Alyssa Sellers

The Office: Finding Comedy In the Midst of Tragedy

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theoffice6This week a natural disaster devastated a community. I know what that feels like. It feels absolutely horrible. This week I was going to write an entry about what The Office meant to me during my long recovery from Hurricane Rita. When I saw the devastation in Oklahoma, I reconsidered.

Then scrolling through twitter I saw a tweet from Patton Oswalt, presumably in response to someone telling him he was being insensitive:

So after seeing this I thought, “I will indeed write about The Office because in tragedy we need comedy. Otherwise, why go on?” So here I go:

My hometown was ravaged by Hurricane Rita in the fall of 2005. During the initial aftermath, my mornings and evenings were spent in phone calls to loved ones in Louisiana: locating family and friends, assessing damage to various homes, churches, schools and businesses, and creating plans of action.

Two months later those plans were being executed, only, without me. I was 3,000 miles away spending my days at my new job in Human Resources in a bustling metropolis that had all but forgotten what occurred on September 24. I was trying to understand how to be a part of this seemingly normal office/city life while the many of the people I loved were standing in FEMA food lines, shifting through the debris piles of their former homes, and having discussions with insurance companies.

It was about this time that I discovered the television show The Office. Turns out, I really needed a laugh. The Office delivered. Over and over and over again.

The Office
was in its second season and my friend Erin and I would call each other during commercial breaks to discuss the hilarity of the previous scene. At the end of each episode we would recount all of our favorite parts, laughing hysterically and craving longer episodes.  Sometime later the network execs somehow heard our cries and delivered. Erin and I were overjoyed.

Over the last 8 years, I have had some seriously trying times. Much about my young life has been unstable and insecure, but for me, The Office has always been a place of certainty. It has had the same expertly designed set, with the same well written and well performed characters, delivering the same high caliber commentary on a reality that in many ways is shockingly similar to mine. It was always there when I needed a lighthearted respite from my reality and, for that, I am extremely grateful.


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