A chat with Michael Schur, Michael Schur interview, Parks and Recreation, The Office
Michael Schur

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Check out "Parks and Recreation" in Bullz-Eye's Fall 2010 TV Power Rankings as well as our other Power Ranking interviews.

When “Parks and Recreation” first premiered, critics were less than kind, with most making reference to the similarities to its kinda-sorta sister series, “The Office,” and not in a good way. Not only did the show survive these slings and arrows, but its second season proved so consistently hilarious that it actually earned a significant number of apologies from some of those critics.

Not us, of course. Even when we put the show in our spring TV Power Rankings and praised how much better it had gotten, we still started the write-up by saying, “If you bailed on ‘Parks & Recreation’ after its less-than-stellar debut run, we don't blame you.” Fortunately, Michael Schur, who co-created the series with fellow “Office” cohort Greg Daniels, didn’t call us on this aggressive opening, possibly because we followed it with so much praise…or, more likely, because he’s never actually been to our site. Either way, though, Schur was kind enough to chat with Bullz-Eye in conjunction with the fall edition of the TV Power Rankings.

No, “Parks and Recreation” isn’t back yet, but it’s returning to NBC’s Thursday night schedule on January 20th, and after everything Schur shared with us about who and what we can expect to see in upcoming episodes, we’ve already got the date circled on our calendar. At the time of our conversation, however, we still didn’t know what date to circle, as you’ll soon see.

Michael Schur: How are you doing, man? How are things at Bullz-Eye.com?

Bullz-Eye: They are wonderful. We’re very excited about the return of “Parks & Recreation.” Whenever it actually ends up happening.

MS: (Laughs) Good! So you’re anticipating being excited by the return…?

BE: Exactly. So you don’t yet have a concrete date?

MS: We don’t. We keep being told that a decision is imminent. And when I say “we keep being told,” I mean, literally, it seems like it could happen at any moment. (Writer’s note: And it did, about 20 minutes after we got off the phone.) We’re just sort of putting our head down and trying to do our job and assume that, at some point in the future, someone will tell us when we’re going to be on the air.

BE: So you guys are pretty far into the 3rd season, right?

"When Amy Poehler got pregnant, we stayed on after Season 2 wrapped and shot the first six episodes of Season 3 and banked them in order to be ready to go on the air in September. Then when we got moved to mid-season, we didn’t know when we were going to have to be on the air, so we just had to keep making episodes. This week we’re shooting Episode 13 of our 16-episode season. We have three more to do, then we’ll be completely done without any of them actually having aired. It’s a very odd situation."

MS: Yeah, we’re essentially almost done. (Laughs) That’s the weird thing about this. When Amy Poehler got pregnant, we stayed on after Season 2 wrapped and shot the first six episodes of Season 3 right away and banked them in order to be ready to go on the air in September, because she was going to have to take some time off, obviously. So we had six episodes done already, then when we got moved to mid-season, we came back at the same time, because we didn’t know when we were going to have to be on the air, so we just had to keep making episodes. And now we’re shooting…this week, we’re shooting Episode 13 of our 16-episode season. So we have three more to do, and then we’ll be completely done without any of them actually having aired. (Laughs) It’s a very odd situation.

BE: To touch on that situation, you guys obviously got handed a mid-season spot whether you wanted it or not, and the reaction seems to be pretty split. Some people are saying, “This is the worst thing that’s ever happened in the history of television,” some are saying, “Well, this is actually a good way to ramp up the hype for its eventual return.” Do you lie somewhere in the middle?

