What's the storyline you never got to do on Community that you most regret?
The one that immediately leaps to mind is that I wanted Richard Ayoade (director of the Dinner with Andre episode) to return, this time on camera, as an oversea friend of Abed's that he met in an Inspector Spacetime forum (or subreddit). I just couldn't resist the meta-liciousness of seeing Ayoade and Pudi on screen together, and the non-meta, perfectly standard sitcom-liciousness of giving Abed a friend of whom Troy would have good reason to be jealous. I will say, though, that we explored many of the aspects of Troy and Abed's relationship in the Civil War episode that we would've explored in an episode like that. Still, it would have been pretty fun.
As a follow up, how much are you allowed to reveal about your original vision for the future of the show?
I don't know if this is good news or bad news but I tried not to think too far ahead too specifically. I knew that we had to generally get the audience used to the idea that Greendale, the campus itself, was NOT NECESSARILY INSTRUMENTAL to the long term viability of the show. That's why we did episodes like Remedial Chaos and Annie's Move and Abed as Batman, that's why we moved Annie into Abed and Troy's apartment and put Shirley and Pierce in business together...because the simple fact, to me, was that as much as we loved Greendale, we had to "complete" the story of Jeff Winger getting his four year degree. You can actually see one my "fourth season" ideas getting bumped up into the end of season three, because Jeff Winger has to decide, at the end of season three, that even though he's endured Greendale for the express purpose of getting his old life back, in the end, he has to choose Greendale over his old life, because Greendale has made him a better person. The fact that it happened at the end of season three is because at the time of writing the script, I had a sneaking suspicion that either the show or its creator would not be back for season four.
What is your all-time favourite episode of Community?
I think the Dungeons and Dragons episode in season 2.
As a follow up, what was your all-time favourite episode to shoot?
I guess the first season's paintball episode. The actors' opinion of what episodes were fun to shoot would be the more weighty opinion. It was the actors' set, it was their pain we were farming. I was often in the writers room or edit bay while their biggest triumphs were happening. I had the luxury of being able to focus on writing and editing because we had good directors and brilliant actors and the best crew in TV.
If the show invited you back in any capacity would you take it? Or would it be hard to not have the final say?
Also who would win in a fist fight between all the cast?
I'll answer the last part first: I feel like Joel would come out swinging and start winning right away, but he'd tire himself out chasing Gillian and Donald around the ring. Once Joel got to his exhaustion point, things would get bloody and ugly for a while, with Danny doing a lot of horrible things that nobody knew he could do - I just have that sense that Danny would suddenly bust out a crazy eyeball eating maneuver he learned in some class - but in the end, Yvette would reveal that she had lined the whole room with explosives and she would emerge victorious. From the room. But Chevy would be behind the door with a bat and take her out. Then he'd collapse because that's a lot of bat swinging for a legend his age. So I guess Alison would win because nobody would have felt good about punching her.
It wouldn't do the show or me any good to be invited back to the show in "any capacity." If they thought I was bad at being in charge, they'd be even more disappointed in my ability to be not-in-charge. I'm a zero-sum personality with very little staff writing experience. I like to create stuff and if people don't like it I like to try to figure out how to make it better but I'm not great at helping other people make their stuff. Nobody wants Dan Harmon prowling the hallways while they're trying to make Community. It would slow everything down and frustrate everyone because people would feel obligated to mince words and be political in their handling of my opinions and blah blah blah. So no.
Donald Glover is way too good at that. Also everything else.
yeah but don't forget it's all about reach in a fist fight. Joel's six foot four.
Will you watch the new episodes?
I'm going to wait a few episodes, maybe the whole season, and see how other people react. If people love it, then I'll be able to safely watch it with an open, friendly heart, because the whole point is whatever makes the audience happy. If they say it's good, it's good, and I can watch it and even say it's good. But I'm not going to be part of any campaign to convince anyone - me or others - of anything, good or bad. I've received a lot of advice from a lot of creatives that in a situation like this, it's best for everyone on all sides that I make a clean break and not look back. I'll be one of the very last people you hear weighing in on New Community. It's the most practical, healthy decision I can make for its audience. Here's an important related question: DO I HOPE IT'S GOOD? The honest answer is yes.
We're all underestimating Jim Rash's fighting skills
oh my god you're actually right. Jim Rash would pull some stuff.
I enjoy your honesty in this regard and your answer makes a lot of sense. After watching and listening to the commentaries, I am going to watch with a bit more trepidation but the actors are so ensconced in their roles that I am a bit more trusting now in season 4, compared to this being a second or third season.
don't underestimate the extent to which: #1) the actors are fantastic and own their characters, which are what you truly love and #2) Andy Bobrow and Matt Murray and Megan Ganz and a slew of talented writers are working over there. It could be fine. It could be BETTER WITHOUT ME.
He'd definitely have the best costume for battle
I picture him entering the fray dressed like Tina Turner in Thunderdome
Did you have any plans for the 4th season of Community before shit went down? Do you know if the new showrunners are allowed to use any of those ideas? I guess my main question is, does anyone still working on the show know what your original goal for season 4 was and plan to honor it?
I'm sure there's lots of things we talked about over three years that will be useable by the new guys. And yes, it's their property to use if that's the case. One thing I'm sure will happen in season 4 is Jeff will meet his Dad, because we were going to do it in season 3 but then one of the NBC execs started saying "just make sure Jeff meeting his Dad isn't a dark story," and I didn't want to write one of the series' most important stories under that hex, so I said, "let's just punt that story to season 4." And we ended season 3 with Jeff googling his Dad, so...!
what he said
I think Bill fucking Murray would be a better choice.
actually I like your idea better
If you were to direct a porn film, what would the storyline be?
A mysterious gas cloud of alien origin envelopes the Earth, turning all womens' hair red. Like season 1 Scully red. The gas cloud also has a sterilization effect on all the men, except for one fat writer with a small wiener. Women, however, discover they are able to retain their fertility by dressing like it's 1986, and the salvation of the species begins in a giant room lined with black fur.
Aaaaaand there's the title.
Edit: scratch that since it needs to be more pornish.
Better title: I Want to CONCEIVE.
First off, Dan, I loved your work on Community. I must say that it is my favorite show on television today. I have a couple of questions:
1) what are you going to do now that you aren't doing Community?
2) do you still keep in contact with the cast?
3) are there are any episodes you wish you hadn't done?
4) what would you say is the best thirty seconds (or so) of any episode?
5) were you involved in the casting decisions? Of so, was there anyone that absolutely nailed it on their audition that you gave no delay to casting them?
6) how often do you have fantasies about Alison Brie?
7) have you read the other cast members' AMAs?
Thank you so much for the (second) AMA. It's great to see a man who is so streets ahead.
1) I co-created (with Justin Roiland) a 22 minute animated pilot for Adult Swim called Rick and Morty. It's been delivered and it's great, and it should get an episode order soon. Fingers crossed, all signs are good. I have also just signed blind deals to write comedy pilots for FOX and CBS, and I'm doing a lot of remodeling on my home. Oh, and I'm doing a KICKSTARTER FOR A STOP MOTION FILM written by CHARLIE freaking KAUFMAN to which you should pledge.
2) Not as much as I'd like. I'm not a real go-getter socially. I love them all - yes, even Chevy - and owe them anything they'd ask, in exchange for giving me the most important three years of my life, and I've heard third hand that they feel the same, and I believe it. They're busy people at the moment and will be for a while but I will always love them and hope to see them again. We walked over hot coals together...we just didn't do it in the same room very often.
3) That's an oddly tough question because the reason I'd wish we hadn't done it would be because it was forgettable. So I probably forgot it. I wish we had been able to do the "Shirley gives birth" episode BETTER. I think it could have been better. The director was working with half a script, we were way behind schedule, etc. I wish Pierce's pill addiction could have paid off better. I wish we could have used John Goodman to better effect. I wish Jon Oliver was in season 3. I don't know if there's an episode that I'd consider an all-out tragedy that I'd go back in time and stop from existing. You have episodes like the Mock U.N. episode, where the U.N. episode itself is kind of underwhelming and culminates in a literal fart, but it STILL has its charms because of the actors...and in that same episode, you have one of the coolest things we've ever done, which is Britta and Chang in an inside-out execution of a romantic comedy template without the romance. I don't know, man. I love my babies, I love them all, I love the chubby ones, the skinny ones, the ones that are great at math but mean to women and the ones that write beautiful sonnets but have drinking problems. I love them all.
4) My mind goes to the moment Jeff drags Pierce out of the study room in the Dungeons and Dragons episode. And Abed is standing there watching. And Jeff is absolutely livid because Fat Neil's actual LIFE is at stake, and he shouts at a man twice his age as if he's the father and Pierce is the child, which is true in that moment. "What is your PROBLEM?!" "I don't like being excluded, Jeff, do you?!" <-- Chevy's best performance in all three seasons. And the coup de grace, Jeff's incredibly simple response: "YES!" If someone had showed me that moment three years earlier and said, "you're going to make this show, you're going to write this scene," I would have been very excited and proud of myself. It felt like we had achieved something worthy of the NBC that had raised me.
5) Danny Pudi for certain. He was so different from the Abed in my head when he walked in the door, but he just leveled the room with his presence. He walked in dressed the way we ended up dressing Abed. He pulled out a tube of chapstick and applied it before every "take" of his auditions. And in the "chemistry read" with Joel McHale, when Abed introduces himself to Jeff, Danny held out his hand for shaking, but held it about six inches higher than you're "supposed to" when you offer your hand for shaking. It was so subtle and so brilliant. We all knew it was Danny's part. He walked in having decided it was his part. And there were a LOT OF GENIUSES up for that role.
