I think it’s possible that New York magazine bused in homely girls to further authenticate the atmosphere at its faux office party last Tuesday night at the Canal Room, arranging them in clumps of two and three around kissing “co-workers”—who were, you know, pretending to be totally wasted. I bet they were so embarrassed the next day. The girls glanced nervously at the couples; the couples, in turn, angled themselves toward my camera. Could party planners Drillteam Media seriously have gone to this much trouble to make this seem real? I rolled my eyes and crossed the room. Slowly.
The party—the penultimate event in a six-part series called “New York by New York“—was conceived as a send-up of the corporate holiday soiree. Members from sketch-comedy constant the Upright Citizens Brigade served as characters from the office (although not characters from The Office—nary a Jim Halpert in sight), and We Are Scientists played at the end of the night. The Daily Show‘s Rob Riggle acted as company president (drunk, oversexed); UCB regular Lennon Parham played uptight communications Nazi “Sarah Lawrence” (sober, undersexed); and Jeff Hiller took the screeching form of human-resources rep Pepper, making unintentionally terrible jokes about people having sex in the bathroom. He was . . . really loud.
Human Giant‘s Paul Scheer and Rob Huebel took the stage for some bizarre in-memoriam bit lamenting someone’s “sprained taint,” earned by forcing his testicle into a shot glass. They followed that up with a raffle, often having to call multiple names when the winners went missing. I understood the impulse, but I don’t know how anyone could’ve gone anywhere—it took incredible effort to navigate through the capacity crowd. Other participants: Eli Newell, who was from “accounting,” if I remember correctly (which would make sense, as he’s tall and cute and totally somebody I would’ve loved in college); Dominic Dierkes, who played the company intern and ratted out his uncle for secret transvestite tendencies (how original); and maybe like two other guys. Jack McBrayer contributed a video—I love that guy on 30 Rock, but man, does his shtick get annoying otherwise.
It was, for the most part, not funny—which I hate to admit, because the series has been solid otherwise (the Zach Galifianakis–hosted Bad Art Auction with Band of Horses drew a great crowd in a beautiful venue back in July). And I’m not sure the fault lies with the comedians, either, since the premise of a corporate punchline is just so tired. After all, the reason The Office works more often than not is because we give a shit about the characters— not because it serves up a series of one-dimensional caricatures. But UCB would have been hard-pressed to create a lot of depth with five-minute monologues.
What I will say is that “Not Your Office Holiday Party” was elaborately executed—not to mention well documented, as I haven’t been to a party ever where there were more aggressive photogs and videographers. And those queens get bitchy: When one of them asked me to pose, and I very politely declined, he sneered at me and said, “Nice camera. I work at B&H if, you know, you ever want a discount.” I mean, get a grip—all I said was that I didn’t want to pose by myself at a party because it makes me feel totally dumb. Which it does. It should make you feel dumb, too.
In addition to the orchestrated make-outs (I swear they were fake) and bad speeches, Drillteam factored in name tags, a specialty cocktail named the Pink Slip, and a DJ who took not-real requests, made not-real announcements (“There’s a Camry in the parking lot with its lights on. Dan, don’t you drive a Camry?”), and fell in and out of character, following up Bel Biv DeVoe’s “Poison” with 2006 CSS anthem “Music Is My Hot Hot Sex.”
I was ready to leave before We Are Scientists took the stage. True, that’s not saying a lot: I would probably almost always be ready to leave before We Are Scientists take the stage. But they’re cute enough to eat, and that’s typically enough for me to stick around. (If I would’ve loved Eli Newell in college, I would’ve died for Keith Murray in high school. Seriously.) And despite what I think of their records, they’re pretty fun live for being stuck at a party where it takes 20 minutes to get a drink and zoom lenses are recording your every move. Visibly at ease with one another and in front of an audience, the band is equally comfortable with its material, switching up beats on crowd-pleaser “It’s a Hit”—they could’ve played it as a funeral dirge and the girls singing along wouldn’t have had any fewer stars in their eyes. WAS don’t take everything so seriously, and in a year that celebrated some pretty self-important musicians, I love at least that about them.
So, having never attended an actual corporate holiday party, maybe I’m just not in on the joke—perhaps other people with respectable senses of humor but more relevant experience thought it was funny. For me, though, it was a giant misfire from the folks who, in 2007, brought us not only the aforementioned auction, but also karaoke with Of Montreal, a scavenger hunt with Dan Deacon and Chromeo, and a foodie pairing of Post Punk Kitchen‘s Isa Chandra Moskowitz and Man Man. Even Tuesday night’s crowd, in comparison to the other events, was essentially unrecognizable—although, as the reason behind the series is to lock in a younger subscription base, I guess it makes sense to branch out. “We are having one more party in January, which will be Indie Rock Karaoke 2, based on the success of our first,” promises Drillteam’s Dina Biblarz. “Then we are doing a whole other series for ‘New York by New York‘ in 2008. Should be really fun!” Let’s hope so—I’d like to forget this one ever happened.