Larry Wilmore, a consulting producer on The Office, reveals that he has some wild outtakes from the memorable season 2 episode “Diversity Day.”
Larry Wilmore has some shocking outtakes from the “Diversity Day” episode of The Office. Although the series, which was headlined by Steve Carrell in the role of bumbling boss Michael Scott, is beloved for its humor, the NBC comedy didn’t shy away from tackling serious subjects.
In “Diversity Day”, which was the second installment in the show’s first season, Mr. Brown (Wilmore) shows up to lead a seminar on racial diversity. His arrival is brought on by the fact that several employees have made complaints regarding Michael’s imitation of a controversial Chris Word routine, in which the comedian used the n-word. The episode earned acclaim after its initial airing, garnering a SAG nomination for script writer B.J. Novak. Wilmore, who is best known as a former correspondent on The Daily Show, in addition to hosting Comedy Central’s The Nightly Show, was also a consulting producer on The Office. He recently reflected on his appearance as Mr. Brown.
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Taking part in a Television Critics’ Association panel, Wilmore shared his nuanced views on “Diversity Day”, believing that the episode wouldn’t have been produced today and argued more broadly that the subject of acceptable humor is in constant flux. He also shared the fact that he has some fairly wild outtakes of his scenes with Carrell. You can read Wilmore’s full quote, from Collider, below.
“There’s no way “Diversity Day” could be produced today and probably rightly so. In fact, I have outtakes from that scene with Steve Carell that I can’t even say what they are, you know, that was so funny. But you never know. Things swing back and forth all the time, you know. And the culture is very malleable in that way, you know. The things that we find — it’s not so much the things that we can make fun of, but the things we find we can laugh at and it’s okay to laugh at, you know. I think I have a — I have more things on my list than most people and I acknowledge that, you know. And it’s why I probably get in trouble sometimes. But I honestly think that the more we can laugh about tough things, I just think the better off we are.”
Wilmore makes several interesting points. At a time when popular comedies, such as Community and 30 Rock, are making the decision to pull or edit episodes that includes instances of Blackface, it’s hard to imagine that “Diversity Day” could be written and presented in the same way now. The driving force of the narrative is strong overall, and it actually fits nicely into an ongoing discussion about the futility and occasionally cynical motives behind diversity training programs championed by large corporations. Novak’s script slyly reveals that Mr. Brown mostly cares that the higher-ups at Dunder Mifflin won’t catch any blowback from Michael’s rampant insensitivity. That element of the story is as timely as ever, and it likely would have been lauded today. However, in other important areas, Wilmore is correct that “Diversity Day” might face criticism if it premiered in the current climate.
One way the episode could be altered for is to spend less time on Michael’s antics and more time on how the likes of Kelly, Oscar, and Stan feel when they’re on the receiving end of bigotry from their boss. Frequent reaction shots, in addition to the climax of “Diversity Day”, zero in on the exasperation of Michael’s employees. But, given recent events, the overall perspective of the episode would shift to focus on those who are harmed by Michael’s behavior. There is certainly room to debate whether these significant alternations would result in a weaker version of “Diversity Day”, which was a bracingly honest early classic of The Office. The best approach might be to write more varied kinds of stories going forward, rather than working so hard to edit past work.
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