How do you create workplace comedy in a COVID-ravaged world?


Between separate offices, vaccination requirements and changing mask mandates, those who returned to the office this spring quickly learned that workplaces are different in a post-COVID world.

But what about those who work in fictitious offices?

In the span of just two years, previously mundane events like squeezing into a cabin space a la Jim, Dwight, and Pam on NBC Office or long crushing meetings where people sit side by side like on Comedy Central Company have become as dated as the idea that Rachel could just walk to the airport gate to surprise Ross on Friends. For desktop series premiering in a (post?) pandemic environment, that can mean struggling for authenticity while trying to figure out what “authentic” really means in this new world order.

“Our optimistic take on the making and writing of the series was that COVID would have receded somewhat” at the time of its premiere, says Alan Yang. With Matt Hubbard, he created the Maya Rudolph– with the Apple TV+ show, Booty, a comedy about a billionaire divorcee who forgot she created a fully functioning charitable foundation.

Booty premiered on June 24 on the streaming service, which means Yang’s wish…didn’t come true.

In the series, the association’s offices have an open floor plan with plenty of space between offices as well as cubicles with glass partitions. Hubbard says it’s mostly coincidence that these aesthetics could pass COVID security guard inspections; series production designer Jennifer Dehghan wanted the space to serve as a more inviting contrast to the square, marble house of Rudolph’s character, Molly, and to serve as a metaphor for the idea that this is a place she couldn’t isolate themselves from the rest of civilization.

We’re also still at a point where, as a television writer-producer Jeremy Beiller he said, viewers and creators agreed to share “a bit of a collective suspension of disbelief.” Beiler co-created the Showtime comedy I like it for you with serial star Vanessa Bayer, which premiered in May and is set in the world of a home shopping network. He says COVID had an “underground presence on our show” — so, for example, “I think if we had really crowded theaters, there’s something that would have felt a little off.”

I like it for you also included so many scenes that happened on FaceTime that the writers initially feared they would become boring or unrealistic – ironic, as they were having these conversations themselves on digital platforms thanks to the need for a room virtual writers.

“Ultimately, we decided that’s just how we live now and that’s what felt real,” Beiler said of the show’s integration of digital technology. “We let those scenes exist because that’s what it’s like to be alive right now and what your day looks like.”

Hubbard agrees. A veteran of workplace comedies like NBC’s 30 Rock and Parks and Recreation, he says his new show “had a lot of screen and text watching which, to some extent, is more than any show I’ve ever done.”

“I would actually group COVID with technology, in general, and how it alienates and alienates the way we communicate with each other,” Yang says, adding that “we’re not Shakespeare. But a lot of Shakespeare’s plays were talking maybe they don’t end up in the same place, or there are crossed wires. And now it’s like, you know what? Instead of doing that, Romeo texts Juliet so that there is no miscommunication.


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