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20 Things You Might Not Know About Office Space

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When Office Space premiered in theaters on February 19, 1999, it was hard to imagine that Beavis and Butt-Head and King of the Hill creator Mike Judge’s first attempt at writing and directing live action would become the oft-quoted classic it did. When it made around $12.9 million at the box office, it continued to be an unlikely candidate to become a pop cultural cornerstone that would literally change restaurant chains and stapler designs. Repeated appearances on cable television and a successful life on DVD made Office Space the phenomenon that it is.

1. IT ORIGINATED WITH ANIMATED SHORTS THAT RAN ON MTV AND SNL.

Milton was a series of shorts Mike Judge created, wrote, animated, and voiced. It starred Milton Waddams, presumably when he was still technically working for Initech, and an early version of Lumbergh. The first episode (shown above) aired on MTV’s Liquid Television in 1991, alongside some other Judge shorts like The Honky Problem and Huh?. During the 1993-94 season of SNL, Milton made three more appearances.

2. THE MOVIE WAS MADE DUE TO THE SUCCESS OF THERE’S SOMETHING ABOUT MARY.

20th Century Fox wanted a new “big, broad comedy” after the success of the Farrelly Brothers movie, and figured that the Milton shorts had the potential to become one. Judge initially didn’t think it was a good idea, but eventually got on board.

3. THERE WAS A SPECIFIC JOB MIKE JUDGE HAD THAT INFLUENCED HIS WRITING.

The former engineer alphabetized purchase orders for 2-3 weeks, for eight hours a day, which he described as “god-awful.” The fact that he couldn’t daydream nor talk to someone without losing his place in the alphabet made it distinctly bad.

4. MIKE JUDGE SPOKE AS BUTT-HEAD AND BOOMHAUER ON SET.

Judge voiced those characters on Beavis and Butt-Head and King of the Hill, so it wasn’t particularly difficult for him to appease some crew members who insisted on the impersonations.

5. MICHAEL BOLTON LEARNED TO BE AT PEACE WITH BEING CALLED A "NO-TALENT ASS CLOWN."

The singer came off as annoyed in a 2003 article where he said, “I was doing fine. Then they made this movie, and I can’t go anywhere!” Ten years later, he admitted that the movie is funny and willingly signs Office Space DVDs for fans.

6. THE STUDIO WANTED THE CHARACTERS TO BE CHIPPIER.

Judge remembered the executives giving him notes that generally said to make the movie less low-key. Watching dailes of Lumbergh’s “mmm… yeaaaaah” allegedly drove some executives “crazy.”

7. THEY ALSO DIDN’T LIKE THE MOSTLY ALL HIP-HOP SOUNDTRACK.

Focus groups changed 20th Century Fox’s mind about the inclusion of artists like Ice Cube, Scarface, and, of course the Geto Boys, whose songs “Damn It Feels Good to Be a Gangsta” and “Still” serve as the official soundtrack to printer beatdowns everywhere since 1999.

8. DIEDRICH BADER HAD A CLEAR IDEA ON WHAT LAWRENCE SHOULD LOOK LIKE.

The actor who played Oswald Lee Harvey on The Drew Carey Show as well as Peter Gibbons’ nosy neighbor Lawrence wanted to look like “somebody who loved the Allman Brothers.” Mission accomplished.

9. JOHN C. MCGINLEY ORIGINALLY AUDITIONED TO PLAY LUMBERGH.

That role went to Gary Cole, but as a nice consolation prize, Dr. Cox from Scrubs played Bob Slydell, a.k.a. the taller, mustachioed Bob.

10. TPS ACTUALLY STANDS FOR SOMETHING.

At the 10th anniversary screening, Judge revealed that Peter had to fill out Test Program Set reports. The reference dates back to his engineering days.

11. IT’S BEEN COMPARED TO A HERMAN MELVILLE SHORT STORY.

The protagonist in the 1853 short story Bartleby, the Scrivener: A Story of Wall Street hand-copies legal documents until he starts responding to every request by his boss with the phrase, “I would prefer not to,” and refuses to do anything, including leave his desk or eat. The similarity between Melville’s plot and the movie wasn’t lost on movie critics, bloggers, or high school teachers.

12. IT’S MEANT TO BE SET IN "ANYWHERE, U.S.A."

Office Space was shot in Las Colinas and Austin, Texas, but the cars had custom-made “USA” license plates on them. Lumbergh's read, ”MY PRSHE.”

13. ACCOUNTANTS WERE THE FIRST PEOPLE TO QUOTE THE MOVIE.

Judge figured that the studio executives he was talking to throughout production couldn’t relate to the boring, soul destroying jobs Office Space was portraying, but he still had doubts that his brainchild would resonate with audiences. He first felt optimism when he heard that the accountants in the post-production department were referencing the movie before it even came out.

14. IT INSPIRED T.G.I. FRIDAY’S TO STOP IT WITH THE FLAIR.

As you surely remember, Jennifer Aniston’s character, Joanna, grew increasingly disengaged with her server job at T.G.I. Friday’s stand-in Chotchkie's because she could never seem to wear enough buttons, or “flair,” on her uniform to appease her superiors and counterparts. In real life, TGI Friday’s noticeably phased out the flair by 2005. Judge revealed last year that one of his assistant directors asked a Friday’s employee—without revealing his or her affiliations—about the absence, and was told that they “removed it because of that movie Office Space.

