20 Fun Facts About Office Space

Ron Livingston stars in Mike Judge's Office Space (1999).
Ron Livingston stars in Mike Judge's Office Space (1999). / Hulton Archive/Getty Images

When Office Space premiered in theaters on February 19, 1999, it was hard to imagine that Beavis and Butt-head and King of the Hill creator Mike Judge’s first attempt at writing and directing live action would become the oft-quoted classic it did. Though it earned less than $13 million at the box office, the film eventually became a pop cultural cornerstone that would literally change restaurant chains and stapler designs. Repeated appearances on cable television and a successful life on DVD made Office Space the phenomenon that it is.

1. Office Space originated with animated shorts that ran on MTV and SNL.

Milton was a series of shorts Mike Judge created, wrote, animated, and voiced. It starred Milton Waddams, presumably when he was still technically working for Initech, and an early version of Lumbergh. The first episode aired on MTV’s Liquid Television in 1991, alongside some other Judge shorts like The Honky Problem and Huh?. During the 1993-94 season of SNL, Milton made three more appearances.

2. The success of There’s Something About Mary allowed Office Space to be made.

20th Century Fox wanted a new “big, broad comedy” after the success of the Farrelly brothers's hit movie, and figured that the Milton shorts had the potential to become one. Judge initially didn’t think it was a good idea, but eventually got on board.

3. A specific job Mike Judge once had influenced his writing on Office Space.

Judge, a former engineer, alphabetized purchase orders for two to three weeks, for eight hours a day, which he described as “god-awful.” The fact that he couldn’t daydream nor talk to someone without losing his place in the alphabet made it distinctly bad.

4. Mike Judge spoke as Butt-head and Boomhauer on set.

Mike Judge speaks onstage during TechCrunch Disrupt SF 2018 in San Francisco, California.
Mike Judge speaks onstage during TechCrunch Disrupt SF 2018 in San Francisco, California. / Steve Jennings/Getty Images for TechCrunch

Judge voiced those characters on Beavis and Butt-Head and King of the Hill, so it wasn’t particularly difficult for him to appease some crew members who insisted on the impersonations.

5. The studio wanted Office Space’s characters to be more upbeat.

Judge remembered studio executives giving him notes that generally said to make the movie less low-key. Watching dailies of Lumbergh’s “mmm… yeaaaaah” allegedly drove some executives “crazy.”

6. Diedrich Bader had a clear idea on what Lawrence should look like in Office Space.

The actor who played Oswald Lee Harvey on The Drew Carey Show as well as Peter Gibbons’ nosy neighbor Lawrence wanted to look like “somebody who loved the Allman Brothers.” Mission accomplished.

7. John C. Mcginley originally auditioned to play Lumbergh in Office Space.

That Lumbergh role went to Gary Cole, but as a nice consolation prize, John C. McGinley played Bob Slydell, a.k.a. the taller, mustachioed Bob.

8. Michael Bolton learned to make peace with being called a "no-talent ass clown."

The singer came off as annoyed in a 2003 article where he said, “I was doing fine. Then they made this movie, and I can’t go anywhere!” Ten years later, he admitted that the movie is funny and willingly signs Office Space DVDs for fans.

9. TPS actually stands for something.

At a 10th anniversary screening of Office Space, Judge revealed that Peter had to fill out Test Program Set reports. The reference dates back to his engineering days.

10. Office Space has been compared to a Herman Melville short story.

The protagonist in the 1853 short story Bartleby, the Scrivener: A Story of Wall Street hand-copies legal documents until he starts responding to every request by his boss with the phrase, “I would prefer not to,” and refuses to do anything, including leave his desk or eat. The similarity between Melville’s plot and the movie wasn’t lost on movie critics, bloggers, or high school teachers.

11. Office Space is meant to be set in "anywhere, u.s.A."

Office Space was shot in Las Colinas and Austin, Texas, but the cars had custom-made “USA” license plates on them. Lumbergh's read, "MY PRSHE."

12. The studio didn’t like Office Space’s mostly all hip-hop soundtrack.

Focus groups changed 20th Century Fox’s mind about the inclusion of artists like Ice Cube, Scarface, and, of course the Geto Boys, whose songs “Damn It Feels Good to Be a Gangsta” and “Still” serve as the official soundtrack to printer beatdowns everywhere since 1999.

13. Accountants were the first people to begin quoting Office Space.

Judge figured that the studio executives he was talking to throughout production couldn’t relate to the boring, soul-destroying jobs Office Space was portraying, but he still had doubts that his brainchild would resonate with audiences. He only began to start feeling optimistic when he heard that the accountants in the post-production department were referencing the movie before it even came out.

14. Office Space inspired TGI Friday's to do away with its flair.

As you surely remember, Jennifer Aniston’s character, Joanna, grew increasingly disengaged with her server job at TGI Friday’s stand-in Chotchkie's because she could never seem to wear enough buttons, or “flair,” on her uniform to appease her superiors and counterparts. In real life, TGI Friday’s noticeably phased out its once-requisite flair by 2005. Nearly 10 years after the film's release, Judge revealed that one of his assistant directors asked a Friday’s employee—without revealing their affiliation with the movie—about the noticeable lack of flair and was told that they “removed it because of that movie Office Space.”

15. The actor who played Brian, the flair-loving Chotchkie’s waiter, sued the studio.

A special edition DVD called The Office Space Box of Flair included the 32-page book, The Office Space Guide to Flair, and 15 buttons (15 being the minimum number of flair a Chotchkie’s server must wear). Todd Duffey wanted to be financially compensated for his face appearing on the cover of a book and on one of the buttons, but the false endorsement violation claim lawsuit was dismissed.

16. Mike judge played Stan, Joanna’s boss at Chotchkie’s, in Office Space.

Judge wore a wig, a moustache, and glasses to make it a pretty good disguise. The role is credited to a “William King.”

17. The restaurant where Office Space’s Chotchkie’s scenes were filmed closed in 2009.

R.I.P. The Alligator Grille in Austin, Texas.

18. Swingline made red staplers three years after Office Space was released.

Stephen Root in Office Space (1999).
Stephen Root in Office Space (1999). / 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment

Milton’s precious office item needed to pop on screen, so a prop designer painted a Swingline stapler red. After potential customers called and e-mailed the company asking for a Milton stapler that didn’t exist, some enterprising folks made a profit making and selling red staplers on eBay. In April 2002, the company finally began to offer a “Rio Red” model.

19. Office Space inspired people to quit their jobs.

People who were unhappy at the jobs they felt no passion for have told Judge and Ron Livingston, the actor who played Peter, that they quit after watching the movie.

20. Mike Judge doesn’t like Office Space’s ending.

Judge realized that the entire third act should be re-written a little too late in the process—after the final test screening.