'The Office's Todd Packer: Is He Even Funny?
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Todd Packer, often referred to as Packer, usually just by Michael, is probably the most hated character on The Office. And we’ll wait here a moment for you to struggle to think of anyone else on that show you or anyone could conceivably hate more.
More hated than Todd Packer?
Robert California? No, that guy is actually stupidly funny and we’re taking the firm editorial stance that season 8 is underrated – of course whoever was going to fill Michael’s shoes was going to stack up awkwardly with him, but James Spader plays creepy funny to such perfection a cartoon chef would kiss their fingers.
Deangelo Vickers? He’s up there in terms of hateableness, and it’s probably one of the otherwise comedically brilliant Will Ferrell’s worst performances, but we raise you the juggling scene as actually hilarious.
Jan Levinson? No, she provided the straight man to Michael’s romantic absurdities before revealing her own craziness and giving us one of the best episodes of the show! (Yes, we’re talking about the dinner party.)
No, it has to be Todd Packer. Pack-Man, Packster, the Wacky Pack. He’s played by David Koechner, and wow way to go David, because he played the character absolutely perfectly. (Also he’s a nice guy in real life, so it's even more impressive how much sordid machismo he was able to muster.)
Todd Packer's not meant to be funny in a traditional sense
Packer’s counterpart on the original UK version of The Office is Chris Finch, played by Ralph Ineson (who was terrific in The Witch (or VVitch, if you prefer – regardless, watch that film, it’s amazing). Finch, like Packer, is the douchey, ostensible best friend of the manager, in that case Ricky Gervais’ David Brent. And, like Packer, he is crude and terrible.
So, here’s the thing with Packer (and by extension, Finchy) and whether he's funny or not: The truth is, he isn’t supposed to be funny, in a traditional sense.
All of his “jokes” and barbs punch down, making fun of poor, kind of perverted Kevin and sweet, slightly evil Phyllis for their weight, or straight up sexually harassing (as well as physically harassing) every underdog that works at Dunder Mifflin. That's not how comedy most of us enjoy works.
George Carlin explains that “comedy traditionally has picked on people in power, people who abuse their power.” In other words, punching up, right up into the abusers' private places. Almost nothing Packer says or does is humorous in that way. So that only leaves finding his obnoxious and mean behavior overtly funny, which if you do, uh, well, more good-luck-with-that power to you?
The way in which Packer does actually become funny flips that script and lies with the fact he's the comedic embodiment of a jerkwad type which most people on Earth know and hate. So, in a way, we don't laugh at just stupid Todd Packer, we laugh at all the stupid Todd Packers and their insufferable BS.
“But wait, new, exciting, and poignant Cracked writer!” you exclaim, “didn’t you say he isn’t supposed to be funny?”
Why yes, dear reader, I did! Packer’s role on the show isn’t to be the one who delivers the laughs; his role is to provide the absurdity or wildcard Todd-est Todd there ever was caricature that the actually funny characters react to and use to deliver most of the laughs. Though, in a roundabout way, that could mean he is delivering the laughs? We’ll leave that one to the philosophers.
Lots of The Office’s humor comes from the cringing reactions of both the viewers and the characters. It thrives on discomfort, and who makes people more uncomfortable than a macho a-hole calling everyone gay slurs and aggressively harassing women?
So, to reiterate, in the comedic space of the show, Packer sets up the funny parts without stealing the funny. In the workplace dynamic of the show, he’s the unifying force that brings the rest of the workplace together in mutual, seething hate, just like in all of our actual workplaces.
To conclude, we’ll admit that the way Packer explained his revenge plan with the cupcakes was actually funny, and that is for similar reasons we’ve discussed in a previous article. The crux of it is details. Details make things funnier. Specificity makes things funnier. It’s Packers inclusion of details such as “some legal, some not,” “six hours,” “some laxative, some constipating” that makes this one monologue from him actually get us to exhale out of our noses.
For a single breath.
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Top image: NBC