6) All right, come on. I will say, in terms of wardrobe, Annie's got my number, but I'm a redhead man, and I'm with the love of my life, which means most of my fantasies involve her with other people, because I absolutely hate myself.
7) I remember reading Danny's. Shout out to Marquette!
Hey Dan, big fan of yours from the UK, thank you for Community. I have 2 questions today:
The rumour mill says that Chevy Chase walked off set at the end of filming for Season 3 because he refused to do something. What did he refuse to do?
In Season 2, Pierce turned into a villain of sorts. Was this a reflection of how you and the other writers felt about Chevy Chase or a coincidence?
Thank you for doing this AMA, i can't wait to see what you do in the future!
He refused to do the "tag" for the Digital Estate Planning episode (the 8 bit video game episode). In the scripted tag, Abed comes to Pierce with the thumb drive he took, and says "Pierce, I've been able to adjust some of the code for your Dad's video game and I've made a version I think you might like better." He puts the thumb drive into a laptop in front of Pierce. We cut to the laptop screen, where we see Pierce's avatar on a front lawn with the giant floating head of Cornelius. Every time Pierce presses the space bar, his avatar throws a baseball to his father's head, which gives him a thousand points and a "great job, son!" Pierce presses the space bar a few times, pauses, then leans over and embraces Abed and we fade to black. When Adam Countee pitched that tag, tears instantly rolled down my cheeks, and in point of fact, my eyes are getting watery describing it to you. It was the most important part of the episode and possibly one of the most important moments of the season. I was very upset to hear that it wasn't shot because someone didn't feel like shooting it, especially since it was literally the last day of shooting, which meant we'd never be able to pick it up. I regret nothing about how upset I got. My job was to care about my show.
It wasn't a reflection of how we felt about Chevy, it was a reflection of how we felt Chevy would be best used. I adapted all the characters to the actors as we went on - Annie was nothing more than a Tracy Flick ripoff on paper, but by episode 6 of season one, Alison Brie and the writers had evolved the character, using Alison's flavors. I don't see Clark Griswold when I look at Chevy, and I certainly don't hear Fletch when I'm listening to someone tell me how much like Fletch they are. As I've said, I think his best performance was in the Dungeons and Dragons episode. I think what makes Pierce - and Chevy - heroic - is their unwillingness to surrender. There's a voice inside of us screaming I DON'T WANT TO DIE, I DON'T WANT TO BE IGNORED, I DON'T WANT TO FADE AWAY, IT'S NOT FAIR IT'S NOT FAIR IT'S NOT FAIR. Pierce, in his best moments, channels that voice, for the sake of all of us, so that we don't have to say these petty things. Much like Eric Cartman or Archie Bunker. It was a failed experiment that we back off of at a certain point because it felt like fans were wondering why anyone would ever hang out with such a monster.
Why did he refuse to do it?
The answer I heard from the people on set was that he didn't think it was funny. After he realized how upset I was about it, he said things in voicemails like "there was no script" (untrue) and "I have a weird relationship with the name Cornelius" (dumb, he had no dialogue in the tag). The real answer, I believe, is that he wanted to go home because he was tired. He probably didn't realize he was permanently damaging the episode by doing so because he often walked off set and then we would just pick up his shots later in the week. But this was the final shot of the season. The sets came down after he walked away. So this was the one time in three years that his personality caused unfixable damage to something I really held valuable.
I'm a freelance screenwriter and the 8 point story circles you came up with have become an essential step in my process. Have you heard from other writers/directors that have adopted this method? Do you ever think hundreds of years in the future, after your career has been unavoidably reduced to a footnote in entertainment history, this is what you'll actually be remembered for?
I don't think anything is possible hundreds of years in the future, or I'd be better about recycling. I get what you mean, though, and I'd be honored if it went down that way, as any of us would be honored to be remembered a single day past our efforts, but it would be a bit of a sketchy honor because it's all Joseph Campbell's research (and Syd Field's). The 8 point circle is just me reducing Hero with a Thousand Faces to as simple and objectively "true" a template as possible. It was actually designed for Channel 101 directors who were letting "I'm not a writer" stand in the way of them shooting something. It was my way of saying, "look, there's such a thing as a paint by numbers story, so if storytelling isn't your passion, just get Jack up and down his beanstalk so you have something to shoot." The fact that, as one guy down there points out, Graham Linehan has gotten use from the template, is .... well, inexpressible. I don't even know how to respond to it. I have had a LOT of people tell me they've gotten use from it. A lot more than I ever thought. If that ends up being my net contribution, it's a pretty damn lucky break. I'd take it.
Could you give us the speech you give new writers you hire?
"Please help me make this the best show it possibly can be. Please give everything you have to it. I promise when you bleed, it will mix with my blood. I can't guarantee you'll be directly rewarded for it by the system, but I promise you it's the right thing to do. And please come to Comic Con and stand in the audience and listen to what they do when the actors come on stage. That is our God, that is the thing for which we'll be suffering." Pretty pretentious but it's an honest answer.
Did NBC make you cast Chevy Chase, or was it something you intended to do from the start?
Sony made us. I'm not saying it was the wrong decision ultimately, but the honest answer to the question is that Pierce was literally the only role for which nobody else was considered after the actor we cast put his hat in the ring. Even McHale had to "test" against two other great guys. The short list of people I wanted to see about playing Pierce: Fred Willard, John Cleese, Patrick Stewart. That's a juicy role, man, there's a LOT of brilliant old dudes out there, but in the end, Sony felt (accurately) that Chase was a household name. And I remember Krasnoff saying to me, "listen, you make the decision on your pilot that gets you a series order. You take these things one step at a time." And there was wisdom there. Vile wisdom, but it's a vile industry. And I think the writers and Chevy ended up creating an unforgettable character.
Nice Try, Dan Harmon
I feel Chevy Chase, despite being known as an unpleasant man, performs excellently in Community. He is in my opinion the funniest character in the show.
The man is a good comic actor.
I don't know about "funniest character" just because that cast has ridiculous tons of dynamite. But I agree with the sentiment. I think the end result of casting Chevy was great.
Community made me excited for sitcoms again and made me appreciate working in television at a time when I was getting really burnt out. Thanks for showing me that there are passionate people still in the industry. It's easily my favorite show and I could ask questions for hours but here are a few I can think of:
Did you write the finale of S3 as if it could have been a series finale? The last 5minutes, the wrap-up, is perfect.
At the end of the S3 finale, Abed goes into his mini-Dreamatorium. To me this symbolises that everything we see from now on isn't the real timeline, but that S4 and onward is all happening within that Dreamatorium. Was this intentional?
If you're ever in Toronto you have an open offer for a night of drinks on me. Thank you for your passion.
it symbolizes me leaving the show. I didn't know for sure I was going to but I had a feeling I might have to.
Always wondered - how was the placement of the 7 study group members at the table decided? Did the actors pick their characters' own seats?
This would be a great question for the Russo Brothers, who directed the pilot and chose the blocking. There may have been very specific needs created by the pilot's story - for instance, Pierce is hitting on Shirley, seems he needed to be next to her, and Annie and Shirley have major tension that probably dictated they be adjacent. The neat thing is how Troy and Abed ended up sitting next to each other even though we had absolutely no idea Troy and Abed would become BFFs - which you can see from watching the first five or six episodes.
As a fan, I know that Pierce and Troy were paired because the original intention was that they'd be the comedic duo. I think Dan referred to them as a Beavis and Butthead-like pair in his head. Troy and Abed sitting next to each other was just a lucky coincidence once it turned out Pudi and Glover had chemistry.
Besides that, I assume Jeff and Britta were paired at the table in the interest of romance/bickering, while Pierce and Shirley shared a corner in the interest of sexual harassment.
what he said!
I believe that Shirley was originally written as a love interest for Pierce, until the producers saw her (can't recall her name) portrayal of the character and changed Shirley to suit. I'm not sure to what effect this had on the seating arrangements, but I'm sure that this played a role.
I don't know if I would have ever spent much more energy on the idea of Pierce chasing Shirley's skirt. One of the first things Chevy insisted upon was that his character be a lady's man, which made the writers think it would be hilarious for his character to insist he was a lady's man. In the beginning, the thing I knew for sure about Pierce was that he'd be a sometime jealous rival of Winger's and an oft-time "hapless Obi Wan," to quote an insight from Joe Russo.
do you think chevy understands most of the jokes on the show?
Hey Dan. Since you have been fired there has been an incredible rise of support for you. This has been displayed through twitter, the /r/community subreddit, and on practically every FB post NBC make. As Ken Levine points out in his blog post, show runners have been getting fired for years. It's my knowledge (although I might be wrong) that these show runners haven't had anywhere near the amount of support you have.
My questions are:
How do you feel about this support?
What do you think the main reasons for this support are?
As a side note, community is amazing and I have found all your posts about story writing (such as the 8 stage circle) incredibly useful! So thanks!
I feel great about the support, from a selfish perspective. I feel bad about it from the fan's perspective because it tears everything we all love to pieces. All of the conflict between writers, networks and studios stems from one simple thing: We all want the audience to keep watching and we all disagree about how to make it happen. So the idea of me getting fired and everyone saying "this is bullshit!" is a double edged sword. It strokes my ego but, contrary to what my detractors might have you believe, it's not my ego that's at stake. I have self-esteem falling out of my butt. What's at stake is the AUDIENCE'S PLEASURE. Now they're displeasured because I'm gone. It's a sandpaper handjob. Coined it.
