'The Office' star Rainn Wilson comes to Phoenix to promote new memoir

"Bears. Beets. Battlestar Galactica."

Fans of the hit NBC series "The Office" will remember character Jim Halpert's good-humored parody of his co-worker Dwight Schrute― a caricature that wasn't too far off the mark. Scranton's favorite beet farmer was brash, outspoken and unconventional, yet somehow grew to become one of the most adored characters in the series.

Phoenix fans of "The Office" got to meet Dwight himself on Nov 17 at the Orpheum Theatre. Actor Rainn Wilson held a talk, Q&A session and book-signing as part of a tour promoting his new memoir, "The Bassoon King: My Life In Art, Faith, and Idiocy."

Wilson began his presentation by explaining that the book, released on Nov. 10, was designed to be a mix of his unique sense of humor and his outlook on life and religion.

"When I pitched the book to my editors, I told them, 'This is going to be 85 percent funny, and (the other) 15 percent is going to be me attempting to be profound,'" he said.

The memoir begins with a foreword by everyone's favorite cynic, Dwight, who insults Wilson and lists off books that would be better than "The Bassoon King." (His ideas include a Schrute-style cookbook, conspiracy theories about conspiracy theories, German sex tips and an entire book about short-sleeved shirts.)

The rest of the book is written like most celebrity memoirs, with chapters devoted to his childhood, his early acting career, his big break on "The Office," and his work with SoulPancake, the media and production company he launched in 2009 that seeks to combine spirituality and comedy. The narrative format may be somewhat cliché, but it's also laced with Wilson's particular brand of self-effacing and hyperbolic humor that has made him popular with millions of people around the world.

After Wilson introduced the book and read selections onstage, he opened the floor for questions. But before fans lined up in front of the microphones, he rattled off the answers to a handful of inquiries about "The Office" he gets asked at every speaking event.

"My favorite episode is 'The Injury,'" Wilson said, with an air of palpable exasperation. "My favorite prank is when Jim puts my desk in the bathroom. It was great working with Steve Carell. Yes, we improvised a lot of lines― about 25 percent (of the lines) were improvised and 75 percent were scripted... What else? ...Oh, and black bear is best."

After the Q&A, Wilson sat at a table at the front of the theater and one by one attendees  lined up to have their books signed. Unfortunately, due to time constraints, Wilson was only able to sign his signature, not including inscriptions or quotes. He also wasn't able to take pictures with fans, although many took quick selfies with him as they passed his table.

For many fans, one of the biggest highlights of the night was before Wilson even stepped onstage. Albie Micklich, Associate Professor of Bassoon at ASU, brought a group of his graduate bassoon students to perform for the audience before Wilson came onstage. They played a variety of instrumental songs, from Guns N' Roses' "Sweet Child O' Mine" to The Dave Brubeck Quartet's "Take Five" and "The Cantina Theme" from "Star Wars."

"The song choice was completely up to us," Micklich said after the show. "We knew a little bit about Rainn Wilson and what he likes, so we just wanted everything to be fun and light."

ASU student Sarah Rice is studying for her Master’s degree in Bassoon Performance and was part of the group of students that served as Wilson's opening act.

"I think this is the first bassoon quartet he's had (on his tour)," Rice said. "We had some arrangements we'd already done, like the "Star Wars" Cantina Theme, and our teacher also wrote and edited a bunch of arrangements for us to play."

Thomas Mark Breadon, Jr. just finished his Doctorate and plans to graduate from ASU in December. The opportunity to play on the same stage as such a famous actor – and stay for the show– made the engagement a no-brainer for him and the other students.

"We're huge 'Office' fans," he said. "I'm just a huge Rainn Wilson fan in general."

Wilson's tour continues in Los Angeles before ending in Huntington Beach, CA, later this week. His book is available for purchase through Changing Hands Bookstore locations in Phoenix and Tempe, or on their website.

Related Link:

'Backstrom' off to promising start with a sardonic Rainn Wilson


Reach the reporter at skylar.mason@asu.edu or follow @skylarmason42 on Twitter.

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