Postcards

How the power players do it - by Fortune senior editor at large Patricia Sellers

How Warren Buffett got a role in The Office finale

May 19, 2011: 2:42 PM ET

Buffett will appear tonight on the one hour NBC season finale of The Office at 9/8c.

Tonight on the season finale of The Office, a galaxy of stars will be jostling to replace the hapless Michael Scott as boss of Dunder Mifflin's Scranton branch. You'll see Jim Carrey, Ray Romano, Ricky Gervais, and...Warren Buffett.

Warren Buffett visits Dunder Mifflin

It's a quick cameo for the famous investor, but Buffett had a juicier role last month when he starred in a five-minute spoof of The Office, which was viewed by some 40,000 attendees of Berkshire Hathaway's (BRKA) annual meeting.

That video is under lock and key, for the mass public never to see; the cast of The Office agreed to do the spoof with Buffett under those conditions. But I'll share a few choice lines here, since I saw the video at the annual meeting, and it was hilarious.

In the spoof, Buffett is seriously dissed upon arrival at Dunder Mifflin, where he is introduced as the Oracle of Omaha.

"Yeah, I'm Dwight Schrute, the Druid of Scranton."

Michael Scott, Steve Carell's character, notes that Buffett is "at least 90 years old and runs a company called Berkshire Hathaway that produces all of Anne Hathaway's movies."

Buffett jovially corrects him, explaining that Berkshire is a "collection of odds and ends. Mostly odds."

When Andy Bernard boasts that he graduated from Cornell -- "an Ivy League school" -- while Buffett went to the University of Nebraska, Buffett replies, "I got turned down by Harvard. Best thing that ever happened to me."

My favorite proposition to Buffett, from Meredith: "What do you say we take the 'D' off mutual funds and have a little mutual fun?" Buffett replies: "I should have gotten here earlier."

And when Dwight Schrute, realizing that Buffett, 80, is the real deal, says, "I look forward to serving as your No. 2," Warren has no use for him. In walks Charlie Munger, Berkshire's 87-year-old vice chairman. Says Schrute to Munger: "You don't look so tough." Munger leers at Schrute:"There are 18 ways I could kill you right now."

How did Buffett's star turn come about? Last November, Thanksgiving dinner at daughter Susie Buffett's house in Omaha included Warren and Michael Kives, her friend who is a talent agent at Creative Artists Agency. "We were talking about the annual meeting," recalls Susie. Kives suggested asking the producers of The Office to bring Warren and the cast together to do a spoof.

Warren Buffett was not a fan of the show. "He doesn't watch anything but news," his daughter says. But he's typically up for anything. One year at the Berkshire annual meeting, shareholders watched Buffett in a funny video with coy and comely actress Jamie Lee Curtis; another year, they were treated to a Berkshire twist on ABC's (DIS) Desperate Housewives.

This year, Buffett flew to Los Angeles by himself, met his daughter and Munger, who lives there, and went to The Office set to do his star turn. When they arrived, Munger was in the green room, all set, and Warren was a bit stressed. "My dad was confessing that he didn't practice his lines. He was hoping they would have cue cards, which they didn't."

Executive producer Greg Daniels was pleasantly surprised. "They were both great," he says about Buffett and Munger. "Their comic timing is terrific."

Truth is, Buffett wasn't supposed to be on tonight's Office finale on NBC (CMCSA). As Daniels headed to the set on the day they shot the spoof, he recalls, "I thought, wait a second. We should use Warren Buffett on the show -- while he's here with us."

So what you'll see tonight is improv, of sorts. Buffett's part on the Office was written for him on the spot. He nailed it.

Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly identified Phyllis as Buffett's provocateur who said to him, "What do you say we take the 'D' off mutual funds and have a little mutual fun?" I should have known better. It was famously promiscuous Meredith.

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About This Author
Pattie Sellers
Pattie Sellers
Senior Editor at Large, Fortune
Executive Director of MPW/Live Content, Time Inc.

Pattie Sellers has written more than 20 Fortune cover stories including "Marissa Mayer: Ready to Rumble at Yahoo," "Muhtar Kent's New Coke," "Oprah's Next Act", "The $100 Billion Woman" (Melinda Gates), and "Gone with the Wind" (Ted Turner). She co-founded Fortune Most Powerful Women and oversees the Fortune MPW Summit, the preeminent gathering of women leaders in business and beyond—and programs such as Fortune MPW Entrepreneurs and the Fortune-U.S. State Department Global Women Leaders Mentoring Partnership. Pattie also develops Live Content across Time Inc. Her blog, Postcards, is about how power players lead and navigate their careers. Pattie won Time Inc.'s prestigious MVP award for her performance in 2012.

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