The ‘90s were a relatively mundane time of peace and stability, as the world quickly transitioned from the analog-reliant Cold War days to the digital age. It was during this time that movies showing just how boring things became popular, with one of the best-known examples being Mike Judge’s Office Space – the relatable story of three employees who get so fed up with their inane jobs, they embezzle the company they work for.
The satirical jab at corporate life is known for its low-key hilarity, where the laughs are derived from the most overlooked aspects of working a dead-end 9-to-5 job at a software company. This nuanced approach makes it easy to miss some jokes, some of which were intentionally buried under Mr. Lumbergh’s droning. Here are 10 hidden jokes in Office Space you may have missed.
10 The Y2K Switch
When Peter explains his job to Joanna, he mentions that his primary task is to help Initech prepare for what he calls the “2000 switch.” This was in reference to the real-life headache caused by the approach of the New Millennium since companies had to update their software to accommodate the year 2000.
While the joke doesn’t make much sense today, this was something a lot of programmers could relate to back in the day since the update was equal parts tedious and annoying.
9 TPS Actually Means Something
A running gag in the movie is Mr. Lumbergh’s obsession with TPS reports, which he constantly bugs Peter for in the most passive-aggressive way possible. For the longest time, TPS was assumed to be just another part of the software company’s incomprehensible jargon.
In reality, TPS means “Test Program Set” – something Judge took from his days as an engineer and most probably loathed as much as Peter. Simply put, it’s a collection of important data and programs that an operator needs to run a diagnostics test.
8 Initech’s Statue Is A Contradiction
Sitting right outside the Initech office is a statue depicting a square peg inside a round hole. The most commonly accepted interpretation of the monument is that it represents outsiders and the non-conformists who don’t belong – both favorite themes of Judge.
Thing is, Initech is anything but individualist. It’s just one of many unremarkable software companies in a sea of software companies. Its employees struggle to work enthusiastically while superiors promote conformity. The statue is a good fit for Initech’s parking lot since many similar companies imagine themselves to be trailblazers even if the opposite is true.
7 Chotchkie’s Is A Knock-Off T.G.I. Friday’s
The restaurant where Joanna works in is a bland joint where she never has enough buttons while she serves some of the most forgettable named dishes imaginable (Pizza Shooters, anyone?). If Chotchkie’s somehow reminded you of T.G.I. Friday’s, that’s because it was intentional.
For the longest time, T.G.I. Friday’s staff was known for wearing lots of flair on their outfits but they phased out the practice in 2005. Mike Judge confirmed that Office Space was at fault, as the restaurant chain only realized how tacky the flair looked after getting mocked on the big screen.
6 Lawrence Is An Allman Brothers Band Fan
Peter’s chill and nosy neighbor Lawrence has a very specific look that sets him apart from the desk-jockeys that populate the Office Space cast. Long story short, he looks like a fan of old-school rock music who hails from the South.
Diedrich Bader revealed that this was all part of his plan, as the actor pitched his character’s look to Judge. Bader wanted Lawrence to look like somebody who “loved the Allman Brothers,” and Judge loved the idea so much it made it into the final cut. Judge, however, suggested the mustache.
5 Mr. Lumbergh’s Vanity Plate
To show how unlikeable yet completely unremarkable Mr. Lumbergh is, his Porsche is shown to have a custom plate that reads “MY PRSHE.” Though it’s only seen briefly, the license plate is difficult to forget due to how hard it tries to look cool.
The license plate actually has a lot more meaning to it than just showing off Lumbergh’s generic vanity. According to Judge, the plate – which has no specific state listed on it – emphasizes that Office Space was meant to be set anywhere in the USA, making its characters’ soulless lives more relatable.
4 Mr. Lumbergh Is An EarthForce Academy Graduate
Every now and then, Mr. Lumbergh’s right hand can be seen with a ring on it. The ring may not look memorable at first glance, but hardcore sci-fi fans will know that it actually the EarthForce Academy’s standard issue ring.
Prior to Office Space, Gary Cole starred in the Babylon 5 spin-off Crusade, where he portrayed Capt. Matthew Gideon of the starship Excalibur. Gideon also graduated from EarthForce Academy, and Cole brought this memento along when he started micromanaging the people at Initech.
3 Mike Judge Has A Cameo
Joanna’s main source of frustration is her boss at Chotchkie’s, who constantly bugs her about not having enough or too little flair on her apron. The bespectacled and mustache-donning manager is none other than Mike Judge in a cameo.
The role was credited to a “William King,” which is why it took a while before people realized that the guy behind HBO’s Silicon Valley was the reason for Joanna’s annoyance. Helping Judge keep his cameo a secret was a curly wig, glasses, a mustache, and a vest laden with too much flair.
2 Milton Foreshadowed The Ending
At the end of the movie, Milton finally loses his cool and burns down Initech after being stepped over too often. This could’ve been avoided if his co-workers and superiors took the time to listen to him and maybe take him seriously.
Over the course of the movie, Milton mutters about burning the office to the ground – which is exactly what he does. What is only seen in a deleted scene is that Milton actually kills Mr. Lumbergh when he’s caught making his arson preparations, emphasizing that constantly relocating Milton’s work desk was a terrible idea.
1 The Red Stapler’s Legacy
The most iconic punchline of Office Space is Milton’s beloved red Swingline office stapler, which when taken by Mr. Lumbergh snaps something in the meek man’s brain. As Office Space quickly became a cult classic, Swingline was faced with a growing demand for Milton’s signature item.
There was just one problem: Swingline didn’t sell red staplers. A prop designer just painted one of their staplers red to make it stand out in scenes, not realizing the impact it would have on audiences. Swingline finally started selling red staplers in 2002 – three years after Office Space showed in cinemas.