EDITED because I forgot to answer your other question:
I think the reason for the support is the same reason I got fired. I had my fat, greasy fingerprints and big, fat face all over that show. I was the Colonel Sanders. They wouldn't have minded it if the chicken had sold better.
Whats your favorite subtle joke in the series? (e.g. saying beetlejuice 3 times and have beetlejuice walk past in the background)
boring answer, but you said it. The beetlejuice thing was the height of ridiculous insideness. Props to Megan Ganz, her idea. The runner-up would be Abed delivering the baby in the background. Good job, Hilary Winston!
Hey, I'm a huge fan living in Switzerland. I realize there's almost no chance you'll read that, considering how many comments there already are, but whatever, in the off chance that you'll read it, I'm willing to make a fool of myself for the whole internet to see. Okay, wine must help.
I just wanted to tell you that your work on Community really, really made my life better these past three years. Not because you made me laugh - you did, but because you made me cry. A lot. A Troy-lot.
I know you must get this all the time but... here we go again. Through Abed, you broke my heart so many times I stopped counting, because where people would find him funny, I felt like I finally could relate to someone. You know that part in Watchmen where Ozymandias says he's often felt stupid for being unable to relate to anybody ? Well, it was the same for me, until Abed. And then Abed made me curious about you. Because he was something else, and I'm not just talking about the number of pop culture references. I'm talking about what I felt like they were hiding. And I stalked you, like the slightly neurotic girl I am.
Through your tweets and tumblr post (and the years of archives on your myspace, but I'm definitely ashamed of reading all of that, so... oh fuck it), you did the same. You provided me with the kind of guidance I couldn't find anywhere else. Even if at times you didn't seem happy, you were... well, to me, you are a genius, and that was enough for me to know. Because when I get depressed, when I get broken, when I feel like everything is falling apart, I just re-read stuff you wrote, I re-watch bits of Community, I listen to your podcast, and I just know that everything will be okay, and that I'm not the only one feeling like that. That amazing people can feel like complete shit too.
So I don't really have any question. I guess lately I've really wanted to ask you "Are you okay ?" because that's how you make me feel, like the kind of person you deeply want to be happy. But you seem to be better than a few months ago, so I won't.
I just wanted a chance to tell you all of this, and to thank you, from the bottom of my heart, for what you did (and considering I'm way too far to ever go see Harmontown, it's pretty much the only way). You didn't do it on purpose, but you helped, and you didn't deserve the way Sony treated you, and it made me angry and sad, but whatever. I'm sure you'll do amazing stuff in the future, and I'll be around to watch it. Please, keep bringing unique stuff to the screen.
Thank you. Second time I've cried in one AMA. I hope you understand that this is the reason I do what I do - I am, to quote Yvette Nicole Brown, a "broken" person, and to quote Hilary Winston in her first interview to work on season 1, this is a show about broken people. All of them are quite alone, some involuntarily, some by their own hand, some without realizing it, but none of them come to the study room table with the emotional advantages held by that mythical creature known as "a normal person." There are no normal people, there are just different kinds of weird, all of it is human and all humanity is better than everything inhuman. So I urge you to keep expressing yourself as honestly as you can, and know that the backpedals and second-guesses really aren't necessary - they don't hurt but they're wasting your time - because when you are truly human, as we all are, and when that is your honest message to anyone, you are beyond reproach, there is no way to screw it up. I love Abed very much, too, for the obvious reason that he's a character able to connect with others through comparatively limited channels. I had a TV show, he has ...other people's TV shows. You have a reddit account. And maybe a bunch of other ways. And when you tell me that our show was somehow helpful to you, that it somehow inspired you to use whatever channels you have to connect yourself to others, well, water squirts out of my eyes, because there's no higher goal a writer (or carpenter or zookeeper or bank robber) can have. So thank you. As for the idea of me never seeing what you have to say: it may often be true, but I think what the internet, which is increasingly becoming the real world, needs most, is a big fat dose of everybody assuming that EVERYBODY CAN SEE THEM. I think we have to stop using this place as a toilet or an Eyes-Wide-Shut orgy and start using it to be who we really are because I don't see a lot of roller rinks being built and we're running out of mountains to climb, so, better or worse, this is it, we are all entering Abed's box now. God speed to you and follow your bliss!
Thank you for answering, really. Really means the world to me... So, second question ; How do you like them apples ?
I HATE THEM APPLES
May I answer?
Sure. But Breaking Bad (and Game of Thrones) have had their day in the sun so let me take this opportunity to urge people to watch HBO's Girls. None of us like being told that young people coming out of nowhere are super important, we have a healthy tendency to be skeptical of it, but don't cheat yourself. After two episodes of Girls, you'll realize that Lena Dunham is too talented and too honest to abuse any validation you give her. She's just good; that show is noteworthy, I can't wait to see more of it and I'm really glad MY GIRLFRIEND FORCED ME TO WATCH IT WHILE I HAD FOOD POISONING.
What did the cast and crew name Britta's strand of hair that she gave Troy? According to the commentary it was something dirty, but Gillian wouldn't say it.
those guys have their own mythology, I was the last person that would ever be privvy. I still wonder why Gillian's nickname among the actors was "stink."
When you wrote the pilot for Community, which actors did you have in mind for the Greendale 7 or other characters like Dean Pelton? Which of your original choices declined?
Huge fan of the show! :)
No juicy answers for this. I had "a handsome version of me" in mind for Winger and we found him in Joel McHale, plus a lot more. I had my friend from Channel 101, Abed Gheith, in mind for Abed, but then Pudi walked in having cast himself in the part, as I describe in another answer. I had a teenage Woody Harrelson in mind for Troy, which was totally subverted by the fact that Donald Glover is just a star. I had Mary Steenburgen in my head when writing for Shirley, but Yvette's versatility was more valuable to me. As I've often said, Annie was a blatant ripoff of Tracy Flick from Election, so I naturally just pictured Tracy Flick, but it's not like I wanted Rheese Witherspoon to play the role, and after a planetwide scouring, we saw Alison and it clicked. Gillian might have been the oddest departure in terms of what I pictured...there was a mile-long line of girls that looked like Jo from Facts of Life in the hallway, but then this tiny blonde with the flu strolled in and was such an obvious natural dramatic talent that I immediately felt like "this is Britta."
What's Alison Brie smell like?
I'm going to do you a huge favor and tell you she smells like farts. It's not true, but it will help you get through your day. If you find out she smells like a botanical garden, it's harder to live without her, right?
I read that you attended Glendale Community College, which inspired the idea for Greendale. Are there any particular gags/themes/professors from your time there that make an appearance in the show?
not really. Glendale was a good school with passionate faculty and a very clean lawn. The most important thing that happened to me there was that two guys in my biology class "made" me study with them in the library after class one night, and I went into this little study room with a bad attitude about having to do it, and I left feeling part of the brotherhood of man. It was an emotional experience that I knew would make for good solid TV.
I always loved how in the Community "clip-show" episodes, the clips were always from things that we never actually saw happen. My question is, if you could've turned any of these clips into a full episode, which one would it be?
I've been waiting for this AMA for a long time and I really hope this doesn't get buried. Dan Harmon, thank you for inspiring me to work in the tv industry.
i came into college with a hazy idea of what I wanted to do with my life (tvorsomething) so I majored in film and art history.
Almost everyone I met was like "good luck with that film thing" and suggested art history as the only way I'll ever get a job. I spent a long time worried about what I should chose and what if I chose "wrong".
Then I found Community this year. I've fallen in love with tv shows before but never to the same extent as Community. I connected with all of the characters in different ways, appreciated the high brow humor so often missing from the network lineup and learned everything I could about production.
Then once I finished all of the available seasons I started editing together Community stuff I found online. With editing I found something I have yet to find with any other hobby - a sense of fulfillment. At this point I know that I want to be a tv editor because Communi brought me there. I discovered that as long I have connection with what I'm doing, I will at leat feel successful.
Without this show I probably would have spent a long time in limbo with no idea what to do and for that I'm grateful.Without you this fall, Community wont be the same but hopefully they will continue with your vision.
Sorry if this is sappy but I wanted you to know the effort making Community touched at least one person. I wish you all the best on your new projects.
By the way I know that the Sarah Silverman program has a similar effect on a good friend of mine so also thank you for that.
tl, dr: Community gave my life direction
That's awesome. It feels dumb to say this because it's so obvious, but good editors are fundamental to a show's success. They have to be part engineer, part artist. They have to balance having creative opinions with fulfilling the "vision" of the asshole over their shoulder. A bad script and a bad performance can be spun into gold in the edit bay, whereas bad editing cannot be reversed, it is the final and most important place, it's the sphincter through which our babies' heads pass into the hands of the waiting audience, so the idea that Community inspires more people to take up editing is of huge satisfaction to guys like myself and Chris McKenna, who took the post production of his episodes very seriously. Shout outs to Peter Ellis, Ruthie Aslan, Jeff Hall, Christian Kinnard and all the editors that came and went for all three seasons. I miss you guys sorely. You did God's work in those bays.
Firstly, i love your everything. Community will always be one of my favourite shows and you're generally a funny and interesting guy.
I also love Charlie Kaufman so how is work going on Anomalisa? How did you get involved with it and whatnot?
