Before we celebrated Zoom's birthdays and before we didn't wear trousers to work, SoulPancake – a media company founded by Rainn Wilson, star of the office – was on a mission to promote human connection to the Internet with inspiring and thought-provoking content. Now, in the midst of a global pandemic, SoulPancake is doing its part to connect and elevate self-isolating people with Rainn Wilson with a daily Instagram Live series called Hey There, Human . On Hey There, Human SoulPancake goes live with Wilson daily while reporting to celebrities like Ed Helms, Jenna Fischer, Finneas and Penn Badgley, and random viewers to share a laugh about theirs during the conversation shared human experience, quarantined life and more.
We spoke to Rainn Wilson about redefining social distance, the continued success of The Office and which cartoon bear is the best.
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We founded SoulPancake over 10 years ago for this very thing. We were there before Upworthy was there, before any positive social media sites did their thing. We wanted to get people to talk about the greatest human questions in life and create inspiring, uplifting content that challenged and provoked the world and ultimately brought more light and unity. We were on a long trip together. We are now a division of Participant Media, an amazing film company that has [made several] Oscar-winning films. When this quarantine happened, I called the SoulPancake team and said, "We have to do something. What can I do? What can I do? I want to do something positive, uplifting."
For a long time I had the idea of doing a show in which we interview random people. I wanted to do a TV show called Random Human . Literally like open phone books and just find a random person somewhere in the US and I would just interview them. I would make a mini documentary about them to see again how we are all together. We all share this human experience. So we thought, why not just take the gist of this idea and we can do it on Instagram Live. We only have a few thousand people watching Instagram Live, but tens of thousands of people who watch it after it's released. So that's our way of giving something back.
You recently said something that struck me in redefining “social distancing” as “physical distancing” because it feels like we're going to find more and more ways to connect.
Yesterday we had the head of the Crisis Text Line on the show, and it was interesting because suicides have actually decreased in the past five or six weeks. And I think that's because they have a shared experience and one of the main parts of suicide is that you feel alone and no one else understands what you're going through. So I said we shouldn't even call it social distancing we should call it physical distancing . In social terms, we need to stay connected more than ever. And this is particularly difficult in times of fear. It's just about maintaining these connections and reaching people.
I just turned to an old friend of mine and it felt great because I could tell he was having some problems. It gave him a little boost and a little uplift, a little love, and it was a really positive experience.
It is really important. If you see yourself connecting with random people on the show, you can go pretty deep even if you only speak for a few minutes. The topics can range from sobriety to fear to spirituality. Is there anything that stands out as something you learned from the people you spoke to?
Well, one thing I learned is that people around the world loved the office . I spoke to Indian Office fans, Polish Office fans …
I saw you today with an Italian Office fan have spoken.
Exactly. But what can we learn from people? That's a good question. I knew that and I know it in my brain, but if you are in the apartment of an Indian man or an Italian woman, then in a house in Poland and in a house in Mexico, you see: Yes, we all speak different things Languages and skin tones may be slightly different, but we all have the same human experience. We all want to laugh, we all want to connect. Sometimes we are sad and sometimes we are happy and sometimes we are afraid. I hadn't really planned that, but the show was so much more international than I thought. Because of the miracle of the internet, it's just like – boom! I speak to someone in half the world.
And there really is no rhyme or reason who you want to talk to?
I mean, I'm not trying I just try to go with the river and just see a name and accidentally bump into it. I try not to look at photos or names and make a decision like, "Oh, I'm going to pick a person of this race or gender today," or whatever. I'm just trying to go with the flow and get as random as possible. I scroll up and down and just let my finger hit, and it was fun.
What have I learned specifically today? Well, the things that experts tell us are really true. We can train, we can spare ourselves, we can stay connected with people. These really basic things just apply no matter who we are or where we are.
You had some amazing guests on your show. Suppose you could have a random person – dead or alive, fictional or not – who would you choose?
How about someone from Greenland for a random person? I went there this fall to make a documentary for SoulPancake and I really love Greenland, so maybe a Greenland seal fisher would be good. I was wondering [also] about Jack Nicholson. I know he must be super old at the time, but it would be great to get Jack Nicholson. I wonder what he's up to today.
I wonder if he's on Instagram at all.
I don't think he's on Instagram right now. I doubt he's on the gram.
Who can we see in the future on Hey There, Human ?
So this week we have Andy Grammer, singer-songwriter. And we have my wife, whom I wanted to win as a special guest.
Was that your idea?
Yes, that was it.  From different rooms?
Yes, exactly from different rooms in the house. We have Allison Janney on Wednesday, Craig Robinson on Thursday from The Office and Friday the actor Chris Wood. He has been on a lot of shows like The Flash and Supergirl and a number of other shows.
