‘Office’ star Novak chosen as A&O Winter speaker

B.J. Novak of

Daily file photo by Jessica Wiener

B.J. Novak of "The Office" was announced as A&O's winter speaker Thursday. The comedian performed at Northwestern in 2008.

Joseph Diebold, Web Editor

Actor and comedian B.J. Novak will come to Northwestern next week as A&O Productions’ winter speaker, the organization announced Thursday.

Novak, who plays Ryan Howard on the NBC show “The Office,” will speak at 8 p.m March 2 at Pick-Staiger Concert Hall. Novak got his start on “The Office,” the show for which he also writes and produces, when Greg Daniels, the show’s executive producer, noticed him in a stand-up comedy club in Los Angeles, according to an A&O release.

Kenan Thompson, last year’s winter speaker, offered a departure from the stand-up style, intertwining jokes with stories from his career.

Eliza Helm, A&O’s director of speakers, said the organization set out at the beginning of the year to refocus on stand-up comedy for their speaker series, which delivers a comedian in both Winter and Spring Quarters.

“We usually do (bring stand-up comedians) but sometimes we veer from that,” the Communication senior said. “B.J. really interested us because he started his career as a stand-up comedian and still obviously is one and that’s how he was discovered. He’s a really strong stand-up comedian, but he also has the popular appeal from being on ‘The Office,’ so we thought those two things coupled together would really make a good sellout show.”

Helm added Novak did “really, really well” in A&O’s poll of the student body’s entertainment interests.

A&O chairman Logan Koepke called the poll the “prince” of A&O decision-making.

“It’s a good supplementary piece of evidence to sort of inform how we’re going about our choices, but it’s not the end-all be-all of how we go about choosing who we’re bringing,” the Weinberg senior said. “But it gives us a good insight into how campus is feeling.”

Novak has won awards from the Screen Actors Guild, the Writers Guild of America and the Emmys for his work on “The Office.” He has also appeared in feature films, including “Inglourious Basterds” and “Knocked Up.” Next week’s performance will be his second on campus; he performed in February 2008 as part of what was then called A&O’s “Winter Carnival.”

The show’s $10 tickets go on sale Monday at 10:30 a.m on the Norris Box Office website. A&O is partnering with the Josie Nordman Fund for their sales. Buyers will have the option of donating $2 of their ticket purchase to the fund, which is raising money for Nordman, the Communication sophomore with cystic fibrosis who needs a life-saving double lung transplant. The Nordman family has to pay up to $75,000 of the $750,000 surgery.

A&O joins a growing list of student groups that have pitched in to help Nordman. More than 30 groups joined a sale of plastic bracelets that — combined with other funds — reached more than $6,000 in contributions.

Koepke said the optional donation did not affect A&O’s budget for the speaker series because it was approved by the Student Activities Finance Committee when the organization petitioned for SAFC funding.

“At the end of the day, we felt like the community spirit of the campaign really spoke to our ethos,” said A&O spokeswoman Rosalind Mowitt, a Weinberg junior.