If you had unlimited funds what would your dream project be? Whether it's a one man show about Einstein where you dress as him or if you'd love to fund Dino's directorial debut about a stop motion leopard man, anything. If you had the money, what'd you do?
EDIT: Also, that letter you sent to the little girl who was scared of Monster House was excellent.
Work on Anomalisa can't really start until we see what kind of real money we're looking at. The first decisions about making stop motion are the most financially dependent - what kind of dolls are we going to design, are they going to have fancy ball-and-socket armatures like the Community Christmas dolls, or faster, cheaper wireframe armatures like the Frankenhole dolls, etc. Eyes, lips, hair, set design, storyboards, everything is affected on a fundamental level by whether we have 300K or 350K at the outset of pre-production. Also, until we get started with that stuff, Charlie's not weighing in on how he WANTS it done, and however Charlie wants it done is how it's going to get done...so, while all of that should amount to a great piece of stop motion storytelling, it doesn't amount to me being able to say much right now, other than: KEEP PLEDGING TO ANOMALISA, there's a MILLION DOLLAR VERSION OF IT, pledge pledge pledge and every penny will end up on screen.
I saw your Instagram picture with Mitchell Hurwitz. Is this a hint that you may have an Arrested cameo?
I asked him if I could tweet the pic and he said yes but I won't say anything else, other than: I was on the set of Arrested and I met Mitch Hurwitz, who hugged me and acted like it was cool for HIM that I was there, and we talked smack about network politics and it was a dream come true. He is as cool and smart as you'd imagine him to be. The thing that took me by surprise is that he's not a 500 pound, pock-marked bald guy with squirrels in his beard, because I would imagine that his level of talent would involve that kind of body. But wouldn't you know, he's not only a genius, he's also spry and adorable. The more I think about it, the more I realize it made me feel like shit to meet him. Just kidding. It was awesome.
What is your absolute favorite show to watch?
I think I got the most visceral experience from watching The Wire. But that's old news, right? As Game of Thrones' recent season was winding up, I was pumping my fists. I look forward to more GIRLS, I love Archer, and I have become unexpectedly addicted to THE L.A. COMPLEX. That's my girlfriend's fault again.
In the DVD commentary for Horror Fiction, you start talking about the budget for the show and then there's about 20 seconds of silence. Right before the silence, you said:
The reason why season 2 looks better than season 3 is because I didn't buy a house yet. So really, the show needs more money to be spent on it.
The next thing you can hear is Yvette talking about Daybreak. So what was edited out?
Also, I just wanted to tell you how much I love the inventiveness of Community. The Dreamatorium episode is the best thing I've ever seen on television, hands down.
from the context you're describing, sounds like there's a good chance I started talking about how much of my own money I put into season 2 of Community. I'd estimate I put about $300K of my own cash into season 2, but I don't know the final tally because all I cared about was making the show good. The irony, or rather the complete lack of irony, is that the people that did care about that money are the same people that edited out me talking about it. To paraphrase Noam Chomsky, shame begets fraud and fraud begets force and force begets shame and fraud.
from the context you're describing, sounds like there's a good chance I started talking about how much of my own money I put into season 2 of Community. I'd estimate I put about $300K of my own cash into season 2, but I don't know the final tally because all I cared about was making the show good. The irony, or rather the complete lack of irony, is that the people that did care about that money are the same people that edited out me talking about it. To paraphrase Noam Chomsky, shame begets fraud and fraud begets force and force begets shame and fraud.
oh and I think I also implied that the Russo brothers were embezzling from the budget, which, while clearly a joke, might have been considered libelous by Sony's legal dept. and edited out. But if there's 20 seconds of silence, my first guess is more likely
Who's the funniest cast member off-screen? I bet it's Leonard.
they all have different senses of humor. I would never answer a question like this while I was over there but now that I'm gone I can probably just say DONALD WAS MY FAVORITE! DONALD WAS MY FAVORITE!!!
How did you become involved with Charlie Kaufman and when did the idea to make Anomalisa come about?
Charlie has been friends with my partner at Starburns Industries, Dino Stamatopolous, for years. TRIVIA: they were on the writing staff for the Dana Carvey Show together. Through Dino's friendship with Charlie, I got an opportunity to meet Charlie, one of my absolute top heroes - beyond hero, he's one of my gods - and it was at a live performance of a radio play he wrote called Anomalisa, this tragic, ingenious expression of our craving for abnormality (I hope Charlie doesn't read me describing his work, it'll be wrong). Ever since we started our own studio, Dino's been on Charlie to sign the rights to Anomalisa over so we could try to do something with it. Charlie has finally done us the favor and so, there ya go.
How did the idea with the norwegian troll come up?
I think that was Chris McKenna. He'd be better able to shed light on that process from start to finish. It had to do with the need for multiple timelines to be as "different" as possible without leaving the same room; best way to do that is to have a kind of "schroedinger's cat," a thing in a box that is either opened or not open, with very different results...leading to the decision to have Pierce give Troy a housewarming gift, and wanting that gift to be an expression of Pierce's underlying jealousy and loneliness.
Is this the darkest timeline?
Not for me. Turns out that for all their fretting and bitching, Sony is selling Community in syndication at a plenty high price. That means everyone involved - good guys and bad guys - are going to make money. It also means that "low ratings" are going to mean less tomorrow than they did yesterday, and even less the day after that, because all the bad guys care about is money, and to a certain degree, they now have to associate "critical darling" and "vocal fans" with that precious MONEY, whereas before they used to privately associate it with impending liability. The only potential losers are the fans, but this timeline has yet to play out for them. As I've said, don't underestimate the power of those actors playing those characters, and as I've said, we've got a lot of great writers over there. I think they were incredibly stupid to let me go but that's not the same as saying the show can't be good without me. Fingers crossed, goatees in the drawer, gun barrels out of mouths. Maybe it's the timeline where everybody wins. Regardless, don't weep for me. All that money they're going to make...a big pile of it is mine. I washed dishes in a rehab center for three years and I didn't walk away from that story with jack shit. Except maybe an idea for a FOX pilot.
Since you brought it up, why FOX? FOX has a long history of messing up shows and cancelling them prematurely. Whedon's shows or Arrested Development being the best/worst examples.
is there such a thing as a network with a heart of gold that only treats creatives with respect? You have to go down to basic cable to find that, and basic cable will keep. Not to be presumptuous, but, a year from now, I can still talk to a basic cable network about doing my "breaking bad." A year from now, nobody in network TV is going to be interested in working with me. And my goal has always been and always will be to make the most people happy that I can. So I want to try network, one more time (two more times simultaneously). I want to see if it's possible to make something Good AND Successful. There's a lot of people out there worshipping at the altar of "those are mutually exclusive." I don't want to live in that world until it's finally beaten me to a pulp and forced that truth on me. I want to be the guy that proves that religion untrue. I have to try. My heroes are the ones that try to disprove that religion.
Why did we never get to see a Troy and Abed in the Morning web series?
because network TV doesn't know the internet exists yet.
Believe it or not, I've been a fan of yours since I first used my 56K modem to download a Quicktime file of "Laser Fart" back around 2003 when it was uploaded to the internet in the wild and wooly days of Channel 101. It was right around when I graduated high school/went to college in Indiana, where until then I felt as though I was in the minority for finding the absurd and grotesque to be hilarious.
Your anarchical sense of comedy has had a surprisingly large influence on me over the years, just as I was coming into my own as a humor writer, and part of my excitement over moving to Los Angeles a few years ago was a chance to attend and vote at a Channel 101 screening. I was delighted when I got to see "Heat Vision & Jack", and when you got the "Sarah Silverman Program", and finally "Community". I even donated to "Anomalisa".
Watching your body of work grow over the years has inspired me to keep writing and given me the confidence to develop my own sensibility, and just in the last year I've had the pleasure of becoming a professional screenwriter and selling my first cartoon. And I owe it in some small part to you.
I suppose this is my longwinded way of just saying "gracias" for the impact you had on my life. As far as my questions go:
1.) Any advice for young writers? When you were first getting started, what's your story of how you got your early writing into the hands of people who could help you, especially when you were starting out with no connections as just a dude from the Midwest? Will good writing (and being a generally good person) ever speak for itself out here in Hollywood?
2.) How is Rick & Morty coming along?
My suggestion for young writers: find your voice and shout it. Know who you are, know what you love, know what you hate and why. Take a piece of paper and press it to the top of your brain and share that map of your universe with anyone who will bother to look at it. If that doesn't appeal to you, the problem solves itself, because there are those among us who are compelled to do it, and they are the ones that should be doing it. Hollywood was a different place when I moved here - one notable difference being that I had to move here, because Hollywood was a geographic location, whereas it is increasingly becoming simply an industry spread around the world. Rob Schrab and I wrote a spec script and we wrote our phone number on the cover sheet and we kept ten copies of it in the back seat of each of our cars. And we annoyed the hell out of anyone we met that we thought might possibly read it. And we got lucky. Nowadays, you probably don't need the backseat of the car, you can bug people and say, "can I please email you my script, and if you have a chance, could you read it?" Many will say no, some will say yes, most of them won't read it anyway. But it's really all you can do on your end. You can just write and try to get people to read it and hope that somehow, one of them knows an agent.
