track. Few TV comedies have ever felt as "real" as The Office, but the series' 200-plus episodes were, by and large, intricately scripted. In fact, it's a testament to the talents of the show's actors that so many moments felt improvised. But sometimes magic happened, and a bit of spontaneity could make its way into the final broadcast version of an episode. Here are some times when things went wrong on the set of The Office and it wound up in the show anyway.

Having a ball with a blooper

One of the most beloved elements of The Office: Jim's (John Krasinski) relentless pranks on tightly-wound coworker Dwight Schrute (Rainn Wilson). Jim did everything from suspend Dwight's stapler in gelatin to place his personal possessions in the break room vending machine to convince him that he'd committed a murder. The one that opens the 2005 episode "Performance Review" is a bit more direct. Dwight replaces his desk chair with an exercise ball, and bounces around like a fool while blathering about what a good ab workout he's getting. It annoys Jim to the point where he walks over to the "fitness orb" and, with a pair of scissors, stabs a hole in the thing. Instantly, the ball explosively deflates, sending Dwight quickly to the floor. 

That's not the way the scene was conceived. According to episode writer Larry Wilmore on an Office DVD commentary track, he'd scripted the bit so that the ball deflated slowly, comically sending Dwight lower and lower. That's also the way the ball had behaved in multiple rehearsals and test shots. But when the cameras rolled, Krasinski's stab landed "right on the seam" of the ball, according to episode director Paul Feig on the commentary track. That take wound up as part of the finished episode — even with brief, audible background laughter, actor Leslie David Baker (Stanley) cracking a smile, and Krasinski stifling a laugh and diving out of frame.

Ho-ho-hilarious office party

When Ed Helms, who played Andy Bernard on The Office, stopped by The Dan Patrick Show in 2018, the conversation turned to behind-the-scenes Dunder Mifflin intel. Patrick asked Helms if he had a hard time keeping the laughter to a minimum. He sure did. "I was a disaster. Just breaking all the time. Steve Carell, he just slays me," Helms confessed. "A lot of times, if I was doing a scene with Steve, I would have to look at his chin. Because I couldn't look him in the eyes. I would lose it." 

Sometimes avoiding eye contact wasn't enough. Helms mentioned the 2009 Office Christmas episode "Secret Santa." Michael (Carell) is so upset that Phyllis is serving as the office party Santa that he also dresses up like Old St. Nick. Phyllis won't allow Kevin to sit on her lap and tell Santa what he wants for Christmas, but Michael will… only to immediately regret it, wincing in discomfort. The other employees watch, including Andy. Helms couldn't handle it. "I had to duck behind a plant. You can see in the actual episode in the background," he told Patrick. "And by the way, that was like take 30 because I had been laughing in every single take." He mostly succeeded in hiding his laugh, but co-star Mindy Kaling didn't — she can be seen laughing at the silliness, even though she wrote the episode.

A kiss for the ages

Dunder Mifflin's grumpy accountant Oscar Martinez (Oscar Nuñez) is openly gay, but that element of the character wasn't fully addressed until the first episode of The Office's third season. While discussing movies with Michael, Oscar mentions that he likes Shakespeare in Love more than Die Hard, an opinion which Michael dismisses as "f***y," using an ugly homophobic slur as a synonym for "dumb" or "lame." H.R. rep Toby later informs Michael that Oscar was offended by his use of that particular F-word because Oscar is a homosexual. 

Nearly everyone in the office reacts to the news — Kevin giggles, Kelly thinks it's "so cool" — and Michael calls an emergency staff meeting about acceptance. That's all well and good, but then, to prove to all (but probably himself) that he isn't a homophobe, Michael forces Oscar into an awkward hug… and then kisses him on the lips. According to writer Paul Liberstein at a 2007 Office panel discussion (via IGN), the hug and a kiss on the cheek was scripted, but in "one take, Steve just won't let Oscar turn away. He got closer and closer and it just got creepy." Carell and Nuñez ran with the mouth-kiss idea.