MS: I’m a little bit agnostic about that. I mean, I think that anytime you’re not on the air, you risk people forgetting that you exist, which is not good. On the other hand, network TV is so competitive these days that you see all these shows with the advertising blitz that happens in August and September, and there’s the premiere week, when there’s 50 new shows, and everybody gets kind of fatigued trying to catch up with everything. It’s possible…we always believed that there was an advantage to kind of staying out of the fray that occurs at the beginning of the year, but I don’t know. I’m sure that there are people somewhere who have access to a lot of market research that can tell you exactly what the advantages and the disadvantages are, but I’m not one of those people. (Laughs) I’m just very proud of the show, and I think that the episodes that we’ve made are really good. I just want it go on TV. I don’t care if it’s on at two in the morning on Spike TV 7. I just would like it to go on the air, so that people can see it, and the fans of the show can actually watch it.

BE: Well, I think you guys and “Blue Mountain State” would make for a perfect combo on Spike TV.

MS: (Laughs) I think so, too! Yeah!

BE: Yeah, you’re really going after the same audience.

MS: Exactly. The Venn diagram of those audiences, there’s huge overlap, yeah. (Laughs)

BE: “Parks & Recreation” does at least have the advantage that your Season 2 DVD is going to be in stores in plenty of time for people to play catch-up if they want to do so.

Michael SchurMS: Yes, exactly. It’s coming out on the 30th of November, I guess, and it’s jam packed. There’s so much stuff on it. We threw the kitchen sink onto the DVD, which I believe makes it very, very worth its money. There’s all sorts of weird deleted scenes, and…like, Andy’s band, which is called Mouse Rat and plays from time to time on the show, they performed at our Season 2 wrap party, and we filmed it and put that on the DVD. Literally, everything that has ever happened that has been filmed that is related to our show is on the DVD, so we hope people enjoy it.

BE: Do you guys have fun putting those sets together?

MS: Yeah, it’s really fun. The way we shoot the show, we have a lot of deleted scenes. It’s very much like “The Office.” We have a lot of deleted scenes, and there are a lot of improvisations that are, uh, too dirty for network television. (Laughs) And just too weird. So the DVD is really fun. It’s, like, a chance for all these little scraps of stuff and giant deleted scenes to see the light of day.

BE: You mentioned Mouse Rat. Of all the musical moments in the school, between Mouse Rat, Duke Silver, and the like, the smallest moment is probably my favorite, which is when Leslie makes kind of a throwaway comment about what a huge Squeeze fan she is. I was just wondering who wrote that line.

MS: (Laughs) Um…I don’t offhand remember. My guess is that it’s Mike Scully, who was a longtime “Simpsons” writer, ran “The Simpsons” for four years, and has since left us to go do his own show. But he is a huge fan of…he’s, like, 50 years old, and he’s a huge Springsteen fan, a huge NRBQ fan, and Leslie liking Squeeze sounds like something he might have come up with.

BE: I do love the character of Duke Silver, especially the callback when he’s approached by the old ladies who recognize him at the Valentine’s Day dance. Are we going to see any more of Duke in the future?

MS: Yeah, Duke may return. I don’t… (Hesitates) I’m trying to think if there’s a specific thing. What I like about that secret identity he has, it’s like being a really embarrassing superhero, where he has this whole secret alternative personality but he doesn’t want anyone to know it. But it’s not because he’s fighting crime. It’s because it’s horribly embarrassing. We’ve tried a couple of times to make reference to it and have him almost caught, on the borderline of having his identity revealed. But I don’t know, I’d like to think that if the show lasts for eight years, there would still be people at the end who didn’t know who Duke Silver was.

BE: That’s also an example of a joke that’s not necessarily hilarious to people who are just tuning in to catch a one-off episode of the show, but for those who’ve been watching since the beginning, they’re going, “That is awesome.”

MS: Yeah, well, that’s a balancing act with shows like this that have a lot of characters, a big ensemble. You want to really always be trying to bring in new viewers and designing stories and jokes to, like, if someone is tuning in for the first time, you would just want them to enjoy themselves. But at the same time, there’s people who have been fanatical about the show from the beginning, and it’s always nice to do little tiny things to try and reward that devoted following.