Yes, I believe in my heart of hearts that, to quote Stuart Cornfeld, a producer working for Ben Stiller's Red Hour, "talent will out." Talent will out. If you should be doing what you are doing, either by grace of God or the industry's greed, you are going to be discovered. The difficulty is that you can't control when (That, by the way, is the unfair syndrome that results in, for instance, there not being enough black voices in television. Disenfranchised demographics statistically don't have the outside support system to pursue a career as frivolous and unpredictable as writing so you have Harvard graduates giving jobs to Harvard graduates in precisely the vocations that require their sheltered point of view the least, which leads to bad TV which leads to disenfranchisement of unsheltered demographics but that's an answer to a different question and now the Ketel One is doing the talking). But yes, short or tall, black or white, male or female, weird or handsome, if you are talented, your talent will out. It will rise to the top. And one of the least likable aspects of my personality, by all reports, is that I associate talent with "goodness." So by my perverse definitions, yes, good writing and good people rise to the top and get to make a difference. It's just very important that MORE OF US TRY. I'm looking at you, sixth grade black girl in a public school that likes to write but isn't being told writing is an option by anyone. Maybe it's not an option but if it's your COMPULSION, I believe you owe it to your God, your government and yourself to indulge it come hell or high water.
The wheels of animation turn slowly, especially at the beginning. We're still waiting to get an official nod from Adult Swim but it's looking good. I can't express adequately how excited I am about "Rick and Morty." It's not going to be a substitute for "Community" for 100 percent of Community fans, some will love it but some people that hated Community will love Rick and Morty and some people that love Community will hate Rick and Morty, but the bottom line is, it's a really, REALLY exciting pilot and the series has a unique potential to go just about anywhere. I want to get started on it really bad.
It's pretty clear that the answer to all three of those options is Jack Black.
Oops, while I was answering part of this question, the question got "deleted" because it had a joke question tacked onto with the F word in it, but I spent a couple minutes answering the first part so here it is without the question's F word:
[–]MrBingles 11 points 3 hours ago What was your guiding philosophy when you developed the idea behind Community? What were you aiming to create, and did the end result meet your expectations?
I'm not sure if this is the precise question you're asking, but the religion of Community is that People are Good and Systems are Bad. To elaborate, that Even Bad People Can be turned Good by People Whereas Nobody's Ever Been Turned Anything but Bad by a System. If there's an episode of Community that doesn't hammer that home, it's an accident, because it's my only soapboxy hangup that I think is worthy of dragging onto TV...I guess because TV, as a medium, works pretty hard day and night to dehumanize and separate us, so the message that "your neighbor ain't so bad" is like a drop of chlorine in a septic tank. It might not help but it ain't gonna hurt. I live as a person fundamentally separated from people. It's hard to talk to them, it's hard to be part of their lives. I wanted to tell the story of a guy like that who stops being like that, who becomes part of Something Bigger Than Him. And yeah, it worked pretty well. A little too well, n'est ce pas?
Due to all of its current pop-culture references, do you think Community will stand the test of time?
in spite of all its current pop culture references, yes. I don't understand half of what British TV references and it's always fine. The references in Community aren't what's for sale, they're simply an aspect of making characters feel real in spite of an unreal medium. Ultimately, the stories and characters in Community are timeless. At least timeless enough.
What is it like working with Charlie Kaufman?
Do you have any interesting stories from behind the scenes of the production?
It's very difficult for me to look Charlie in the eye and when I'm in a conversation with him, it's 70 percent obscured by the throbbing hum of my ID saying "HOLY SHIT YOU'RE TALKING TO CHARLIE KAUFMAN" so I won't have a solid answer to that question for a while. I will tell you why I feel this way in a very narcissistic story. Years ago, I was attempting to adapt a short story by George Saunders called Civilwarland in Bad Decline for Ben Stiller's company. It's a very nuanced, stylized, psychological, dark, personal and absurd short story and I desperately wanted to be the one to successfully adapt it but was desperately failing to do so on paper and it was haunting me day and night and ruining my life, to the point where, at one point, I thought, "what I ought to do is just call the script 'Adaptation' and write the story of me trying to adapt it, because it's the only story I can actually understand at this point, etc.," and a day later, there was a billboard for a movie called "Adaptation" on Sunset boulevard and it turned out it was written by the Being John Malkovich guy, so I went to see it, and I walked out of that theatre feeling simultaneously demoralized and enthralled on a level theretofore unexperienced. I felt what it must be like for the schizophrenic guy that thought Monster House was sending him hidden messages about his dead daughter. Kaufman's writing made me feel insane and beaten and turned inside out. Even if I would ever be capable of doing what he does, he is always a full decade ahead of me doing it. He mocks me with lack of effort. So I am the Salieri to his Mozart, and I have the choice between being Bad Salieri, and trying to figure out how to beat him, or I can be Good Salieri and just figure out whatever I can do to help. It is for that reason that we are doing Anomalisa and it is for that reason that I can't answer your question because my brain becomes a balloon animal when I enter the same room as him.
I called the brick joke from Remedial Chaos Theory - I still haven't found anyone else who noticed it.
nice call. Love that brick joke
What are some inside jokes that you put into episodes of Community, knowing most people wouldn't get them?
At the end of the third season's clip show episode, Chang paraphrases something I would sometimes say in the writer's room: "come on, guys, I'm making up the same show you are, pitches, pitches, pitches!" I think one of the writers wrote that line into the script to make fun of me, and then I think I added that a little girl hands him a drink to which he replies, "ah, thank you Megan," obviously (to fans) a reference to Megan Ganz, who used to bring me glasses of Ketel One when I sat at the keyboard in the writer's room (it wasn't brown nosing, she was just speeding my demise so she could take over). That's as self-indulgently inside as I can remember us getting - because usually if we did an inside joke, we made sure it also functioned as an "outside" one.
What was one time you wrote an idea that was like "Oh man, oh damn this is so stupid. What am I doing?" That ended up working out?
Jesus, almost every episode. Most notably the Dinner with Andre one. I had a near nervous breakdown during that one because I was certain I had destroyed my own show.
Since "leaving" the show, what kind of relationship, if any, have you had with the cast and crew of Community?
none, really. I'd like to make a clean break of things until it's all over. I saw Adam Countee at Sarah Silverman's party a few days ago and almost cried. I saw Yvette and Gillian at the SixSeasonsAndAMovie art show and Gillian made me cry saying goodbye. I'm going to go to Chicago with Chris McKenna to the Hugo awards ceremony, because we're comedy writers but sci fi fans and it's the only chance we'll ever get to lose something to Doctor Who instead of Chuck Lorre. I have a pretty isolated social life, I'm bad at keeping in touch with people and I'm not able to maintain a huge pile of friends at the same time. My show was my way of being their friend, now that I'm not doing it, maybe I'll have dinner with Joel McHale when he's available, and I'll invite them to any big parties I throw, but other than that, it's me, my girlfriend, my cat, Jeff Davis, Dino, a bunch of Mexican guys remodeling my home and Rob Schrab in that order.
Ok so since nobody else seems to care, Monster House! Awesome movie in my opinion. What inspired you? Did you see a house and just think. "Hey, I could make that eat some kids." or were you afraid of a house when you were smaller?
Rob Schrab's idea. I even tried to tell him it wasn't worth pitching. Then it was the only idea we sold in our first pitch meeting. The pitch was literally, and I'm not kidding: "Monster House....the house....is a monster." And when Rob pitched it, he held his hands up one at a time, like Ed Wood pitching "Doctor Acula." And the head of Imagemovers stared at him, blinked, and said, "I get it. I like it." And bought it in the room. That was pretty much the beginning of our career. And a very important learning experience for me. Not the mention the fact that it was Monster House that drove me insane and running into the arms of Joseph Campbell, which changed everything for me. But, I don't know, ask Schrab....I know we wanted to make a good scary movie for kids, one that respected kids on the level of The Goonies...but why a house? Because Rob is nuts, that's why. Because the inside of his brain looks like the outside of a 70s lunchbox.
DAMMIT I AM TOO LATE AND WILL BE BURIED NOOOO~!
Oh well here goes:
How do you feel about piracy? Specifically people acquiring Community for free (but not re-selling/re-packaging it themselves to make profit).
it's pretty easy for that not to be my problem because the same people that bust my ass about budgets and stuff will always be the ones attempting to police that stuff. So I have the luxury of not caring. I just want people to consume my stuff and say good job, I don't need a dollar from it to know I'm a good person but I do need a dollar to pay my rent so I can keep doing it. I owe a very luxurious life to the fact that a lot of greedy people do a lot of dirty work I don't have to care about. In general, though, I do think it's pretty dumb to try to put a cork in technology. When people figure out a way to steal your stuff that's easier than buying it, it means you have to make it easier for them to buy it, you can't make it impossible for them to steal, it's wasted energy in my opinion but I'm not a CEO or a union leader or a politician, I'm just a fat guy that likes making stuff.
All these years later, how do you feel about Mr. Sprinkles virtually winning every single episode of "Acceptable TV"?
BTW Almost everything I've learned about film production comes from your Jack Black How To video. I tell every film teacher I get to give them a watch because its a really funny and informative series!
I'm very proud of Mister Sprinkles. I sometimes wonder if people can understand what an achievement that was, because we committed to the concept of Acceptable, and we never made a frame of that animation until the audience gave us the go-ahead, we never planned ahead, but we ended up assembling a crazy, beautiful story on the fly. I haven't seen it for a while but I remember being very, very proud of it, and of Justin Roiland and his animation crew especially. Heroes all. Sprinkles Forever.
what he said
From early reports the shows you have sold to Fox and CBS are both multicam sitcoms. The multicam format is unpopular on reddit, a prevailing opinion is that studio laughter is a bad thing (A popular thing to say is that "I don't need to be told when to laugh"). Would you be willing to give a defense of it?
