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From 'The Office' to the campus: Lee Eisenberg '99 has advice for students

Writer Lee Eisenberg '99, best know for his work on NBC's 'The Office,' is on stage with interviewer Nate Cornell '11.
Writer Lee Eisenberg '99, best know for his work on NBC's 'The Office,' is on stage with interviewer Nate Cornell '11.

Lee Eisenberg ’99, best known as a writer and co-producer of the NBC comedy “The Office,” is all about making people laugh.

But on a recent visit to campus, where he launched the Centennial discussion series, as well as shared dinner with 20 students, he gave some serious advice on everything from networking to the value of being “intrepid and a little fearless.”

The former English major is a rising star in Hollywood. He gave his latest script to Bill Murray for a final reading. He has Justin Timberlake’s cell number on his phone. And he’s found out firsthand that Cameron Diaz is “a very nice and unpretentious” person, because she’s starring in his next movie.

A dinner conversation with Eisenberg is as offbeat, irreverent, and extremely funny as a page of dialogue from the Emmy Award-winning comedy. The conversation continued for 200 more students who packed Evans Hall to hear him speak and watch his film clips.

Like other alumni who return to campus as guest speakers and panelists throughout the school year, Eisenberg wanted to give students the benefit of his experience. His advice to aspiring writers was simple: “If you want to write, write like crazy.”

Interviewed by Student Government Association president Nate Cornell ’11, Eisenberg was the inaugural speaker for "Great Beginnings: Conversations with Alumni," a series sponsored by the SGA and created by students to celebrate the Centennial and alumni achievement.

Sounding very much like one of the characters on “The Office,” who often deal with boredom, indignities and sometimes downright absurdity on the job, Eisenberg described his five years as a production assistant. Nevertheless, the entry-level positions got him a foothold in the industry while he continued to write scripts, lots of them, as he honed his craft.

A Hollywood script could hardly top the scene of a successful Eisenberg returning to meet his college mentor, professor and writer-in-residence Blanche Boyd, who introduced Eisenberg to the audience.

“I said to Lee at dinner: ‘I don’t think I gave you an A until your senior year.’ And he said: ‘You never gave me an A.’ I am incredibly proud of Lee. …I’m going to give him an A tonight.”

— Lisa Brownell (Laura Marenghi ’12 contributed to this story)




February 9, 2011