BE: To talk about the beginning of the show, when you came back for Season 2, the buzz was, “Omigod, the show has reinvented itself! It’s so much better! Whatever the opposite of a sophomore slump is, that’s‘Parks & Recreation’!” But I have to think that people who were working on the show were, like, “Really? I thought Season 1 was all right…”

"You want to really always be trying to bring in new viewers and designing stories and jokes to, like, if someone is tuning in for the first time, you would just want them to enjoy themselves. But at the same time, there’s people who have been fanatical about the show from the beginning, and it’s always nice to do little tiny things to try and reward that devoted following."

MS: Yes! First of all, we did. We thought Season 1 was pretty good. And, also, I think that’s a natural result of taking a fabricated arbitrary break after Episode 6. As I’ve said before, I think if you look at any show, any one of your favorite comedy shows from the last 20 or 30 years, they all go through this period over the first eight or ten episodes where they kind of frumph around and try different things. And, then, eventually, if it’s good, it sort of gels. The first six or ten episodes of “Cheers” are very different from the ones that came after. Same with “30 Rock,” same with “Seinfeld,” same with “Will & Grace.” There’s no such thing as a show that’s the same in the pilot as it is in Episode 30. It just doesn’t exist. And that’s good. That’s a good thing. I mean, you can’t always get it right in the first 20 minutes, which is what the pilot is. I was very happy that people seemed to really start loving the show in Season 2, but I also kind of felt like it was just a natural result of the writers getting better at writing and the actors getting better at acting and not any kind of giant, massive sea change that occurred.

BE: Was there any particular point where you had the personal realization where you went, “Oh, yeah, it’s on now”? When you felt you’d officially hit a stride?

MS: (Laughs) I think when we were making the sixth episode. The season finale of the first season was called “Rock Show,” and it was about Andy’s band playing a concert. Mark hit on Ann, and Leslie went on a date with an old guy that she didn’t know was a date, and then she and Mark had this moment. There was a lot of…it was completely about the character relationships, and the work was sort of receding into the background, which is what you always want with a workplace comedy. You want the actual job to be sort of the cover story for what’s going on in the lives of the characters. And the script was really funny, the actors were really funny. And our editor, Dean Holland, had invented this stylistic thing for us, which was a sort of jump-cut montage. Like, when one of our actors would do three or four really funny things, or do improvs of a certain joke, he sort was, like, “Why don’t we just use all of these jokes and just jump-cut them together?” So that was the first time, in that episode, we wrote a thing specifically for that style, where we wrote a thing where Andy went through all the former names of his band, and then we just shot them so that we could jump cut them into this, like, huge, crazy montage. So it was the first time that the writing and the editing and the acting and everything was, like, “Oh, this is how we do this show!” (Laughs) So I felt very strongly in that episode that we had cracked the nut and we had figured out something about how our show was going to be going forward.

Michael Schur

BE: It’s kind of a sad irony that a lot of shows find their footing in their first-season finales. For instance, a lot of people think back to the first season of “The Office,” and they’re, like, “Oh, they were still completely ripping off the original series back then.” But if you go back and watch the last episode or two of that first-season set, it’s not nearly as bad as you want it to be.