If I was going to defend it, my defense might be half a dozen sitcoms on which I grew up, or the fact that live theatre predates single camera sitcoms by anywhere from six thousand to six hundred thousand years depending on your definition. Or I could let multi camera defend itself with its own vitality. I could say: I think the problem with current multi camera shows isn't the fact that you can hear people laughing, it's the fact that they're so often laughing at things that aren't funny. I could say it's dishonesty, greed and laziness that make a sitcom bad, not the format and certainly not the format on which television was built.
But those wouldn't be adequate defenses in the face of the inarguable fact that most multi cam TV is joyless crap. More importantly, I wouldn't take healthy skepticism and mistrust of TV away from any viewer. It's not my job in TV to shove things down the audience's throat and call them stupid for not liking it. It's my job to make something good enough to watch, and if you don't watch it, I'm doing it wrong.
This idea that good things are unpopular and popular things suck is a very understandable and well-supported idea, but I also think it's a correlation as opposed to a cause-effect relationship. I don't think there's anything about the multi camera format inherently that necessitates anything you don't like about it, but I respect the audience for assuming multi-camera means stupid. I expect the audience to assume TV IS STUPID. I accept that it's my job to overcome it. And I don't much care if I fall on my face trying. It's worth trying. Especially when so many people assume it can't work.
In sum: no defense. I get it, multi cam is dumb. I agree. I want to try to subvert that assumption while I have a chance. Might fail. Just want to try. As I've said, basic cable is the future, basic cable will keep. I've got one more time at bat in the bigs and I want to swing for the bleachers.
Donde esta la biblioteca?
It took me six hours to write that rap.
Why does Dean Pelton wear a wedding ring in the pilot, but then never wears it again? Were you originally intending for him to be married and then Jim Rash made the character seem funnier as a gay man?
I don't think he's "gay." I think that might have been Rash's ring and we nixed it after the pilot? Don't know. Sorry I don't know. I never would have assumed that character was married if someone had asked. Not because I thought he was gay but because I like lonely characters.
Did a person dressed as a dinosaur molest Britta?
How do you feel about the Britta character? Some fans prefer her early instances compared to the later; the notion being her dumbing down. always a dirty hippie chick who tries to get it (but doesn't), Britta's only chang has been her becoming less defensive and opening up to the group. The group reacts accordingly; which in this timeline means deriding her.
I don't perceive the character as being dumbed down, I think we evolved her into one of the most sophisticated characters in TV comedy. Britta's pop cultural ignorance ("rowboat cop") and the fact that she dropped out of high school and ain't so well-read are human qualities to which I found a lot of women relating and/or joyfully not relating, but in any case BELIEVING. I always felt that the triumph of Britta as a character was that she was the only "real" person, stuck on Gilligan's island, and ironically being punished for it. Sometimes we would cross the line. I did find myself telling the writer's room here and there, "let's not make her a dumb blonde, she's a high school dropout and she's computer illiterate and she's a late bloomer because she's lived a fuller life, but there's a difference between that and an airhead." If we made her an airhead, it was an accident, or an isolated instance of us being too tempted by a funny joke. Troy was an airhead. Britta was a work of art. She was a post post feminist masterpiece and a televised work of art. If I do say so myself.
Why oh why?! did you stop making Scud: The Disposable Assassin with Rob Schrab? Follow up, why did you not continue on with/finish La Cosa Nostroid!?
bigger fish, brah!
Does Dan Harmon still go to websites where he feels he's been slighted and troll under an alternate name?
No. I don't think I've ever done that - for very long before revealing it was me. But definitely not for years. I hit a saturation point a year ago with "public attention" that has left me satiated or disillusioned, depending on how you look at it, and in any case, no longer interested in googling myself and defending myself. I will confess that I regularly check the handful of Tumblr blogs that "celebrate" me as a human being, I love them, it's no-risk-high-yield for my ego.
Honestly, how do you feel about getting fired by NBC? Do you feel it was a fair choice, and you really had gone too far? Do you wish you had been less public about your grievances towards them prior to your firing? In the future, will you direct people different or continue to care about the product of your combined work more than their feelings at that moment? And do you feel upset that they took your child away from you and left it for the other writers of the show, or are you satisfied that they'll do a good job at it?
I get the impression that a lot of people think Community is dead now you are not a part of it. Do you agree with this, or would you like them to change their attitude?
I feel like NBC is in a state of chaos that may or may not be ended by this latest regime, but in any case, at the moment of my firing, lacked the concern, coordination, foresight and muscle to make Sony understand what a needlessly risky move they were making.
I think Sony took the risk because they didn't see it as a risk. What's at risk when your show's been moved to purgatory, etc. I feel like taking me off Community was as obviously foolish as you see most people saying.
I think the rumors you hear about me being bad at my job, especially the empty, overblown stuff about Chevy, are the best possible attempt anyone can make at making a very confusing, very dumb thing seem less confusing and less dumb.
I also feel relieved and excited and proud and smug. I feel like I win and they lose. My writers and I bled for that show and we would have kept doing it, in spite of Sony's attitude, for one reason: the fans. If it weren't for the fans, we all would have quit after season two. That show stopped being about our fulfillment the day Sony told us the Dungeons and Dragons episode was their least favorite. It stopped being about the writers' fulfillment the day Greenblatt told me he had seen "about half" the episodes but wanted to know how we could stop making it "too weird to follow The Office." There was a point where the only thing getting the writers out of bed was the joy of the viewer, which was plenty, even though Sony was doing everything in their power to make us miserable. So you can see how a company taking it upon themselves to martyr me the way they did was a pretty clean way out of a pretty tough spot for me. At the end of this thing, I'm rich, people want to work with me, audiences respect me, I don't have to work for Sony anymore and I can even feel sorry for myself if I feel like it. It's a pretty sweet ending to a crazy story.
That's how I honestly feel. Answering honestly does me no favors, but I want to take the "anything" part of "ask me anything" seriously, because Reddit made Community. And that's the part of this whole thing that bums me out, is that the only people that stand to suffer are the only people that never made a dime. The people that put free labor into Community. The people that got tattoos of it, the people that made halloween costumes and birthday cakes and tee shirts and music videos about it. They're the only people not walking away with millions of dollars and they're the only people that EVER MATTERED and ever understood the show.
So I feel good bad. I feel terrible awesome. I feel proud ashamed. I feel engorged on my own starvation, I feel like the biggest con artist and sucker in the history of monsters and heroes.
Dan, huge fan of your work. As a stand-up and someone who hopes to someday write for television, how do you suggest getting your work seen? Writing scripts for shows that already exist and sending them to that show, or coming up with new ideas altogether. Looking forward to anything you do in the future.
P.S. Please do a big screen adaptation of Heat Vision and Jack.
this is an ongoing debate in the writer world: spec or original. The dissatisfying answer is "both," because nothing impresses me faster when I'm looking for a new writer than an original pilot rubber banded to a good, solid Modern Family or Parks and Rec spec.
THAT SAID, the more satisfying answer is EITHER. Because there are a lot of different kinds of writers in a writer's room. I hope writers will forgive the analogy because I'm one of them, but: there are writers that fetch, there are writers that shake hands, there are writers that hunt ducks. You are good at something - might be dialogue, might be jokes, might be darkness, might be joy, might be invention of concepts and it might be good old, plain and simple FAITHFUL EXECUTION OF SOMEONE ELSE'S CHARACTERS. People are looking for any or all of it all of the time and you can't control what they're looking for so control what you can: write to your strength. Follow your bliss. When you get "caught" doing something, get caught doing what you love and what you're good at doing. So, ball's in your court there I'm afraid.
If you had a ticket to take first position in line at any one Comic-Con panel, how would you use it?
that's a good question but I think I'd give it to someone more deserving and needy, because I'm not sure how much I like to know about the shows I love and the people behind them. I never watch those "Breaking Bad Behind the Scenes" things, I don't want the magic destroyed. So I guess maybe if "giving it away to the best Community fan I could find" isn't an acceptable answer I would say "whatever the biggest comic book movie coming out that year is," because, you know, who gives a crap if that sucks or rules, might as well go where the heat is and be part of an event if you don't have to stand in line.
What advice do you have for people who have a great idea/script but no connections and no experience in the business?
keep writing, keep making people read what you write, I'm sorry that's it. Stuff like Channel 101 might help you get some connections and hands-on experience with other people in your shoes...
First of all, let me just say that Community has made me so happy over its first 3 seasons! Thank you so much for bringing this into the world!
But as for my question; Would you rather be a dolphin or a starfish, and why?
a dolphin because I assume they live longer and they have brains and babies and stuff.
Hello Mr Harmon, I live in the UK and love community, I have introduced the show to my friends who also love it, did you plan or even think that the show would translate well outside America? *Edit spelling
I wouldn't have thought it would be appreciated in the UK, partly because it's so saturated with pop cultural stuff but mostly because I picture all British people as wearing caps and gowns and glasses and being way smarter than me about everything (that's why all the bad guys in Star Wars are British, it's a colonial gene pool thing). I am pleasantly surprised to hear from folks in the UK enjoying Community and really flattered and grateful when they drop a line. Thanks for asking!
One thing that I think is amazing about Community is the fact that Abed is one of the only, if not the only, Palestinian represented in the mainstream media/culture. In addition, he is just a normal human being - he is not defined by being Palestinian, he is not characterized into stereotypes, he is not made to seem like a terrorist, etc. He is a Palestinian, but he is also just a human being - as normal, or rather weird, as any other character on Community. So thank you for that.
