B. J. Novak

B. J. Novak
B.J. Novak, Actor.jpg
Novak at SF Sketch Fest 2008
Benjamin Joseph Manaly Novak

(1979-07-31) July 31, 1979 (age 41)[1]
Alma mater Harvard University (AB)
  • Actor
  • writer
  • comedian
  • director
Years active 2001–present
Relatives Jesse Novak (brother)

Benjamin Joseph Manaly Novak[2] (born July 31, 1979) is an American actor, writer, comedian, and director. Novak was one of the writers and executive producers of The Office (2005–2013), in which he also played Ryan Howard. He also appeared as PFC Smithson "The Little Man" Utivich in the film Inglourious Basterds (2009), Robert B. Sherman in Saving Mr. Banks (2013), and Harry J. Sonneborn in The Founder (2016).

Early life

Novak was born July 31, 1979, in Newton, Massachusetts. His parents are Linda (née Manaly) and author William Novak.[3][4][5] Novak's family is Jewish. His father co-edited The Big Book of Jewish Humor, and has ghostwritten memoirs for Nancy Reagan, Lee Iacocca, Magic Johnson, and others; his parents also established a Jewish matchmaking service.[6][7] Novak has two younger brothers, Jesse, a composer, and Lev. He attended Solomon Schechter Day School of Greater Boston for elementary school and middle school.[8]

He went to Camp Ramah in New England for several summers when he was a teenager.[citation needed]

He attended Newton South High School with future The Office costar John Krasinski,[9] and they graduated in 1997.[9] Novak edited one of the school newspapers, The Lion's Roar and cowrote a satirical play with Krasinski.[10] Novak graduated from Harvard University in 2001, where he was a member of the Harvard Lampoon and the Hasty Pudding Club. He majored in English and Spanish literature, and wrote his honors thesis on the films of Shakespeare's Hamlet.[11]

Aside from the Lampoon, he occasionally staged and performed in a variety show called The B.J. Show with fellow Harvard student B. J. Averell.[9]


Following his graduation from Harvard, he moved to Los Angeles, California and began working in clubs as a comedian. His first live stand-up performance took place at the Hollywood Youth Hostel on October 10, 2001.[citation needed] He was named one of Variety's "Ten Comedians To Watch" in 2003.[12]

Novak was a writer for the short-lived The WB sitcom Raising Dad.[9] He performed on Comedy Central's Premium Blend and on Late Night with Conan O'Brien.[11][12]

Novak's television acting career began on MTV's Punk'd.[9] He was the lead accomplice to Ashton Kutcher on the show's second season in 2003, playing pranks on Hilary Duff, Rachael Leigh Cook, Usher, and Mýa.[citation needed]

Novak in June 2007

The Office

After hearing Novak's opening joke at a comedy club, executive producer Greg Daniels decided he "wanted to do something with him";[9] Novak was subsequently cast as Ryan Howard.

Novak plays a character who goes through ups and downs throughout his work career and has an on and off relationship with Kelly Kapoor (Mindy Kaling).

Novak was not only a cast member on the show but a producer and writer. He, along with Mindy Kaling, Greg Daniels, Michael Schur, and Paul Lieberstein, were the original writers for the show. He is credited with writing fifteen episodes during the show's duration including the Writer's Guild of America nominated episodes "Diversity Day" and "Local Ad".

On July 21, 2010, news reports indicated Novak had signed a contract to remain with the show for its seventh and eighth seasons; under the new terms, he would be made an executive producer midway through Season 7 and direct two episodes of the show. In a June 2009 interview with The Philadelphia Inquirer, Novak spoke about sharing the success of The Office with his Newton South High School classmate John Krasinski:[13]

"Sometimes when this feels too good to be true, I think that if this were all a dream, that would be what should have tipped me off. I'd wake up saying, "I was in this incredible TV show and it was a big hit and the star was John [Krasinski] from high school. Isn't that weird?"

Post-The Office career

Novak has appeared in the films Unaccompanied Minors, Reign Over Me, The Internship, Knocked Up, The Smurfs, and The Amazing Spider-Man 2.

He has had supporting roles in Quentin Tarantino's Inglourious Basterds (2009), John Lee Hancock's Saving Mr. Banks (2013), and The Founder (2016).

He has starred in episodes of The Mindy Project, The Newsroom, Community, and Crazy Ex-Girlfriend.[11]

Novak in September 2013

Book deal

On April 11, 2013, publishing house Alfred A. Knopf announced it had signed a seven-figure, two-book deal with Novak, with the first book slated to be a collection of Woody Allen-like fiction stories.[14]

On February 4, 2014 a book of 64 stories, One More Thing: Stories and Other Stories, was published and spent 6 weeks on the NYT Hardcover Fiction Bestsellers List.[15] Novak also signed a deal with Penguin's children's books label and wrote The Book With No Pictures, which was released in September 2014 and has spent four full years on the New York Times Picture Books list, with 34 weeks charting as the #1 seller in the United States.[16]

In May 2015, it was announced that Novak and Mindy Kaling had signed a book deal worth a reported $7.5 million to write about their long friendship and former relationship, though Kaling said in an interview that the book would "not be a tell-all."

