The new Comedy Central movie “Office Race” boasts an ensemble bevy of A-list talent including former “SNL” star Beck Bennett, Joel McHale, Alyson Hannigan and Kelsey Grammer.
“We were stunned at the cast we were able to attract,” director Jared Lapidus told The Post.
“We had a short list of folks that we thought would nail the roles, and we went to the network with that list. We very quickly came to Kelsey and Alyson. They loved it and signed on. Joel was very high on our list from the very beginning, we got lucky when he loved the script.
“We had this miraculous series of ‘Yesses’ where we were able to attach a murder’s row of talent.”
Premiering Sept. 4 (8 p.m.), “Office Race” follows Pat (Bennett), an unambitious office worker who’s aimlessly drifting through life.
He’s got a girlfriend (also named Pat, played by Hannigan) who is frustrated with his lack of passion, and an obnoxious exercise-obsessed work rival, Spencer (McHale).
After Spencer gets a promotion and becomes Pat’s boss, Pat soon becomes involved with a group of runners, led by Rita (Erinn Hayes). Pat is just trying to woo Rita as an investor, in order to one-up Spencer. But soon, his involvement with Rita and her friends turns into a genuine interest in the sport, as he’s goaded into competing in a marathon with Spencer. (Grammer plays Coach B, an aging running pro who owns a shop, while JB Smoove plays another member of the team who speed-walks).
“Joel’s character has an addiction to a quasi-legal sports drink which wreaks havoc on his body over the course of the film, particularly in the second half,” said Lapidus.
“Joel was delighted to play this side of his character and did so with relish. He brought such enthusiasm and physicality to the deterioration of his character. All of that stuff was really fun. It definitely took a while for everybody to settle down when Joel would walk onto the set before we were ready to shoot, because the sight gag alone was hilarious.”
Lapidus, who co-wrote the film with James Kilmoon, said that the two met as roommates at NYU.
“James was running cross country at the time, and I was in the film school.”
When they realized that there weren’t many feature-length comedies set in the world of running, they saw an opportunity.
Although they’re fans of the classic 1999 comedy “Office Space,” they said that “Office Race” didn’t begin as a deliberate homage.
“So the full story there is that the title for the last six years or so has been ‘Run for the Money’ and that was the title during production,” said Lapidus.
“The title was changed while we were in post [production] — I guess it was the network seeing what their audience tends to like. There are a lot of workplace comedies on Comedy Central.”
Nevertheless, “Office Race” does have one important connection to “Office Space.”
“We had an incredible director of photography, Tim Suhrstedt, a comedy legend. He’s been working in the comedy world for a very long time,” said Lapidus. “He shot the original ‘Teen Wolf,’ ‘Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure,’ and ‘Office Space.’ We were incredibly lucky to have his steady hand and decades of experience.”