MS: No, and, you know, having been a veteran of that first season… (Laughs) …I will say that there are things in those first six episodes that I think are some of the best things that “The Office” ever did. Now, they were also a little bit bleaker and less fun and less optimistic than the show became. That was a Greg Daniels thing in Season 2. He was, like, “Look, we can continue to be kind of downbeat and sour and pure, or we can try to be, like, 30% more optimistic and stay on the air.” And it was a totally and miraculously good decision. But there are moments when I think about those first six episodes…like, the characters are really at their most pure and specific, I think, because it was the very beginning, and they had source material to base their decisions on, but they were all different characters than their British counterparts. There’s a scene in the health care episode where Dwight is interrogating Jim because Jim filled out a bunch of health care information with made-up diseases, and Dwight says to him, “Why did you write ‘Count Choculitis’? Did you say that because I like Count Chocula?” (Laughs) And he says it so intensely and so seriously. There are little moments like that. That’s, like, the essence of Dwight Schrute. There are certain things about our first six episodes that we’ve gone away from, that don’t exactly match what we’re doing now, but…there’s a moment where Leslie has identified what she calls a “boys club” in City Hall, which is, like, guys hanging out and drinking beer and excluding girls, and it’s a little bit in her head, but she tries to bust into the boys club by going out to the courtyard and drinking beer with some guys, and she accidentally knocks over a bunch of beer bottles. And then she has a talking head where she says something like, “I kind of feel like I’m already in the boys club,” and she turns around and looks over her shoulder and says, “Look at those bitches cleaning up after me!” (Laughs) And I think it was actually an improv that Amy did, but it was just, like, “That’s Leslie.” She’s very concerned with feminism and breaking down barriers and stuff like that, but at the same time, she’s got a fun spirit to her, and she’s a little bit funnier and cooler than you would think she is as a type-A nerd. Anyway, that was probably a much longer answer than you were looking for. (Laughs)

BE: I wanted to ask you about some of the developments in Season 2 that will be carried over to Season 3. First of all, you had the departure of Paul Schneider from the show. Now, I don’t really know anything about the reasons for him leaving. Was that his choice, or did the character just go as far as you could take him?

"We had designed the character (of Mark) to be a kind of mental block to Leslie in her romantic life, because they had this shared thing, they had slept together six years before the pilot started, and she had kind of never really gotten over him, I guess. And then we designed his character in Season 2 so that he started dating Ann, her best friend. And then at the end of the year, Ann broke up with him, and we just sort of thought, 'Well, what’s the point of the character now?'"

MS: It was purely creative. It was, like, we had designed the character (of Mark) to be a kind of mental block to Leslie in her romantic life, because they had this shared thing, they had slept together six years before the pilot started, and she had kind of never really gotten over him, I guess. And then we designed his character in Season 2 so that he started dating Ann, her best friend. And then at the end of the year, Ann broke up with him, and we just sort of thought, “Well, what’s the point of the character now?” Because we don’t want Leslie to go back to him. That feels like going backward. And it just sort of felt like the character had gone as far as it could go. We had told Paul when we cast him that the idea of the character was that he was going to sort of float in and out of government for the rest of his life, because that was the story of the real city planner on whom the character is based, who is a guy that we talked to when we were writing the pilot. So, you know, we didn’t maybe expect it to happen at the end of Season. I thought it would happen sometime in Season 3. But as we were writing the end of Season 2, we were kind of, like, “Yeah, you know, it feels like the right time,” so…

BE: Of course, now you’ve got the potential for the romantic triangle between April, Andy, and Ann.

MS: Yes! When Season 3 starts, basically, we find out that when April heard that Andy had kissed Ann, she left, and she went to Venezuela, and nobody has seen or heard from her since. So in the premiere, she returns, and a good chunk, a good number of the first episodes is about Andy trying to win her and prove to her that he’s worthy of her love.

BE: With April, you always got the impression that there was a sweet side hiding beneath her exterior, but the Valentine’s episode was where she really shined.

MS: Yeah, I agree. I totally agree. You know, I think part of it is, honestly, Chris Pratt is so dreamy as a human being. (Laughs) Besides just being a good looking dude, he’s just, like, the sweetest funniest guy, and I think he really draws out of Aubrey Plaza something that’s…I mean, it’s hard not to stare at him moony-eyed, and I think she does a lot of really great moony-eyed staring in that episode, and I think it’s because Pratt just dialed the charm up to 11.

BE: I find Chris Pratt astounding to watch. He’s playing a dumb guy, but he plays him just so brilliantly. He’s got that perfect delivery, but he’s such a great physical comedian, too.

