Over the course of its nine seasons, The Office had many phenomenal music moments. But not all of them were cheap or easy to approve.
Two of the most noteworthy took place during the supersized “A Benihana Christmas” episode of Season 3. First, Michael Scott sings a dumb joke about going to Jamaica, and then later at karaoke he sings John Mayer’s “Your Body Is A Wonderland.”
On the latest episode of the , former co-stars Jenna Fischer and Angela Kinsey talked about filming “A Benihana Christmas.” Not only did they reveal how that dumb Michael joke cost the show $60,000, but they also explained how they got John Mayer to approve the use of his music. (Hint: It involved a personalized Dundie Award.)
To get the inside scoop on “A Benihana Christmas,” Fischer and Kinsey spoke with episode writer, Jen Celotta. In reminiscing about Carol and Michael’s breakup and the dueling office holiday parties, Celotta shared that one of the jokes she wrote wound up being super expensive.
“I wrote a joke where Michael says, ‘I got two tickets to paradise.’ And he says, ‘Pack your bags we leave day after tomorrow,'” Celotta said. “At the sound mix I found out from Kent [Zbornak, The Office producer] that was a $60,000 joke.”
After Kinsey let out a scream, Celotta proceeded to explain the situation. “I was like, ‘It’s a fine joke, but none of my jokes I’ve ever written have been $60,000 jokes,'” she said. “But I remember not so long after that we had some of our music budget pulled away from us, and I can’t help but think. I mean, I was sitting at the mix and had no idea that because we sang that song the song had to be cleared, and that joke was $60,000.”
Though Eddie Money’s “Two Tickets To Paradise” cost the show a hefty chunk of change, things went a bit smoother when they pursued the rights to John Mayer’s music for Michael and Andy’s karaoke scene.
“We reached out to John Mayer to ask him if we could use his song, ‘Your Body Is A Wonderland,’ and it was actually B.J. Novak who reached out to him because B.J. knew him,” Fischer explained. “[B.J.] reached out to him and was like, ‘Can we use this?’ And at first John Mayer was like, ‘I don’t think so'”
“What?” Kinsey asked. “He told his friend nah uh, not happening?”
“He was like, ‘I don’t think so,’ and he actually wrote about this on his blog,” Fischer continued. She then read the following excerpt from Mayer’s 2016 blog post.
“One of my favorite shows on television, The Office, wanted to use my song, “Your Body Is A Wonderland” in a scene for their Christmas episode. Now, I’m not making apologies for my work, but it’s safe to say I don’t get asked to use ‘Wonderland’ for strongman competitions and documentaries about aircraft carriers. I usually get asked so that people can goof on it, so I initially turned down the request. But, after thinking about it I decided to go for it — but with one stipulation.”
“What was it?” Kinsey asked. To which Fischer replied, “He wrote, ‘I want a Dundie.'”
After another scream from Kinsey, Fischer explained that B.J. Novak presented John Mayer with a Dundie for “Tallest Music Dude” and then the singer agreed to let them use the song.
“Well look, I get it,” Kinsey said. “Andy and Michael are being total idiots in this episode, and so do you want your song to be the song the two idiots picked?”
Ultimately, Mayer let the two idiots sing his song, and to this day he deeply cherishes his Dundie Award and even shared a photo of it on Instagram in 2018.
Be sure to listen to the full podcast episode to hear from Rashida Jones and learn more behind-the-scenes stories about filming the “A Benihana Christmas” episodes.