The List App

On October 14, 2015 Novak released an Apple iOS app along with co-founder Dev Flaherty called The List App.[17] The app has since been nominated for a Webby Award (losing in its category to Beme and Pocket) and in May 2016 rebranded as 'li.st' and became available on the Android platform.[18]

In September 2017, the app was shut down, citing that the growth wasn't enough to sustain the current product.[19]

Personal life

Novak has a close friendship with Mindy Kaling, whom he met through writing for The Office. The two dated on and off while writing and acting on the show, sometimes mirroring the on-again, off-again nature of the relationship between their respective characters Ryan Howard and Kelly Kapoor.[20] He served as a consulting producer for Season 1 of The Mindy Project,[21] and has appeared on the show several times, though his formal producing role ended after the first season.[22] Novak is the godfather of Kaling's daughter and son.[23][24]

In March 2020, Novak told podcaster Pete Holmes that he might someday run for Mayor of Los Angeles.[25]



  • Novak, B. J. (2014). The Book with No Pictures. ISBN 9780803741713.
  • Novak, B. J. (2014). One More Thing: Stories and Other Stories. ISBN 9780385351836.
  • Novak, B. J. (2017). The Alphabet Book with No Pictures. ISBN 9780803741713.

Essays, reporting and other contributions

  • Novak, B. J. (November 4, 2013). "The man who invented the calendar". Shouts & Murmurs. The New Yorker. 89 (35): 64–65.
  • "Pants" on Current Mood with John Mayer. Aired: 2/17/19.
  • ”Coronavirus" Special Report on Current Mood with John Mayer. Aired: April 19, 2020


Roles as an actor
Year Title Role Notes
2003 Punk'd Field Agent Television series
2005–2013 The Office Ryan Howard Television series; 166 Episodes
Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Comedy Series (2006, 2007)
Nominated: Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Comedy Series (2008)
Nominated: Prism Award for Best performance in a Comedy Series (2009)
2006 Unaccompanied Minors Flight Attendant
2007 Knocked Up Unnamed Doctor
Reign Over Me Mr. Fallon
2009 Inglourious Basterds Pfc. Smithson Utivich Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture
2011 The Smurfs Baker Smurf Voice role
2012 The Dictator Uncredited
2013 The Mindy Project Jamie Television series
4 episodes
2013 The Internship Male Interviewer
2013 The Smurfs 2 Baker Smurf Voice role
2013 Saving Mr. Banks Robert B. Sherman
2014 The Amazing Spider-Man 2 Alistair Smythe
2014 Community Mr. Egypt Episode: "Basic Sandwich" (cameo)
2014 The Newsroom Lucas Pruit Television series
4 episodes
2015 Arthur MC Episode: "The Last Day" (voice)
2016 The Founder Harry J. Sonneborn
2016–2018 Crazy Ex-Girlfriend Himself Episodes: "Josh and I Go to Los Angeles" (cameo), "Oh, Nathaniel, It's On!" (cameo)
TBA Vengeance Ben Manalowitz Filming
Roles as a writer
Year Title Notes
2001–2002 Raising Dad 2 episodes
2005–2012 The Office Episodes written:
  1. "Diversity Day" (March 29, 2005) – Season 1
  2. "Sexual Harassment" (September 27, 2005) – Season 2
  3. "The Fire" (October 11, 2005) – Season 2
  4. "Boys and Girls" (February 2, 2006) – Season 2
  5. "Initiation" (October 19, 2006) – Season 3
  6. "Safety Training" (April 12, 2007) – Season 3
  7. "Local Ad" (October 25, 2007) – Season 4
  8. "Chair Model" (April 17, 2008) – Season 4
  9. "Prince Family Paper" (January 22, 2009) – Season 5
  10. "Dream Team" (April 9, 2009) – Season 5
  11. "Happy Hour" (March 25, 2010) – Season 6
  12. "Counseling" (September 30, 2010) – Season 7
  13. "Threat Level Midnight" (February 17, 2011) – Season 7
  14. "The List" (September 22, 2011) – Season 8
  15. "Free Family Portrait Studio" (May 10, 2012) – Season 8

Writers Guild of America Award for Comedy Series (2006)
Nominated: Writers Guild of America Award for a Comedy Series (2005, 2007, 2008)
Nominated: Writers Guild of America Award for a New Series (2005)
Nominated: Writers Guild of America Award for an Episodic Comedy (2005, 2007)

