The Man Behind 'The Office's' Favorite Suck-Up, Dwight Schrute

'The Office' star Rainn Wilson on why taking yourself seriously is so funny.

ByABC News
September 6, 2007, 11:17 AM

LOS ANGELES, Sept. 7, 2007 — -- Words barely describe Dwight Schrute, the suck-up salesman and assistant regional manager of the Scranton branch for the Dunder Mifflin Paper Company.

But Rainn Wilson, the actor who plays schrute on NBC's "The Office," has a few for you. "Dweeby, fascistic, power-grubbing, hierarchical. Is that a word? Annoying and self-serious. How's that? Those would be, those are seven words. I was counting them on my fingers," Wilson said during an interview in his home outside Los Angeles. "And bizarre," Wilson added. "Did I say bizarre? I didn't say bizarre, throw that in the mix."

Dwight, as played by the 41-year-old Wilson, has become one of the breakout characters in television comedy. Dwight is a survivalist geek, a student of karate who likes to shoot a crossbow and watch "Battlestar Galactica" on television. And he takes himself very, very seriously.

Dwight wears a pager, a cell phone and a calculator watch. He refuses to play computer games in the office because "that would be inappropriate." And he lives for the approval of the office's boss, Michael Scott.

"I think the greatest comedy comes from people taking themselves seriously," Wilson said. "The circumstances can be just, be just absolutely absurd, but if the person is taking the stakes really seriously and taking themselves really seriously, it really is a great comedy mine to dig from."

A little like Larry David's "Curb Your Enthusiasm" on HBO, "The Office" is part of an emerging school of sitcom humor in which there are no jokes and no punch lines, just characters and situations that make you squirm.

"I say make 'em squirm," said Wilson. "Yeah, yeah, make them try and turn the channel."

Wilson talked to ABC News in the comfort of his home in an equestrian neighborhood outside of Los Angeles, a long way from the apartment of New York City where he once struggled to become a serious theatrical actor.

"There's nothing like having a role, and being on a stage and having 600 people or 1,000 people, or 1,200 people eating out of the palm of your hands," Wilson said. "It's live and they can see you spit and they can see you sweat, and it's a great communal experience, and there's nothing like it."