It's been fifteen years since the American version of The Office premiered, and since then not only has the show gone from a scrappy underdog to a cultural touchstone, the nature of office work has changed dramatically. Starting today, you can fall in love with Jim and Pam all over again as every episode of The Office is recreated in Slack.
The company MSCHF drops a new, weird internet toy every two weeks. The last drop was Boomer Emails, a newsletter that collates the weird emails that boomers endlessly forward to each other in order to both make you laugh, and show you the insular community it creates. Daniel Greenberg, head of strategy and growth at MSCHF, said that the company wants to help foster a better internet, one that feels more creative, weirder, and more inclusive.
"At the end of the day, we're doing stuff for the people of the internet and no other reason" Greenberg said over the phone. "This is a perfect example of something that makes zero money, it's just a free Slack channel you can join to watch The Office recreated and there's nothing else to it. Us as a business is really about bringing back good internet, and telling stories with what we do."
"The Office Slack" will be MSCHF's 21st drop. Greenberg said that about half of them are physical objects people can buy, and the other half are digital toys. MSCHF feels a little bit like a millenial version of The Boring Store, a nonprofit writing center whose storefronts are made up to be secret agent supply shops. At its worst, the gimmick is eye roll worthy, like MSCHF's sneakers with holy water in the soles so that you can walk on water. Sometimes, they give you fun ways to play mind games with your boss, like a browser extension that makes Netflix look like a video conference call. The Office Slack is one of those rare matches of medium and message that makes you think about how the beast that is the internet has twisted its tendrils into your brain, infecting every aspect of your life.
Greenberg thinks using these ubiquitous internet apps for things they aren't intended to is a fun way to fuck with these brands. He said that MSCHF has already been kicked off Slack for using it for something other than its intended use. MSCHF ran a word of the day contest in Slack, where people would guess what the word of the day was. The first person to guess it would receive a thousand dollars. Slack shut it down, saying that Slack is "for work" which their project was decidedly not.
"We've used Reddit in a way that's not intended. We used Seamless in a way that it's not intended, and that one got us a cease and desist," He said.
Recreating The Office wain Slack was an obvious choice because the show is about work, and it's not difficult to imagine the characters using it in their workplace. If The Office aired right now, all of the characters would be on Slack. MSCHF has done their best to translate every episode of the show into the analogues that work in this new format, including making channels that approximate everyone's DMs to each other. An assortment of actors and improvisers are playing the characters live, working off of a written script, but with some room for improvisation. In order to bring these characters to life, Greenberg said that they're trying to make use of all the features of Slack, as well as the digital markers of office life as it is now.
"We're putting in Githubs and we're putting in PDFs and we're putting in gifs and reactions," Greenberg said. "We're not just copy and pasting, we're making it like, this is what they would do over Slack."
Greenberg pointed to the changes that they made to adapt the scene where Michael Scott burns his foot in the season two episode "The Injury." Some things, like the talking heads segments, are done away with. Instead of telling a fake documentarian that he burned his foot on a George Foreman grill while trying to have breakfast in bed, he just tells the whole office. Honestly, that's pretty in character for a self obsessed boss—he's so important that he gets to derail the entire slack conversation. He even uses the "@channel" command, sending everyone in the office a notification. Jim responds to the drama mostly through gifs and emoji reactions, but he and Pam aren't talking much. You kinda get the feeling that they're having a lot of fun in the DMs. So many of their neuroses and behaviors translate into Slack so neatly that it brings back a little of the joy I felt when I first watched these personalities unhappily collide. Even the typing styles feel in character. Michael will tag any and everyone he pleases, taking up as much space as possible, while his lackey Dwight talks in direct, staccato sentences that convey his weirdly intense nature.
When The Office was on the air, I was obsessed with it. I don't think I ever wanted anything more in high school than to see Jim and Pam kiss. Although revisiting something you loved in high school can give you the douche chills, every time I've revisited it, I've been relieved that it's still funny. Greenberg said that he was watching the classic "Diversity Day" episode the morning of our call. I'm honestly pretty excited to watch everything unfold again—I'm sure Jim is going to make good use of the eyes emoji.