15. THE ACTOR WHO PLAYED BRIAN, THE FLAIR-LOVING CHOTCHKIE’S WAITER, SUED THE STUDIO.

A special edition DVD called The Office Space Box of Flair included the 32-page book, The Office Space Guide to Flair, and 15 buttons (15 being the minimum number of flair a Chotchkie’s server must wear). Todd Duffey wanted to be financially compensated for his face appearing on the cover of a book and on one of the buttons, but the false endorsement violation claim lawsuit was dismissed.

16. MIKE JUDGE PLAYED JOANNA’S CHOTCHKIE’S BOSS, STAN.

He wore a wig, a moustache, and glasses to make it a pretty good disguise. The role is credited to a “William King.”

17. THE RESTAURANT WHERE THE CHOTCHKIE’S SCENES WERE FILMED CLOSED IN 2009.

R.I.P. The Alligator Grille in Austin, Texas.

18. SWINGLINE MADE RED STAPLERS THREE YEARS AFTER THE MOVIE CAME OUT.

Milton’s precious office item needed to pop on screen, so a prop designer painted a Swingline stapler red. After potential customers called and e-mailed the company asking for a Milton stapler that didn’t exist, some enterprising folks made a profit making and selling red staplers on eBay. In April 2002, the company finally offered a “Rio Red” model.

19. OFFICE SPACE INSPIRED PEOPLE TO QUIT THEIR JOBS.

People that were unhappy at the jobs they felt no passion for have told Judge and Ron Livingston, the actor who played Peter, that they quit after watching the movie.

20. MIKE JUDGE DOESN’T LIKE THE ENDING.

He realized that the entire third act should be re-written a little too late in the process—after the final test screening.

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How Do You Stress the Word: THANKSgiving or ThanksGIVing?
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Here’s something else to stress about for Thanksgiving: where to put the stress in the word Thanksgiving.

If you’re from California, Iowa, or Delaware, you probably say ThanksGIVing, with the primary stress on the second syllable. If you’re from Georgia, Tennessee, or the Texas Panhandle, you probably say THANKSgiving, with the primary stress on the first syllable.

This north-south divide on syllable stress is found for other words like umbrella, guitar, insurance, and pecan. However, those words are borrowed from other languages (Italian, Spanish, French). Sometimes, in the borrowing process, competing stress patterns settle into regional differences. Just as some borrowed words get first syllable stress in the South and second syllable stress in the North, French words like garage and ballet get first syllable stress in the UK and second syllable stress in the U.S.

Thanksgiving, however, is an English word through and through. And if it behaved like a normal English word, it would have stress on the first syllable. Consider other words with the same noun-gerund structure just like it: SEAfaring, BAbysitting, HANDwriting, BULLfighting, BIRDwatching, HOMEcoming, ALMSgiving. The stress is always up front, on the noun. Why, in Thanksgiving alone, would stress shift to the GIVE?

The shift to the ThanksGIVing pronunciation is a bit of a mystery. Linguist John McWhorter has suggested that the loss of the stress on thanks has to do with a change in our concept of the holiday, that we “don’t truly think about Thanksgiving as being about thankfulness anymore.” This kind of thing can happen when a word takes on a new, more abstract sense. When we use outgoing for mail that is literally going out, we are likely to stress the OUT. When we use it as a description of someone’s personality ("She's so outgoing!"), the stress might show up on the GO. Stress can shift with meaning.

But the stress shift might not be solely connected to the entrenchment of our turkey-eating rituals. The thanksGIVing stress pattern seems to have pre-dated the institution of the American holiday, according to an analysis of the meter of English poems by Mark Liberman at Language Log. ThanksGIVing has been around at least since the 17th century. However you say it, there is precedent to back you up. And room enough to focus on both the thanks and the giving.

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Watch Boris Karloff's 1966 Coffee Commercial
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TAKWest, Youtube

Horror legend Boris Karloff is famous for playing mummies, mad scientists, and of course, Frankenstein’s creation. In 1930, Karloff cemented the modern image of the monster—with its rectangular forehead, bolted neck, and enormous boots (allegedly weighing in at 11 pounds each)—in the minds of audiences.

But the horror icon, who was born 130 years ago today, also had a sense of humor. The actor appeared in numerous comedies, and even famously played a Boris Karloff look-alike (who’s offended when he’s mistaken for Karloff) in the original Broadway production of Arsenic and Old Lace

In the ’60s, Karloff also put his comedic chops to work in a commercial for Butter-Nut Coffee. The strange commercial, set in a spooky mansion, plays out like a movie scene, in which Karloff and the viewer are co-stars. Subtitles on the bottom of the screen feed the viewer lines, and Karloff responds accordingly. 

Watch the commercial below to see the British star selling coffee—and read your lines aloud to feel like you’re “acting” alongside Karloff. 

[h/t: Retroist]

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