I know you have a lot of these animals at home, so I have to ask: we know it is Hey There, Human but let's say an animal could speak. Which animal would make for a great Hey There, Human episode
W. My wife and I are the proud owners of a Zonkey …
Ok, what is a Zonkey?
Well, that's a zebra-donkey hybrid.
Because it's Hey There, man, he might like the show … he thinks there is hay.
Sorry for the lame joke. I apologize. I mean there is a reason why we had writers on The Office and I was just an actor.
I think everyone would be interested in the Zonkey. even though. I mean, a zebra-donkey hybrid alone is enough to get people to tune in.
Yes, a speaking zonkey would be great. If we could talk zonkey; Nobody has seen that before.
Absolutely not. What came first: your farm or Schrute Farms?
That's a good question. I actually think Schrute Farms came first because it was introduced as a concept in season 2 of The Office . Then my farm formed much slower over time – and our pigs and our donkey and zonkey and horses came along with it. Well, my wife has always been interested in horses. She dealt with horses before there was a Schrute Farm.
This year marks the 15th anniversary of the debut of The Office . That's why we recently ran a March Madness bracket called Mifflin Madness on Twitter, where thousands of our readers voted for the best character of the show. I'm sad to say that Michael won against Michael Scott against Dwight, but ultimately won. What do you have to say about it?
Argh, this is a ** Loch Carell.
I know. It is terrible.
Terrible, terrible. So did I finish second?
You finished second.
Yes, I think it's the way it should be. I mean, Michael Scott is one of the greatest characters of all time. Do you remember all the years when Alec Baldwin won all of these awards and Steve didn't win any? [ laughs ] year after year, and who is laughing now? I have to say: I love Alec Baldwin. He certainly deserved one or two, but the industry never praised Steve [Carell] and it is one of the most masterful comedic performances ever and will stand the test of time. It's like Jackie Gleason in The Honeymooners . It's like Lucille Ball. It's one of the greatest TV appearances ever.
I cannot overdraw this statement.
Dwight is the sidekick, so he should be second in the comedic lead role. I totally agree with that.
It is also difficult to argue that Dwight is not one of the most popular characters in recent television history. In view of his typical contempt for people, what about the figure that you think is so deeply received by the audience?
You know, I don't know. I don't know . People ask me this question all the time and I have no real answer. I think it was very well written and designed. And I think as much of a hole as Dwight was, you always looked after him. There are always moments of vulnerability; You would see his feelings hurt, you would see his pain, his struggle, his ambition, his goals, and you wanted him to succeed.
So I somehow think between writing, acting and directing, we always somehow humanized Dwight. Just when you are ready to write him off as a straightforward weird maniac, he shows some flashes of real humanity. And they tried to put it on the show all the time.
What was it like to see the new wave of The Office fans who became aware of the show through streaming services?
Who would have thought that? I mean, if you were in a coma five years ago and woke up now – I think I recently had a tweet about it – one of the things you would have discovered would be like this: "Wait one Minute, how The Office becomes like the most popular show in the world? "Which is pretty crazy. Fortunately, many of these Office fans tuned in to Hey There, Human . The Office was about connections or broken, quirky People who connect and that's the same thing we do at Hey There, Human .
] What would Dwight do with Hey There, Human
I think he would try to find a way to benefit from being elected, would there be a bribe or something, but then he would do 30 second interviews with as many people as possible and just try to turn it into a pure ca corporate company.
That sounds about right.
I also think he would doubt that everyone on the show was actually human. He might think that many of them am Roiden are … In Blade Runner they have this series of questions that they ask the replicants to see if they are humans or androids. Maybe Dwight would make a show like that.
I would like to see this show. Last question before you go. Which cartoon bear is the best: Winnie the Pooh, Yogi Bear, Smokey Bear, the Country Bears or the Berenstain Bears?
What about Paddington?
You know what? There. I was thinking about using the Charmin bears there too.
I have to choose the Charmin bears because they are at least a very, very soft resource for the anus. At least they are useful. So I'm going to go with the Charmin Bears. But there are a lot of good bears.
Yes, it is difficult to choose. But I have to agree that the Charmin bears are ahead in these times.
In this pandemic, in which toilet paper has become a luxury item, they are practically more important than ever.  And maybe Paddington will have his year later.
Maybe like this, maybe like this. Maybe he will actually grow up. Because Paddington is a boy. When will he grow up to be a bear? I dont know.
New episodes of Hey There, Human are broadcast live every weekday at 3:00 p.m. ET / 12 p.m. PT on the Instagram channel of SoulPancake.