Community is the only show I know of that does this on mainstream media. I am Jewish, and I do lots of work fighting against racism against Arabs and Palestinians in the United States, so this really stuck out to me.
My question is: did you ever come up against any resistance with making Abed a Palestinian, and more specifically, from Gaza? Were there ever ideas that were rejected that played poorly to the stereotypes of Palestinians/Arabs? How did this identity shape the way Abed was written?
Community is my absolute favorite show. I can't tell you how many times I am tired at work because I stay up too late watching it. Thanks for bringing it into the world.
there was certainly no resistance to the idea of him being Palestinian. The odd thing is how accepting we were of half-Polish, half-indian Danny Pudi taking the part without us "rewriting" his biography, which seems to offend more people than not. It's a really weird issue on which I can see both sides...are we saying "all brown people are the same" or are we saying "acting is acting and character is what's important..." if we HAD changed Abed to an ethnic background "matching" his actor, you wouldn't be writing this post, which I think is noteworthy, but as I say, I see both sides of this very complicated issue in casting.
Who the hell is Jeff always texting????!!!!
I'm afraid that question is out of my hands now!!!
Do you think Community will succeed without you?
I give it a 50/50 chance!
Who is the best person in show business that you've ever worked with?
I'm going to go with Joel McHale. I've written the most for him and he has endured the most at my hands and he has been the most professional, dedicated, loyal, passionate actor in spite of having the right and the clout to be less than so. He is a good man, a good husband, a good father, a good actor, a good comic, a good friend, a leader to the rest of the cast and he has a penis the exact size and shape of a crowbar.
If you could've gotten Tom Cruise to be on Community, what would his character be like?
he would have been a guy too perfect to be normal and therefore very lonely; someone that couldn't understand what it takes to be accepted after working so hard to be perfect. Good question. I would love to write for that guy. Schrab and I always said that was the biggest missed opportunity in Superman casting. Tom Cruise and Tom Cruise alone could have made a man from Krypton strangely relatable, since nobody knows what it's like to be Superman but EVERYBODY knows what it's like to be unaccepted...
addendum: just realized Cruise would have been perfect as SUBWAY
Dan, thanks for all the laughs and creativity from Channel 101. What three shows, past or present, do you think best exemplify the spirit of Channel 101?
Timebelt, Classroom and "Oh, Shit!"
A lot of your work has musical moments, and as made evident by Harmontown, so does your life. As purposefully stupid as some of them are, you do seem to have a knack for melody…did you have a musical upbringing? When did making up songs to amuse yourself become a part of your daily life? What's your favorite record/band of all time?
I have horrible taste in music but I love writing songs...I tend to write pretty hacky melodies, usually ripoff melodies, and then get a real musician, like Ludwig, to make them not-ripoffs. But I love writing words as songs. I didn't really have a musical upbringing...we had a piano and my mom encouraged me to play it and I did love it but I never had the discipline or split-brain accumen to take it further than toying around, I was much more fascinated by mom's typewriter in the end. I always regret not taking up an instrument at some point, because at 39, it wouldn't be easy....
What are you planning for cbs and fox? the ultimate 4 camera, laugh track, raitings smash hit sitcoms as a massive up yours to NBC?
something like that.
What was your favorite show growing up?
Cheers had the most influence on me as a kid, I think.
The question: How many 5 year-olds could you take on at once?
The specifics: You are in an enclosed area, roughly the size of a basketball court. There are no foreign objects. You are not allowed to touch a wall.
When you are knocked unconscious, you lose. When they are all knocked unconscious, they lose. Once a kid is knocked unconscious, that kid is "out."
I (or someone else intent on seeing to it you fail) get to choose the kids from a pool that is twice the size of your magic number. The pool will be 50/50 in terms of gender and will have no discernable abnormalities in terms of demographics, other than they are all healthy Americans.
The kids receive one day of training from hand-to-hand combat experts who will train them specifically to team up to take down one adult. You will receive one hour of "counter-tactics" training.
There is no protective padding for any combatant other than the standard-issue cup.
The kids are motivated enough to not get scared, regardless of the bloodshed. Even the very last one will give it his/her best to take you down.
Do you believe that crowd-funding initiatives could provide a viable alternative for high-scale TV shows in the near future (along with web-based distribution of content)? Or even total eradication of TV networks?
I see that in Anomalisa, you guys went down the crowd-funding path because you believe it a unique project and you want to retain as much creative control as possible. Now that Community (which I see as the unique-est TV show right now) has been taken away from you, do you look back and wonder if you could have taken a similar path with it (crowd-fund it, web release), so you could keep it?
Community was a creature of development from the get-go, not a thing I took into a studio seeking financing to make, but a thing I used their help in assembling, so it doesn't really apply. I'm very pleased with the Anomalisa experiment so far and I do have another project I'm very interested in "kickstarting" but I want Anomalisa to play out first, I don't want to give people KickFatigue.
Will you, like Aaron Sorkin, have a brief cameo in the final episode of Community, sitting in the audience as Jimmy Smits is sworn in as President?
I bought all three Community seasons on DVD last week and I'm almost done watching the third one... great show!
Are any of the characters are based on real people? If so, who?
A lot of them are amalgams. I've often referred to Annie as a "Tracy Flick ripoff" but she's also partly inspired by one of my high school crushes. Pierce was based loosely on the father of an ex girlfriend, Abed was based on my friend Abed, Britta started as generic "hot eclectic girl" but the evolved version of her became based somewhat on a different ex of mine...
Hi Dan, I think you're awesome! Anyway my question is: Have you had any contact with the new writers and if so have you given them any tips etc.?
I met some of the new young writers at the six seasons and a movie art show. They told me the guys that replaced me are "nice." I said "well, they'd have to be, wouldn't they." I was trying to be funny, but I'm sure those guys didn't walk away from the encounter thinking I was awesome.
Monster House was great! Besides Anomalsia, do you plan on working with more stop motion/ animation? It seems like a medium you can get really creative with
there is a thing I would like to try if Anomalisa works out. It's a feature script I've been on-and-off attacking for over a decade and I think stop motion might be the one perfect medium for it.
If you were never fired, how would you feel about this new season being cut short and thrown on Fridays?
I would think it was a bummer.
What the fuck is up with Britta's characterization? I can't figure her out. She's just kind of gone through four seasons of existing. And then becoming a pothead.
I think maybe she's kind of like you?
how come that every time i watch monster house I feel like shoving orange juice up a cats vagina then stuffing cheeze in my eyeball
it may be something on your end...
Have you ever thought about retrying to get Heat Vision and Jack made?
there's a possibility that we're going to try it as an animated series, baby.
I really just wanted to say that community has seriously changed my life. You have made me realize that even though people may be from all walks of life, there is always an emptiness in somebody and people can always find a way to help other people. Before I really started watching Community, I was quite honestly, Jeff Winger (the female version) in the first episode. But like Jeff, I have learned to understand that just because people are one way or not up 'to my level', that people are still people and you need to give them a chance. Over the past few years I have been introduced to somebody like Abed, and now we are the best of friends. I know if I didn't watch community, that probably would have never happened. So, from the bottom of my heart, thank you for creating the best show in the entire universe and I'm really going to miss you.
thank you so much, that means a lot to me.
I'm wondering about the Abed-autism element. There's a fair amount of discussion out there and I'm wondering if there is an "official" perspective. Is he written to be on the spectrum? Or is there something else driving the character?
I think that until there's a story in which Abed gets diagnosed by a qualified professional, his "condition" is schroedinger's cat, could be anything. I have the feeling that if Abed has Asperger's, it's certainly not the explanation for all of him. He exhibits elements of mild schizophrenia and even major psychosis sometimes...or does he just suffer the dubious honor of being outside the diorama...
Hi Dan! Obviously you'll see this since no one comments on these things, so heres my question. If you could write for any show currently on air (besides community) and have full control of the set and editing, which would it be?
With the air condition repair school story, where you able to complete it the way you wanted or did you have to rush it because of the possible cancellation of the series during this past season?
it got pretty distorted by scheduling problems. It's a dangerous game to cast busy actors in multiple episode "arcs." You're laying down non-random plans in a random vortex.
What is your opinion of Tvtropes.org ?
I would often go there while writing Community to check to see if an idea we had had been done before and how it had been done. It's a brilliant tool.
In Season 3 Episode 13, we find out that Jeff has had a locker at Greendale for two and a half years but never knew about it. When Jeff and Annie check the locker out it is full of fliers that have been stuffed in their, Jeff pulls out a flier and reads off that it says Save Garrett. Annie tells him nothings wrong we saved him. My Question to you is what happened to Garrett?
the question is the punchline. It's your question to cherish!
Are you attached to a Community movie script at all? Would you do it if you were asked?
Depends on a lot of variables. Justin Lin would have to direct and whenever they came to the set, everyone from Sony would have to wear special hats shaped like dicks.
How often do you ask Zach Braff to guest star on Community?
it was every wednesday for a while before we realized that's his golf day.
Did the death of 'Starburns' as a Community character have any connection to NBC canning you? Your partnership with Dino on the Anomalisa project -- which I proudly support on Kickstarter -- makes me wonder.
Dino found playing Starburns to be a bit of a drag. He never complained or anything, but being on set as an actor, even in a small role, can be long hours for low pay under hot lights and it takes a special kind of talent to consider it worthwhile. Dino's got talents that pay off more quickly in other venues, for instance, he's an excellent drinker and it always makes him very happy very quickly. He had expressed the desire to become dead at a certain point and then came an opportunity to grant his wish in the form of the Law and Order ending.