Michael SchurMS: I know! He really is. That’s the thing: I’m worried it’s going to become a crutch for us, because it’s so fun to write. You know, dumb is kind of the nuclear weapon of comedy. It doesn’t get any better than dumb when you’re a comedy writer, as evidenced by Homer Simpson or Michael Scott or whoever. Sam Malone. It’s very hard, though. You’ve got to measure it out. If you make him too dumb too quickly…I mean, there’s a moment in “The Simpsons” in Season 6 or something where Homer is so dumb that he forgets to make his own heart beat, and it’s, like, that’s fine for a cartoon… (Laughs) …but if you get that dumb with actual human beings too early, then there’s kind of nowhere to go. We’re trying to parse out the dumb comedy with him. And, also, you’re right, he does such great physical comedy that it’s hard not to write in every episode, “Andy runs headfirst into a steamer trunk,” or something. He suggests so much stuff, so much good stuff, that it’s tempting to just kind of make the whole show about him being stupid and falling down.

BE: I know what you mean about dumb character. I don’t know if you’ve seen the ABC sitcom “Better with You,” but one of the lead characters is a dumb guy…and he’s just so dumb. My wife is, like, “I want to like this show, but he’s just too dumb!”

MS: (Laughs) Yeah, I know. It’s very hard. It’s very fun, but… (Hesitates) I haven’t actually seen that show, so I can’t comment on it specifically, but it’s just very hard. And I think a lot of it is…well, in Pratt’s case, I’ll say, I think it’s just casting. That guy is just…there’s something about him that makes you like him and makes him fun to watch, and you know that he’s a good person and has a good heart, and occasionally…there’s a funny moment in the second episode of our new season that I won’t spoil, but it’s kind of weirdly revealed that he’s kind of smarter than you think he is. And occasionally doing little things like that makes you feel like, “Oh, okay, so he’s not going to, like, leave the oven on and die.” (Laughs)

BE: So how far in advance did you decide that Ron and Wendy would get together? Because it’s one of those things where you could’ve kept us hanging forever, or you could’ve never gone to that well at all.

MS: Yes. I think that…we had the idea that Wendy and Tom had a green card marriage very early on. Like, before we even had shot the pilot. The idea was that he was going to be bragging about his hot wife, and then you were going to see his hot wife, and everyone was going to be confused about how he had a hot wife, and then he was going to be revealed. And the thing that we liked about it was that it was a green card marriage, but the Indian guy isn’t the one who needed the green card, ‘cause he’s from South Carolina and his wife is Canadian. So that part we knew, and at a certain point…I think it was when we were shooting that “Rock Show” episode…there was something about the idea that a guy with the insecurities that Tom has, who would actually like his ex-wife, his green card wife, that she would then start dating Ron Swanson…it just seemed funny. Because, you know, Tom is 5’7”, 145 pounds, and Nick Offerman is very large and manly and has a giant mustache and is his boss. And it just seemed funny that his ex-wife, who he actually had real feelings for, would start dating that guy. That’s another little storyline that goes through the first four episodes: Tom, who has a new girlfriend who he really likes, he just cannot get over the fact that Wendy is dating Ron. (Laughs)

BE: Which reminds me: I read online that you ended up with Natalie Morales in more episodes than you originally planned because you basically just wanted to keep her around.

"Chris Pratt is so dreamy as a human being. Besides just being a good looking dude, he’s just, like, the sweetest funniest guy, and I think he really draws out of Aubrey Plaza something that’s…I mean, it’s hard not to stare at him moony-eyed."

MS: Yeah! I just loved her. I thought she was so cool and so funny. She was really supposed to be in one episode, essentially. Maybe two. And then she was supposed to leave, but we threw her into a couple more just because I thought she was really cool and really funny. There’s a great scene in the third episode between her and Tom that’s, like, my favorite scene that we’ve shot so far.

BE: Actually, with Tom, I was going to ask: is there anything too ridiculous to have him say, do, or appreciate on the show? I know that’s a big blanket statement, but I got a huge laugh out of his use of Boyz II Men’s “On Bended Knee” as his big makeout song.

