University Hosts Q&A Session With Brian Baumgarter
By Julia Gavigan – Co-Managing Editor
Excited students, staff and faculty of the University waited in the McIlhenny Ballroom of the DeNaples Center Sept. 15 as reels of The Office clips played on the two projector screens in the front of the room.
In a few minutes, Brian Baumgartner, who portrayed Kevin Malone on The Office, would walk into the room to answer questions submitted by attendants about his new book and experience on the show.
Baumgartner’s new book, “Seriously Good Chili Cookbook: 177 of the Best Recipes in the World” is a collection of some of the best Chili recipes in the world submitted by participants in the World Championship Chili Cookoff and The Office fans.
Baumgartner was invited to the World Championship Chili Cookoff in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina where he had the opportunity to taste test and judge the chilis submitted to the competition.
In addition to the World Championship recipes, Baumgartner also asked fans to submit their chili recipes. Dedicated Office fans delivered, there were over two hundred submission; each recipe was made and tested to determine which would make it into the book.
The crowd sat up in their seats when Baumgartner was asked to recount the famous chili scene, the catalyst to his fame in the chili world.
“The chili scene is by far the thing that people bring up the most. It’s freaking crazy. We didn’t think that moment was going to be anything. The scene is just me,” Baumgartner said.
The said scene portrays Kevin spilling his homemade chili on the ground and falling in the mess.
The ‘Kevin chili scene’ remains one of the most hilarious and famous scenes from The Office.
During the Q&A session, Baumgartner dove deeper into why he thinks the scene resonates with so many people years later.
“Here’s why I think it resonates. The last line of the show was from Pam, and she says, ‘there’s beauty in ordinary things, isn’t that kind of the point.’ So, I think this scene resonates with people because that scene is the physical embodiment of that idea,” Baumgartner said. “There’s this guy who is really ordinary but does one thing really well and wants to celebrate that with his friends. I think we celebrate Kevin in this moment because he’s trying. It’s the small little victories.”
Despite it being nearly a decade since the last office episode aired, the show remains a favorite among students at the U for that particular reason and its famous humor.
Sophomore Occupational Therapy major Emily Welborn attended the Q&A and highly recommends the show to everyone.
“It’s such a funny show, I laugh every time I watch it. I’ve probably seen the show around ten times,” Welborn said.
The show’s humor has imbedded the characters into the hearts of its fans. This was evident through students’ excitement over seeing Baumgartner and listening to his recount of his time on The Office.
Senior kinesiology major Jeanna Gailius was one of these many students.
“It’s pretty exciting, I’ve never met a celebrity. To be in the same room as someone that you recognize and is so widely known is pretty cool,” Gailius said.
After talking about Baumgartner’s new book and the famous chili scene, the Q&A continued with selected questions that were submitted by participants when they registered for the event. There were over 150 questions from participants.
Baumgartner answered a series of rapid-fire questions which included what is your favorite food to cook (steak), what is your favorite place to visit in Scranton (Backyard Alehouse), and favorite Office episode (stress relief).
Toward the end of the Q&A, students were able to ask Baumgartner questions. The first, to his chagrin, was who is the Scranton Strangler? The Scranton Strangler, a character on the Office, was never identified.
Baumgartner replied that he does not know nor care which was received with raucous laughter from the audience.
The Q&A was a great celebration of chili, Baumgartner’s new book, and a collective love for The Office, a source of great humor, relief, and a love for ordinary things.