Are you the next Joss Whedon?
I'm the only Joss Whedon. Have you ever seen us in the same room?
What's your diet? #DeepMeaningfulQuestions
Four Hour Body
Annie's boobs. Not really a question. Discuss.
Beautiful, soft, untamed, squeaky, prehensile, probably an insectivore
A lot of fans seem to "ship" Jeff and Annie, but ultimately would you say Jeff and Britta are a better pairing or are the romantic relationships between the characters irrelevant overall/none of them will ultimately end up together? And 2. speaking of relationships, what do you think will become of the study group after graduation? Will they disband? Did you ever consider a "years ahead in the future" episode or something like that?
I don't think any romantic pairings between the study group members would pan out in a permanent way, but I know for certain they will never stop hanging out together. They are a family.
Hey Dan, I've been a fan for a long time but just recently found out we share the same home town of Milwaukee. Where in the city did you spend most of your time growing up, and what's something you love/hate about it?
I spent my adult Milwaukee years in Riverwest, my favorite bar was the Uptowner but I also hung out at Libby's on Brady Street and my friends would sometimes go to North ave., back then it was Vitucci's, Landmark and occasionally Von Triers. I took my first dates to Pizza Man, I ate a lot of gyros, I slept on a bare mattress in my friend's attic, wore a winter coat to bed and I stared at a palm tree-shaped water stain on the plywood ceiling, fantasizing that one day it would be a real one. Now I have like five!
Why the current desire to explore multi-cam? I assume this will require a studio audience, which will then have unnecessary laughter in the background?
yes, don't watch.
What drives you?
Did you get what you wanted out of Community?
You're my favourite.
I got a hell of a lot more than I wanted out of it.
Why did you cast donald glover? Was this your choice or castings call. Also, it was a great decision.
Joe Russo suggested him first, they shared a manager. He showed me some Derrick stuff online and we were having trouble finding a Troy, and I saw Donald performing, and I thought, "to hell with finding Troy, you found this guy, put this guy on your show."
If Chevy Chase and a stray dog were trapped in a burning car, and you could only save one of them, what would you name the dog?
Iv now noticed a bout a hundred comments and not one response.
I just came to say I love Community, in the UK I don't think it's "as" popular as in the US, but I find it fantastically funny, great cast, and without the writing you could get movie stars in and it wouldn't work.
What im trying to say is a massive thank you. From me, and all my friends I made sit and watch the whole first season who are now hooked, and lastly, congratulations. You have amazing skill.
My hats off to you, and whatever future projects you choose to participate in, I wish you the best of luck.
On the Anomalisa Kickstarter page I see you're now offering 25 people a night of 1-on-2 drinks and hanging out with you and Dino Stamatopoulos.
If I had the funds I'd probably take you up on that, but it feels like an awkward night, or rather, 25 awkward nights in succession. I assume most of them will be taken by people wanting to pitch things to you. What are your expectations?
well, if someone wants to spend that time pitching us stuff, it's up to them, it's pretty easy to listen to a pitch...and I don't mind talking about whether an idea has legs, especially with someone funding a movie I'm making. Whatever they want to do or talk about over drinks is fine with us, I think Dino and I are equally excited about the idea, I don't think it'll be too awkward. the whole point of drinking with people is it makes the awkward go away!
What's your process for determining the amount of time spent on each of the points in the 8 points story wheel?
I know while reading Vogler he points out modern Hollywood movies spend way too much time with the whole "refusal of the call" part of the monomyth (using Star Wars as an example), so I'm just wondering how you see the various points on the wheel in regards to screentime/page length/importance. Or, is it, as I kinda suspect, not that simple and it just depends on the story you're telling and the characters you're telling them about?
you give me the easy out at the end there, it just depends on the story you're telling...but I think if there's a "perfect" story shape, it's truly circular and therefore the model would function like a stopwatch and each step would take an equal amount of time. But that's all theoretical mish mosh. Some people are creatively activated by taking a mathematical or geometric approach to their work, some people are turned off by that, I would say, hey, make sure your character goes down and comes back up again, give it some curvature, follow your bliss, but when you're STUCK, take a look at that model and maybe it can get you unstuck. Other than that, the story's already inside you. The thing that makes it great is part of who you are, it's your voice, your style.
Which character on Community (if any) is most similar to you?
Follow-up question, if answer to the first question is Abed, can I have your address?
it started as Jeff and became Abed toward the end of season 1, and no you can't have my address!
Thanks for doing this AMA. I was wondering if you still kept up with the study group from your community college days that inspired the show we know and love? If so, what do they think of the show?
First, thanks for an AMAZING 3 seasons of Community, especially the third one which just went off the rails in a very good way. To me it was just pure creative joy and I loved every second of it.
As someone who is currently working both inside and outside of the studio system, do you see things like Kickstarter overtaking the studio system in the future?
I see them merging with the existing system, blowing open a lot of locks in the canal, evening some water levels. Part of that will feel like a flood, a revolution, but in the end, rich assholes figure out how to screw over good poor people, that's capitalism, so either capitalism itself is going to collapse (unlikely) or crowd-funding will merge with the studio system, much like internet is merging with TV....who's to say which is swallowing which, it becomes a semantic distinction, the empirically observable truth is that the two are merging.
Given Chevy's notorious reputation, did you have worries about his casting when the show first started? And what do you attribute the well-documented asshole behaviour to - comedic perfectionism? Pure egotism? Inferiority complex stemming from the protracted realisation that Belushi was the funnier SNL member?
yes, I had severe worries. He's never worked with anyone twice. I thought it was dangerously cocky of us to think that our show was going to be the only trailer in the trailer park to be exempt from a historically documented tornado, and I figured the punishment for our hubris would be annihilation. I was happily somewhat wrong - he didn't make making the show very easy but he didn't ruin it and I thought his character was a big part of why the show was good.
What were some of the truly memorable moments on set, particularly the ones not mentioned in outtakes/commentaries. Also, did you expect the cast to mesh so well? Do you think it was natural or was there work to be done to create chemistry where there was little?
the cast was assembled based on the perceived need for chemistry...we didn't do "chemistry reads" with all combinations but what we did do was cast people based on versatility and positive attitude. So it wasn't a surprise that they all got along and worked so well together...I mean, that was the intention...I guess it was a pleasant surprise that we NAILED IT!
What was the first thing you wanted to be when you were a child?
are you familiar with the concept of genderqueer? http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Genderqueer
i have identified as GQ/transwoman for a long time, though i have never really taken steps toward it more than in mind and occasionally in dress.
the character of dean pelton continually amazes me in his complete destruction of gender norms while being in what (in a regular college, anyway) would be a position of power. he's cartoonish and occasionally, the show slips up into areas where it seems a little too far, but on the whole, he has been a breath of fresh air.
i think there are a lot of people who laugh at his character for wearing "ridiculous outfits," but i have always found that the funniest part of those outfits isn't the fact that he crosses genderlines. it's the fact that he's the dean of a college dressing in costumes for frivolous reasons. it's never "oh, how silly, he's dressed as tina turner." it's "oh, how silly, he's dressed as tina turner for daylight savings."
and then, in virtual systems analysis, he comes out dressed as the dualidean of man, which is played for laughs a bit because of how absurd it is not because of what he was dressed as entirely but why ("what am i going to tell people? that i had good news and bad news?"), and then you come back around in the end in the most amazing way. when he came back in and talked about how he had one of the deepest conversations of his life...
i have no idea what his conversation was, but i appreciate that it was left up to our imaginations. in that moment, i felt like someone got it. the fact that he could, in the universe of greendale, go to the bank dressed as a man and a woman and end up having a deep conversation suggests a lot to me about the level of acceptance that exists in your work of art.
i find that the idea that the whole show is about seven very different people forming a community despite of their differences resonates all the more strongly because the concept of acceptance seems to pervade every layer of the show. the fact that gender identity, even in the absurd fashion of the dean, is part of your universe warms me.
it makes me feel that acceptance. it's beautiful.
i know i am rambling a bit, but i don't really know what to say except "thank you."
wow, thank you so much. I was especially proud of that little runner, precisely because it ended on that note, proving that it's possible to be funny and even to laugh at "weird" people without the punchline or moral being that they're SUPPOSED TO BE "NORMAL." Dean Pelton goes through something we've all gone through - the sudden, panicked, defeated realization that we're a joke, that all our life is spent in futility, that we're wrong about everything, that we're alone and nobody cares. And I find it noteworthy that it really registers as "ironic television" to have him bound in at the end with a big smile on his face having discovered that life isn't so bad and that his weirdness was a gift to other people. It's evidence of how messed up we've become as a society, the fact that in this day and age, the "unexpected joke" can be happiness. The good news is, being messed up doesn't mean the story's over. It means the story's just starting, and in the end, we all find out we're NOT ALONE, or maybe that we're ALL ALONE and therefore united in our loneliness. I really appreciate you posting this, as you can imagine, Dean Pelton is understandably perceived by some to be a queer stereotype, like, ha ha, laugh at the gay guy, and I'm always finding myself clarifying, he's not gay, he's not straight, he's an ocean-deep, planetwide labyrinth of kinks and turns. He represents the part of all of us that doesn't get turned on by Budweiser ads, and sometimes feels a little lost because of it, but that heroically, CHARGES ON in the discovery of himself. THANK YOU!