2013 The Mindy Project 2 episodes
Roles as a director
Year Title Notes
2009 The OfficeBlackmail webisode series 4 episodes
2009 The Office – "Scott's Tots" aired 12/03/09
2011 The Office – "The Seminar" aired 01/27/11
The Office – "The List" aired 09/22/11
2012 The Office – "Trivia" aired 01/12/12
2013 The Mindy Project – "Mindy's Minute" aired 02/19/13
2013 The Mindy Project – "Santa Fe" aired 04/09/13

Awards and nominations


  1. ^ Hoys & Brooks 2013, p. 194.
  2. ^ "B.J. Novak". TV Guide. Archived from the original on December 15, 2018. Retrieved December 15, 2018.
  3. ^ Courtney Hollands (December 20, 2007). "Molly Goodson has stars in her eyes – and on her blog". The Boston Globe. Archived from the original on November 3, 2012. Retrieved March 6, 2009.
  4. ^ Berman, Alyssa R.; Beborah B. Doroshow (May 14, 2001). "BJs Bring a Full House to Sanders". Harvard Crimson. Archived from the original on September 3, 2009. Retrieved August 19, 2009.
  5. ^ Novak 2006, p. vii.
  6. ^ Getlin, John (September 17, 1992). "Ghost to the Stars – William Novak Is the Invisible Writer Behind Memoirs by Lee Iacocca, Nancy Reagan and—Soon—Magic Johnson". Los Angeles Times. Archived from the original on March 24, 2011. Retrieved August 19, 2009.
  7. ^ Uriel Heilman (November 19, 2006). "Better than Pork, Isn't it? Jewish Joke Book turns 25". JTA. Archived from the original on September 4, 2009. Retrieved March 13, 2009.
  8. ^ "Class Notes-Solomon Schechter Day School". www.ssdsboston.org. Archived from the original on January 27, 2016. Retrieved January 21, 2016.
  9. ^ a b c d e f Christopher Muther (December 6, 2005). "Class reunion". The Boston Globe. Archived from the original on February 24, 2009. Retrieved March 6, 2009.
  10. ^ Viser, Matt (February 20, 2005). "Double scoops: At Newton South, two papers vie to make headlines". The Boston Globe. Retrieved May 14, 2020.
  11. ^ a b c B. J. Novak on IMDb
  12. ^ a b "B.J. Novak: Videos, Jokes, Tour Dates, Biography and more". Jokes.com. ComedyCentral. 2009. Archived from the original on October 20, 2008. Retrieved March 11, 2009.
  13. ^ David Hiltbrand, "B.J. Novak gives at 'The Office' and out of it" Archived March 4, 2016, at the Wayback Machine, Philadelphia Inquirer, June 11, 2009.
  14. ^ Julie Bosman, "B.J. Novak, Actor and Writer, Signs Two-Book Deal" Archived June 24, 2017, at the Wayback Machine, nytimes.com, April 12, 2013; accessed September 21, 2013.
  15. ^ "Best Sellers". The New York Times. March 30, 2014. Archived from the original on December 2, 2014. Retrieved November 30, 2014.
  16. ^ Towers, Andrea (January 22, 2014). "On the Books: B.J. Novak lands children's book deal". Entertainment Weekly. Archived from the original on December 5, 2014. Retrieved November 30, 2014.
  17. ^ "B.J. Novak introduces new app for people who 'just love lists'". EW.com. Archived from the original on January 13, 2018. Retrieved January 13, 2018.
  18. ^ Perez, Sarah. "B.J. Novak's "The List App" rebrands to li.st, arrives on Android". TechCrunch. Archived from the original on January 13, 2018. Retrieved January 13, 2018.
  19. ^ "List App Shuts Down App, Moves On To New Project". Commaful. Archived from the original on October 2, 2017.
  20. ^ Burton, Summer Anne. "33 Times Mindy Kaling And B.J. Novak's Best Friendship Killed You In The Heart". BuzzFeed. Archived from the original on October 11, 2016. Retrieved May 12, 2016.
  21. ^ "B.J. Novak on his 'Mindy Project' arc, being BFF with Mindy Kaling, and returning to 'The Office'" Archived February 3, 2013, at the Wayback Machine, ohnotheydidnt.livejournal.com, January 29, 2013.
  22. ^ "B.J. Novak on His Relationship with Mindy Kaling and Returning to the Mindy Project". Archived from the original on February 4, 2018. Retrieved February 3, 2018.
  23. ^ "Mindy Kaling Reveals B.J. Novak Is Godfather to Her 16-Month-Old Daughter: He's 'Family Now'". May 4, 2019.
  24. ^ "Mindy Kaling's Big Announcement: She Has A New Baby Boy Named Spencer!".
  25. ^ Cheat Sheet - "'The Office' Star B.J. Novak Confirms He May Run for Mayor of LA Someday"
  26. ^ Andrew Krukowski, "'Sopranos,' 'The Office' Win SAG Ensemble Awards," Archived September 4, 2009, at the Wayback Machine TVWeek, January 27, 2008.

Works cited

External links