“What does TPS stand for?” asked one of the audience members at last night’s 10th anniversary screening of the cult flick Office Space.
“I guess I can settle this once and for all,” Mike Judge, the movie’s writer and director, said of the dreaded report his protagonist, Peter Gibbons, failed to attach a cover sheet to, despite his eight bosses’ memo to do so. “When I was an engineer, it stood for Test Program Set. Isn’t that exciting?”
The screening was over and Judge was standing on the stage of the Paramount Theatre, in Austin, the city where the movie was filmed. He was participating in a Q&A with the cast, save for Ron Livingston, who played Gibbons, and Jennifer Aniston, who played Gibbons’ squeeze Joanna. Amid roars from Judge’s droll response, Stephen Root, who played mumbling stapler freak Milton, summoned his own breakdown of the acronym. “It stands for … totally pissed off,” Root said in the dopey voice of Milton, not quite approximating all three letters.
Everybody has filled out their own version of a TPS report. Everybody has been threatened by downsizing. Everybody has waged war against the copier machine. Everybody has had an annoying boss who sports two-tone button-downs. Everybody has wanted to set fire to their workplace, or has at least thought about it. That’s what makes Office Space so universally appealing. It capitalizes on the humor of everyday life. Judge’s and the cast’s satirical take on corporate culture is especially poignant in today’s landscape, wherein people are reevaluating their career paths just like Judge did shortly after college.
“How do you go from a physics degree into the entertainment industry?” asked an audience member of Judge’s transition from working at the engineering firm that inspired Office Space to directing Gen X classics like Beavis and Butt-head and King of the Hill.
“Well,” Judge said, “you keep, uh, quitting jobs.”
Time for one more question from the peanut gallery.
“Does seeing this bring back any special memories?” someone asked.
“I haven’t seen the movie straight through in 10 years,” said Gary Cole, who played the clueless boss Bill Lumbergh. “Everybody [the actors] took a swing and nobody missed the ball, so it was great to see it again.” “I was the only cast member who wasn’t on a lot of drugs.” added David Herman, otherwise known as Michael Bolton.
When it was Ajay Naidu’s turn to answer, someone in the audience cut him off with a request to reenact the breakdancing moves his character, Samir Nagheenanajar, busted out in the movie as the Geto Boys’ “Damn, It Feels Good to Be a Gangsta” played in the background. “That’s not a question,” Naidu said. “That’s a demand.” Still, he popped and locked while Herman beatboxed.
Next in line was Kinna McInroe, the movie’s redheaded receptionist: “It reminds me of the time that I was working.” “I don’t know,” Todd Duffey, the energetic, flair-wearing waiter at Tchotchkies [sic], said of the experience. “I was on a lot of drugs.”
Finally, it was Diedrich Bader’s turn. He played Gibbons’ mullet-sporting neighbor, Lawrence. He took the ribbing among castmembers to a whole new level with his anecdote about the man behind Milton. “I guess I only have one special memory, when I was in my hotel room and, you know, boom, boom, boom … it’s three in the morning or whatever, and there’s Stephen Root in the hallway. And he goes, ‘Are you my friend?’ ‘Yeah,’ I said. He goes, ‘Are you really my friend?’ I said, ‘Yeah, of course, Stephen; I’m your friend.’ He said, ‘All right, I killed a prostitute.’ “