MS: (Laughs) Yes! He’s a very specific creature, Tom is. Some of the character details come from Aziz, who just…like, he’ll just write us a text or E-mail that says, “I think Tom’s favorite R&B artist is Babyface,” or something like that. And then we’ll write that into an episode. Some of just comes from…oh, one of my favorite character details about him is that he loves ads. He’s just really into ads. He cuts out Absolut Vodka ads and hangs them on his wall, and he loves Tommy Hilfiger ads. It just seems like the perfect thing for him. So some of them come from Aziz, but recently one of our writers pitched that his favorite movie is “Love Don’t Cost A Thing,” starring Nick Cannon. And it was, like, “Yep! That’s right!” I don’t know why exactly, but when people pitch things for Tom, you know right away either that it makes sense or doesn’t make sense for him. And I think that’s a testament to Aziz in large part, just taking that character and turning into something really funny.

BE: Now, the addition of Rob Lowe and Adam Scott to the cast…obviously, those are two names where, if you get the chance to bring them on, you’re not going to turn them down, but had you always had the idea of expanding the cast, or was it something that happened because they were there?

MS: A little of both. We wanted to do the storyline where people came in from out of town, from above them, and shook things up, and our model…originally, it was only just one guy, and our model was Adam Scott. And then I heard that “Party Down” might not come back, which was a show I really liked, and so I was, like, “Okay, well, let’s try and get that guy!” And at the same time, NBC told us that Rob Lowe might be leaving “Brothers & Sisters,” and I was, like, “Well, you don’t turn down a chance to get that guy,” especially when the network is saying that they support it, because he’s, like, a big name guy. So we sort of had this discussion where it was, like, “Rob Lowe’s awesome and Adam Scott’s awesome, and they’re awesome in different ways, so what the hell: let’s shoot the moon and try to get both of them.” And it worked out. And then we sort of turned it into…instead of one character, we turned it into a good cop / bad cop thing. And they’re really funny with each other. They play off each other really well. Rob is being so funny this year. I think people who are fans of his are really going to enjoy seeing him do something that they haven’t seen him do before.

BE: When I first heard he was going to be on the show, my first thought, for better or worse, was, “Well, he was pretty awesome in ‘Tommy Boy.’”

Michael SchurMS: (Laughs) Yeah! Well, that’s the thing: that guy’s been awesome in most of the things that he’s ever done. He has a much higher percentage of being awesome than most actors. Like, he’s awesome in “Tommy Boy,” he was awesome in “The West Wing,” he was awesome in “Thank You for Smoking,” he was awesome in “Wayne’s World.” He’s generally awesome, and he does a lot of different kinds of things. He does very, very serious dramas. He does, like, Aaron Sorkin fast-talking comedy-dramas. He does straight-up comedy. He’s got a very huge range, and he gets to show a lot of it on this show, which is nice.

BE: Have you kind of honed their characters more for their second season?

MS: Yeah, one of the things we wanted to do, especially with Rob, was…you know, his character in his first two episodes, which are all that have aired so far, is just extremely positive and optimistic and forward-thinking, and he never likes to give bad news, and he’s just always kind of intense. And one of the first things we wanted to do in the new season was try to explain why that is. So in the premiere, there’s a scene where you get some insight into his character’s back story, and you get to sort of understand why he is that way, which I think is really nice. And Adam, you know, long-term is a potential love interest for Leslie, for Amy’s character. The first sort of seeds of that are planted in the premiere as well.

BE: I’ll start to wrap up, but I understand you’ve got at least a few returning characters from previous seasons, including Megan Mullally as Tammy.

MS: Yes! Megan’s back as Ron’s horrifying ex-wife, Tammy… (Laughs) …and she was super funny. Part of the real fun of creating a whole town, which is sort of what we’re doing here, is that there’s a lot of…like, we’ve had something like fifty characters who’ve been in more than one episode, I think, which is insane after only, like 36 episodes. So it’s fun to create scenarios and go, “Oh, that insane person who spoke up at that public forum, we should bring him back.” So there’s a lot of smaller characters who are coming back as well. Again, you want reward people who love the show for loving the show by bringing back these little tiny characters who, you know, you blink and you miss them. But we also want to try and bring new people to the show, so Will Forte does kind of a big guest spot in one of the first six episodes, and we just did an episode with Parker Posey, which I’m really excited about. So we’re packing them in!

