As Ruck Cohlchez pointed out, this week marked the 20th anniversary of Mike Judge’s flop-turned-touchstone Office Space. But before it became a low-budget bomb at the box office, “Office Space” was a low-budget hit in its first incarnation, a simple pencil and paper sketched and voiced by Judge (sorry, no “O face” guy in this version):
Office Space is a workplace satire that, like many films unappreciated during their release, seeped into the popular consciousness in ways too numerous to track now (there’s no way a Hewlitt-Packard meeting for the next generation of printers didn’t result in at least one quoting of “PC Load Letter? The fuck does that mean?”). But considering Judge’s insistence on verisimilitude above and beyond what a feature film was expected to deliver, it’s a little tough to sort what influenced workplace comedies after, and how much was already in the air. At the least we can presume Office Space demonstrated to shows like The Office how fidelity to the workplace environment can result in comedy when the various personalities are shoved into a spaces that actively dampen personalities.
As for “Office Space,” it’s one of a few quickie shorts that Judge produced starring the Milton character* that aired on Saturday Night Live and/or Liquid Television as his early work tended to do. Motion picture executives are a breed often depicted as cowardly bumblers but I’m always impressed when I see something so basic and primordial as this and later read how somebody could read the potential in it (this goes quadruple for whoever thought “Frog Baseball” was a sure money-maker). Office Space wisely relegates Milton (and his stapler) to a supporting role but roots the film** in the same, fluorescent-lit world of passive aggression.
Office Space is a hilarious but flawed work and maybe not coincidentally loses its steam the farther it roams from the observational humor in the short form.
*Subsequent shorts refine the premise further, including adding Lumberg’s signature “Yeeeah…”
**…Stephen Roots the film!