While the American version of The Office was filled with lovable oddballs (as was the British one, I’m sure, but I can’t with Gervais), for some reason, it was always Paul Lieberstein’s Toby that resonated with me. Toby radiated awkward sincerity in every interaction with his co-workers and the earnestness with which he approached his thankless job—which admittedly he was not terrific at, but look what he was working with—was laudable. His performance is endearing without being treacly, and somehow sad sack despite the likelihood he’s probably one of the most high-functioning people at the Scranton branch of Dunder-Mifflin.
So today we’re celebrating The Office’s Top 5 Toby Moments, as arbitrarily chosen by me, the person on staff who gasped when she saw it was Paul Lieberstein’s birthday:
5. Casino Night, Season 2
This season finale is a memorable one; Jim finally confesses his feelings for Pam and though she rebuffs him, the two later share a kiss in the episode’s final seconds. It’s a moment of true tenderness the series pulled off so well early on. But much of everything that comes before it in this finale—written by Steve Carell—is ridiculous. Particularly anything boss (and frequent Toby foil) Michael Scott has dreamed up for this office charity event.
Michael Scott: Oh, and another fun thing. We, at the end of the night, are going to give the check to an actual group of Boy Scouts. Right, Toby? We’re gonna…
Toby: Actually, I didn’t think it was appropriate to invite children since it’s… You know, there’s gambling and alcohol, and it’s in our dangerous warehouse and it’s a school night… And, you know, Hooters is catering. You know, is that enough? Should I keep going?
And even though we’re celebrating Paul/Toby today, Michael’s next line to Toby is one of his most memorable from the whole series:
Michael Scott: Why are you the way that you are? Honestly, every time I try to do something fun or exciting, you make it not that way. I hate so much about the things that you choose to be.
4. Business School, Season 3
Maybe it’s an existential loneliness Toby and receptionist Pam (Jenna Fischer) share that serves as a magnet pulling the two together for some of the show’s sweetest exchanges. Or at least it is for Toby, who lowkey pined for her throughout the series. In this episode, aspiring artist Pam wishfully invites everyone to her debut art show. It’s a modest affair, most of the office doesn’t even consider it and since things between Pam and Jim are still weird, the only one to actually show up is Michael. But divorced dad Toby really, really wanted to be there:
Toby: Oh this looks great. I’d love to be there but my daughter’s play is tonight. Dammit! You know, one of the other parents will probably videotape it.
Pam: Oh, no, you should go!
Toby: Well, it’s important to support local art, you know? What they do is not art.
3. Back from Vacation, Season 3
When Michael, just home from a secret trip to Jamaica with his boss Jan, accidentally emails the office a picture of her sunbathing topless, Toby, as HR rep, is forced to reason with a panicked Michael:
Michael: That photo is my personal property, and if you are telling me that you went on my computer and stole that photo, then I am gonna call the cops.
Toby: Michael, nine different people e-mailed me that photo, including my ex-wife and… we don’t talk.
Michael: Well, this is probably the icebreaker you need.
2. Dwight’s Speech, Season 2
Okay, this fairly minor scene is my favorite Toby moment of the whole series thank to Lieberstein’s even more understated than usual delivery. When Jim, anxious to get away after the Pam debacle, is asking for vacation suggestions (so he can plausibly get out of attending her wedding), the officemates chime in as Michael is asks for a toast to celebrate:
Jim: I was thinking more like Europe. Or something like that. But, good second choice.
Toby: Been to Amsterdam.
Michael: Oh ho hokay. You know what? That’s not a toast. You’re not standing up.
Toby: [mimes lifting a glass] To Amsterdam.
1. Two Weeks, Season 5
Since it’s his birthday, we’ll give Toby his well-earned best dig at Michael:
Toby: Michael’s like a movie on a plane. You know it’s not great but it’s something to watch. And then when it’s over, you’re like, how much time is left on this flight. You know, now what?
So Happy Birthday, Paul Lieberstein! Looks like you have a dark comedy in the works for your directorial debut, which other Office fans are no doubt looking forward to. Thanks, you know, for the things you choose to be.
Featured Image: NBC