BE: It’s funny that you mention the people who speak up in public forums, because I was going to say that anybody who thinks that those characters are over the top has clearly never been to an actual city council meeting.

"He’s a very specific creature, Tom is. Some of the character details come from Aziz, who just…like, he’ll just write us a text or E-mail that says, 'I think Tom’s favorite R&B artist is Babyface,' or something like that. Recently one of our writers pitched that his favorite movie is 'Love Don’t Cost A Thing,' starring Nick Cannon. And it was, like, 'Yep! That’s right!' I don’t know why exactly, but when people pitch things for Tom, you know right away either that it makes sense or doesn’t make sense for him."

MS: (Laughs) Yeah! And, by the way, that’s a thing I wholeheartedly encourage everybody to do. I mean, we went to a bunch of them when we were doing research for the show, and we’re not exaggerating. We just aren’t. Like, it’s hard for people to understand that, but if you’ve never been to a local city council meeting, no matter where you live in America, you should go. It’s truly fascinating, and…I’m not saying this in a condescending way. It’s really fascinating, and it’s really, really interesting to see where the rubber meets the road and to watch your local city councilmen and women debate things, and to watch people speak up, and the problems they have and the issues they face. We went to a bunch of them in different cities around southern California, and it’s really fun. It’s a very weird, strange aspect of our democracy that anybody who wants to can stand up for two minutes and talk about anything they want to at a council meeting. And a surprisingly large number of people want to. And a surprisingly small number of them have anything relevant or interesting to say.

BE: I have to give a shout-out to a local guy here who used to frequent city council meetings when I was growing up. His name is T.J. “Cowboy” Carawan, and he spoke at every meeting I ever attended when I was in high school. He wrote a cowboy hat, always got up to address some issue or other, and regularly ran for city council and mayor, though he never won. But I’ve never forgotten him. The man made an indelible impact on me.

MS: Where is local for you?

BE: Chesapeake, Virginia. Right next door to Norfolk and Virginia Beach.

MS: Yeah, I mean, everyone in New York recently was flipping out about that guy from the “The Rent is Too Damned High” party, and that guy was so funny and so weird, but, like, that’s par for the course, you know what I mean? Every city has a guy like that who either goes to city council meetings or runs for city council or whatever. That guy just happened to be in New York and got really famous. But that’s average for what you find in the typical town in America, and that was part of the fun for doing the show for us. It was, like, “This is something that exists everywhere that’s never really been shown before in this way.”

BE: Well, I think that’s about it, Mike. Like I said, I’m very psyched for the new season. In fact, I received my copy of the Season 2 DVD in time to brush up before talking to you.

MS: Oh, good! Hey, we’re going to send out the first six episodes to critics fairly soon. Five of them are completely done and mixed and everything, and the last one will be done next week, I think, so…I don’t know, do you usually get stuff from us?

BE: I’m on NBC’s mailing list, yeah. In fact, I’m in the TCA. I don’t think I’ve ever actually talked ot you while I’m out there, but…

MS: Are you going to be out in January?

BE: Absolutely. I presume you guys will have a panel…?

MS: Yeah, I think we will. Again, it depends on whether or not we’re on the air yet… (Laughs) …but I think that’s the plan! But, please, if we do, come up and introduce yourself, so I can shake your hand in person.

BE: Will do. Oh, and I did have one last thing. Be honest: you guys came up with the show’s nickname, “P. Rex,” yourselves, didn’t you?