Laughter can be contagious in the office

As the manager of Dunder Mifflin's Scranton branch, the chief priority of Michael Scott is a pathological need to be liked by his employees. To that end, he actively avoids any tough decision that could result in bad news. When the corporate office charges him with picking a health care plan for his employees, he passes the task to Dwight. Forever craving authority, Dwight jumps at the chance. Jim sees it as a way to play another classic prank on Dwight. When Dwight orders employees to list their medical conditions so as to help him choose an insurance package, Jim (with Pam's help) submits a number of facetious answers. Dwight angrily reads the list aloud, mentioning "leprosy, flesh-eating bacteria, and 'hot dog fingers.'" It's that last one that prompts laughs from accountants Angela and Kevin. According to Angela Kinsey on Twitter, that laughter wasn't in the shooting script. 

Wait for it, wait for it…

"Health Care," the same episode of The Office that led to unprovoked giggles from two cast members, generated another moment where an actor delightfully went off script. After making Dwight handle the health care selection process, Michael desperately tries to offset any potential bad news from a lackluster insurance program by promising the office a vague "surprise" at the end of the day. He never actually comes up with what that surprise should be, of course. As the close of business arrives, the rank-and-file employees confront Michael and then walk away in disappointment, realizing there is no prize as the boss just stands there, awkwardly. 

At a 2006 panel discussion at USC's School of Cinema-Television (via Officetally) episode writer Paul Lieberstein (who also plays Toby) revealed that he put directions in the script for Carell to hold for "the longest pause in television history." Carell called his bluff and raised him. He stalled for an astounding two-and-a-half minutes of cringe-inducing tension (it was edited down for broadcast). It got so awkward that Carell started to profusely sweat for real, and the waterworks are visible in the final cut.

Put your hands up

Is Michael Scott an insensitive jerk, or is he is just a dumb-dumb who cares more about making people laugh than he does about their feelings? In the 2007 episode "Women's Appreciation," he at least tries to be a bit more sensitive and sympathetic. When a stranger flashes Phyllis in the parking lot, Michael at first thinks it's funny, and roams around the office with his finger sticking out the fly of his pants. That understandably upsets some of the staff, prompting Michael to hold an impromptu seminar on women in the workplace. He then invites the ladies of the office on a trip to the local mall, and inappropriately offers to buy them lingerie. 

That's a lot of humor packed into a single episode, and John Krasinski couldn't handle it. After Michael bullies Toby and nearly forces him to prove he isn't the flasher by exposing himself (so Phyllis can "compare"), Krasinski, as Jim Halpert, can be seen in the background, clearly covering his smiling mouth so he doesn't laugh and ruin the take.

Jim's not here, man

The relationship between Jim and Dwight was complicated. Sure, Jim pranked Dwight, and Dwight got his revenge on occasion (as with his ambush snowball attack), but deep down, they obviously respected each other. Over time, something resembling a friendship developed, but their adversarial history ran deep. Even during exchanges of kindness and humanity, Jim wasn't going to let himself get too close to the bespectacled beet farmer.

In the 2007 episode "Money," Dwight descends into a tearful, moaning funk after Angela breaks up with him. He hides out in the office building's stairwell, and in a surprisingly touching gesture, Jim follows him, and explains that the reason he had bolted from Scranton to Stamford the previous year was because he couldn't handle seeing Pam with her then-fiancé Roy. "It is something I wouldn't wish on my worst enemy," Jim earnestly says to Dwight, describing the heartbreak of unrequited love. "And that includes you."

Dwight, sobbing, reaches out to Jim… who is already gone (off to kiss Pam, whom he'd since won over). This was "not a scripted moment," Wilson told The Hollywood Reporter, "but came from superb direction." Dwight's unrequited, heartbreaking need for physical contact from a friend was an on-the-spot idea from episode director Paul Lieberstein.

There's a new guy in the office named "John"

Acting is weird. People pretend to be other people, and use words that still other people wrote to express themselves. Performers have a lot of traits they must internalize and then synthesize, as everything from facial expressions to the way they walk should be tied to their character. It can be tough for actors to completely disappear… or at least it was on the set of The Office one day for John Krasinski. 

Even after playing Scranton paper salesman Jim Halpert for a few years, he couldn't put aside his entire self. In the show's fourth season premiere, "Fun Run," Michael sends Meredith Palmer (Kate Flannery) to the hospital with serious injuries after he accidentally hits her with his car. A couple of episodes later (in "Launch Party"), Meredith returns to the office and flirtatiously asks Jim to sign her cast, which is situated over her crotch. Jim uncomfortably signs, and Krasinski was apparently so in character feeling awkward that he scribbled "John Krasinski" rather than "Jim Halpert."