Venerable character actor Diedrich Bader is proud to have one of the more enduring cult classics — the irreverent 1999 corporate satire “Office Space” — on his resume. He just wishes he didn’t have to endure the opening weekend fiasco that preempted its fervent fandom.
“I couldn’t make the premiere, so I saw the movie the opening weekend with my wife, and there were three people total in the theater — including us,” says Bader. “It was a terrible moment for me, because I loved that movie so much, and I just knew it was going to bomb. I was truly despondent — I didn’t see it again for 10 years.”
The second viewing was at a 10th anniversary celebratory screening, which exemplified how the film became a beloved hit after its initial struggles. On Thursday, Bader reunites with his “Office Space” castrates for a 20th anniversary screening and talk at the Castro Theatre, part of this month’s SF Sketchfest comedy bonanza.
In a movie brimming with memorable characters, Bader set himself apart with his portrayal of Lawrence, next-door neighbor of the film’s protagonist Peter. Though Lawrence is a mullet-sporting, handlebar-mustache-wearing redneck, he has heart as he delivers (often-unprovoked) life musings to Peter with such sincerity — no matter how ridiculous the content. (A lot of the dialogue centers around topics such as kicking people’s asses, deterring prison rape and having threesomes.)
“I’m from the South, so characters like Lawrence were just around,” says Bader, who has appeared in everything from the “Drew Carey Show” to “Veep.” “A lot of these dudes take themselves super seriously, and especially for a friend, they want to give the best advice possible. It’s nice, but you realize that you’re dealing with a total psychotic.”
By the finale of “Office Space,” Lawrence’s unconventional counsel eventually pays off, as Peter ditches his cubicle-confined hell for a blue-collar construction gig with his roughneck neighbor.
“I think the idea of dropping out and not doing something that you’re supposed to be doing was, at the time, a very impactful thing,” says Bader. “I’d like to think that Lawrence had some kind of role in getting more people to follow their dreams.”
On Thursday, Bader will be joined by “Office Space” writer-director Mike Judge, along with fellow actors Stephen Root (the perpetually-aggrieved office drone Milton), Greg Pitts (the annoying douchebag Drew) and David Herman (the unfortunately-named Michael Bolton.)
Bader promises that this screening will be filled with laughs. He’s also hoping for a better turnout than his first experience with the movie.
“If we only get three people at this screening,” says Bader. “I will not be happy.”
IF YOU GO
Office Space 20th Anniversary
Screening and talk with Mike Judge, Diedrich Bader, Stephen Root, Greg Pitts and David Herman
Presented by: SF Sketchfest
Where: Castro Theatre, 429 Castro St., S.F.
When: 8 p.m. Jan. 24
Tickets: $30 to $40
Contact: (415) 621-6120, www.sfsketchfest.com