MS: (Laughs) No! We absolutely didn’t! But I don’t mind it. I kind of like it. It sounds kind of bad-ass. I think I like “Parks and Rec” better, just because it sounds more like, you know, it’s still the name of the show, but it’s shorter and pithier than what we came up with. But P. Rex…? I don’t know, what do you think of it?

BE: It makes me laugh. I can’t decide if it’s legitimately good or not, but it makes me laugh every time I see it.

MS: I know! It may be super-cheesy and terrible, but I kind of like it, I gotta say.

BE: I feel like I need a “P. Rex” t-shirt.

MS: (Laughs) If those are ever made, I’ll send you one.

As noted above, NBC finally decided to lock down a date for the return of “Parks & Recreation” about 20 minutes after I got off the phone with Schur. It’s a testament to what a nice guy he is that he immediately sent me an E-mail and offered to get back on the phone for a few more minutes and talk about the news.

MS: I feel like you’re our weird good luck charm. I do an interview with you, and our show gets something good on that day.

BE: I couldn’t be more proud. Hopefully something good will happen today, too.

MS: (Laughs) Please!

BE: So the show is now officially slotted in for January 20th, correct?

MS: That’s right: January 20th at 9:30 PM.

BE: Are you happy with the timeslot?

MS: I think it’s fair to say that I literally couldn’t be happier. Behind “The Office” is the best possible place for a comedy to be on NBC. Maybe for a comedy on any network, really. And, you know, the show was conceived of as a companion piece for “The Office,” so we’ve always felt like it would do well if the two were paired together, because I think that fans of one show would be fans of the other. So, yeah, it really was incredibly good news for us.

BE: Out of curiosity, what do you think about NBC’s decision to go with a 3-hour comedy block?

MS: Well, I don’t know. I mean, I think they’re good shows, and there’s a lot to like about it, and I think there’s a certain conventional wisdom that says you don’t do comedies at 10 and 10:30, but that conventional wisdom has been kind of destroyed by the fact that HBO and Comedy Central and FX and all these cable channels have had great success doing comedies at 10 and 10:30. So I don’t see why it can’t work, you know? I think that with the DVRs and TiVo and everything, timeslots maybe matter a little bit less than they used to just in general, and then beyond that…you know, I think that it ultimately all comes down to the quality of the shows, and I think there’s a lot of quality in those three hours. There’s a lot of very good TV comedy that’s going to be packed into one night. So hopefully it’ll sort of be a snowball, where the shows will start strong and just pick up steam as they go along.

BE: Lastly, it occurs to me that I never asked you about the fact that you play Mose on “The Office.” Do you consider that a good thing or a bad thing that I didn’t think to ask?

MS: (Laughs) I consider it a weird thing. Is that a good answer? Yeah, I mean, the only reason is still happens, honestly, is that Paul Lieberstein, who runs “The Office,” just really loves Mose, and he will just call me and say, “All right, you’ve got to come on this day, and you’re doing this thing.” And I’m sort of doing this thing now where I don’t want to know the context at all. Like, I tell him to only send me the script page that I’m on, ‘cause it’s fun for me to try and guess what the hell is going on. The last one I did, I was wearing a bjorn with a Cabbage Patch Doll in it, and I was painting a wall in the dark, and I just was, like, “Don’t tell me anything about this episode.” (Laughs) “It’ll be way more fun for me to try to imagine why it is that I’m in this situation!”

BE: I didn’t realize it was specifically Paul who keeps bringing you in. I just talked to him earlier today.

MS: Oh, yeah? Yeah, it’s mostly Paul, I’d say. He’s a very good friend of mine, and he takes particular delight in torturing me, so it’s my sense that it’s mostly Paul who’s keeping Mose alive at this point.

BE: I’m sure it’ll be a real thrill for you on the night that Mose makes an appearance on “The Office” and it’s immediately followed by a new episode of “Parks & Recreation.”

MS: (Laughs) You know, I’ll tell you, if they ever want to do an “Office” / “Parks” crossover, I would happily play Mose leaving Scranton and wandering into Indiana.

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