I have a new theory about The Office. A literary theory.
I was reading Cormac McCarthy’s famous novel, No Country For Old Men, when I came across a familiar punchline.
That’s right, it’s everyone’s favorite repeating inappropriate joke from The Office. What’s it doing in a crime thriller/postmodern Western written by a literary genius?
The Office debuted in 2005. No Country came out that same year, which means it was being written long before. The line “That’s what she said” didn’t first appear on The Office until the second season.
Coincidence? Well, I came across another such coincidence in reading McCarthy’s grim Appalachian novel, Outer Dark. I’m reading along—just your typical scene of a woman giving birth to her brother’s baby—when I come upon this little number:
That’s right. Rinthy Holme gives birth to “a beet colored creature.” This book was published in 1968 and the story takes place around the turn of the last century. If this isn’t an indication that she and her brother are actually members of the Schrute clan, I don’t know what is. But it runs deeper than that. Much deeper.
I think Cormac McCarthy got tired of writing novels. I think he decided to write the script for a hit TV show.
Cormac McCarthy ghostwrote The Office.
So I have no further proof of this, and the evidence is nothing. But I couldn’t contain myself. I had to imagine what the script itself would have looked like had McCarthy written it. I now present to you, a segment from the episode “Casual Friday.” A harrowing passage regarding the nihilistic tragedy of Kevin’s chili:
Malone bore the canister with his mittenhands blue like crab’s eyes, stumbling to adjust its malign weight. His bald head bowed like some tonsured friar in rapture. The vessel careened of its own accord, the man toppling with it, fated with clumsy abandon. Brown mush emptied out of the cylinder like a volcanic mudslide, advancing quickly upon the carpet and suggesting the thickness of the chili’s brown hue emanating not from the spectrum’s portions withheld but the very marrow of the mud innate, the ink and gravy of the bean-yielding earth, a dense loam coating all pigment underneath, throbbing against the vain scooping of the aggrieved, now become a mound and a stain as permanent as prehistoric lithosphere after dampness comes, alleging some tragic cleanness spoiled. And lost. And penitent. Malone frantic.
—It’s probably the thing I do best.
That’s what she said.