Webster’s Dictionary defines “pungent” as “having an intense flavor or odor.” But the cast and crew of The Office know “pungent” as the word that made everyone on set — especially Steve Carell — break during filming.
On the latest episode of the , former co-stars Jenna Fischer and Angela Kinsey chatted with director Ken Whittingham and actor Phyllis Smith (who played Phyllis Lapin-Vance) about the Season 3 episode, “Phyllis’ Wedding.”
They reminisced on what it was like to prepare and film the episode, and notably recalled a scene between Phyllis and Michael that was so funny the cast and crew were barely able to film a useable take.
Remember when Michael goes to check on Phyllis in her dressing room before the wedding and asks her if she broke wind? Yup. That’s the scene.
“…The funny thing about that is that was a joke that was put into the script that wasn’t really supposed to stay in the script,” Whittingham said. “It was just like a joke that, ‘Wouldn’t it be funny if this happened?’ And then it just lived.”
“Caroline was telling me this. Caroline Williams, the writer of the episode. So it just kind of stayed and we just shot it. And Michael, you know, Steve was so good. He could not stop laughing. And I mean, he could not stop laughing,” Whittingham continued. “I’ve never seen him break like that. And we all were just laughing. It took us about an hour to get through it, because we could not stop laughing.”
“Well, you know, Phyllis always was able to have such this earnest expression, you know, and whenever you had to be mean to her, or just like have some random line towards her she would look at you with these sweet eyes,” Kinsey said. “So I can, I can see Steve not being able to get through it. Being like, ‘That is really pungent,’ and she’s just like, ‘hmmm?'”
“Right,” Whittingham said. “And then he started messing around with her hair and everything. And she was like, ‘OK, you’ve got to go.'”
Smith remembers filming that scene clearly, and it was just as funny for her as Whittingham remembers.
“Every time Steve said the word ‘pungent’ he would break out into this high-pitched cackle.”
“That scene was unbelievable. We had the best time. I don’t know how many times we had to stop to start over because there was one word in particular that we just could not get through,” Smith said. “And that was ‘pungent.'”
“Every time Steve said the word ‘pungent’ he would break out into this high-pitched cackle. And then I would start laughing. And then all of a sudden we heard the Video Village and the sound people outside the door, because we were in a small dressing room area with just the camera guy and a sound boom… So we could hear them cackling and laughing on the outside.”
The scene was so funny that eventually the sound people had to move to the bottom of the stairs and set up, because no one could stop giggling.
“I couldn’t breathe. I was laughing so hard I couldn’t breathe. [Steve] was laughing so hard,” Smith recalled. “And we took, I don’t know. I don’t know how many times we started over. And it was all because of the word ‘pungent.'”
Smith said that the only way she was able to make it through the scene was to hold her breath in between lines. “When I wasn’t talking I literally had to suck it up and hold my breath. Otherwise, I just, we couldn’t get through it,” she said.
“It was — it’s a very fond memory, and one of the best that I can have in my entire life. It was a great few moments there,” she said. “So when you hear the word ‘pungent,’ know that all hell broke loose every time we said it.”
Be sure to listen to the full podcast episode for more behind-the-scenes stories from filming “Phyllis’ Wedding.”