If you take out The Office’s physical interactions between characters and try to tell the same jokes over Slack, does The Office still work?
It’s a question that creative collective MSCHF set to find out, recreating all 201 episodes of the series over Slack. Viewers will join a live Slack, where different channels are dedicated to various departments, including accounting, warehouse, and a general office room. Viewers are requested to avoid posting in the “company” channels, but are encouraged to pop in and out of channels to keep up with the episodes as they don’t all play in one. Since it is a live Slack, inappropriate messages and images do pop up, but the MSCHF team has a number of moderators working to keep it as troll-free as possible, a representative told The Verge.
Some jokes are easier to translate than others; one example used is “The Injury” from the show’s second season. After burning his foot on a George Foreman grill that he keeps at the foot of his bed, Michael Scott (Steve Carell) calls into the office to try to get some help. The conversation takes place over the phone in the episode, but the MSCHF team used Slack to recreate it, involving all the characters from the original sketch.
“Since The Office aired, the nature of work and office culture has changed drastically, a lot of which is centered around the way we use technologies,” Daniel Greenberg, head of strategy at MSCHF, told The Verge. “This is a live experience by real people Mondays through Fridays, nine-to-five.”
MSCHF started working on the project before the pandemic hit, but it’s never felt so timely. Slack, like teleconferencing tool Zoom, is seeing a massive uptick in usage as people move to work from home. CEO Stewart Butterfield shared numbers in a lengthy tweet thread a few weeks back; on March 10th, Slack’s concurrent users passed 10 million. It would jump by 2.5 million users by March 25th.
“We have an incredible business that has been growing very quickly and that will continue to do so for many, many years to come,” Butterfield told Slack employees, as seen in screenshots he tweeted. “We provide a platform that is going to become even more useful to the world in the years to come.”
It’s fun to imagine The Office as a Slack-based workplace comedy. Even Ben Silverman and Paul Lieberstein, co-producers on The Office, are working on a new series (another workplace comedy) that takes place entirely over computer screens. Visual gags go from slapstick comedy to GIFs and italicized “OK Michael” responses in public rooms. Although the script hasn’t changed in the adaptation process, Greenberg told The Verge the teams did figure out ways to make the jokes work on Slack by finding GIFs and other features within the service to translate the comedy.
It could take roughly two to three weeks for each episode to “air” over Slack, so settle in.