Dan Harmon — the controversial writer and creator of COMMUNITY — wants to be remembered as more than just the guy Chevy Chase called an “alcoholic, fat piece of sh-t.”
“The word legacy is important to me,” he says, “especially when it comes to colleagues.”
“Most of what I am doing I am just sort of doing for myself in the moment. I don’t suffer the illusion that history is being made. [But] I would like to think that there are younger writers in the world who felt more license to pursue their own beliefs because of something that they saw that I did.”
“I don’t think I deserve that and I don’t think that is how you measure how good or bad a person is, but that is extremely important to me.”
Harmon – though he may not realize or admit it — has always seemed to live his life for the pleasure and benefit of everyone around him.
“I have to put my head between my knees when TMZ gets ahold of me,” he concedes.
But at 41, the Milwaukee native continues to live unapologetically — fearing little, fighting for what he believes in and filtering almost nothing from his adoring legion of fans.
Nowhere does he share more about his life and struggles than in HARMONTOWN, a new documentary that was filmed after his unceremonious firing from COMMUNITY in 2012.
In theaters and on iTunes October 3, HARMONTOWN follows Dan on a cross country stand up tour to promote his popular podcast and includes interviews with many of his famous friends.
Dan describes the making of HARMONTOWN as “comforting” during a period of his life that at times appears to have been rather painful.
He told me more when we spoke yesterday.
Some people might accuse you of over-sharing your struggles. Did this movie go too far?
No. I had to make an agreement with myself a long time ago that I can’t focus on long from now or too long ago. Otherwise, I am going to be dead to the world and useless to everybody. The only time I am ever doing anything that is going to contribute to anyone’s happiness is accidental things in the moment. I learned a long time ago that every time I try to make a decision about the future and think, “I am going to make people really happy when I do this,” I have a success rate of about one in ten. It would be better for me to make random decisions. I really am committed to that. You make a movie and you hope it is good. I never look back and go “God dammit, why did I do that?”
You do seem kind of hard on yourself sometimes. Are you a happy person?
I think I am pretty criminally happy. Based on 7 billion people that seem to be in pretty bad state of things… I have a really big house. I have a great dog that looks like a muppet. I have a fiancee that is too attractive and smart and funny to be with me. If you measure things by what is going on in the world and what you get to do for a living, I am very lucky and very happy. If you go by smiles and by how many times a day somebody says, “I am happy” there can be an inverse relationship [to how happy they really are].
In the film, you also talk a lot about procrastinating on the pilots that you were supposed to be writing on for CBS and Fox. Any blowback from that?
No. I just made some money. I turned in the CBS script and it probably wasn’t good enough for them. The Fox thing… COMMUNITY had gotten picked up for a new season before that ever even came to a head. They were like, “We want you at your best, so go focus on COMMUNITY.” Who knows if that will every happen. There is so much turnover among these network guys. When it takes a year to turn around a script, you have a deal with strangers.
COMMUNITY is coming back — online. Should we all race out and buy Yahoo stock?
I spent the day with them yesterday and I would definitely have bought a lot of stock in Yahoo. I was walking around with Kathy Savitt, who is [Chief Marketing Officer] and she is a pretty refreshing character. She exudes a confidence that doesn’t come from a desire to exude confidence. I am so used to, in the TV industry, dealing with people who have read THE ART OF WAR and realized that authority is a myth and you have to create the existence of it in people’s heads so they are going to dress like this and talk like this… It is all very valid. They have to survive. But I am so used to that biosphere, that it is weird to have someone walk through the room that has their job because they had efficacy. They are not mean and they are not benevolent. They don’t have a schtick. They are just effective. People under them respect them. This new industry started with the internet as opposed to other way around. I loved that [NBC] logo so much. It reminded me of THE A TEAM and KNIGHT RIDER and COSBY, but I was working for a company that kept wondering what to do about the internet. So it is really nice to just talk to people about starting from square one and wondering “How can we affect people? How can we affect this giant sea of eyeballs that are going to be there?”
What is the budget going to be like? Will you be able to make the same caliber show?
The budget is the same as last year — maybe even a bit higher, but we are probably going to end up using that money to pay the actors a little bit extra.
How does the move to Yahoo impact the buzz about a possible COMMUNITY movie?
I don’t know. You can never really know. I will believe it when the contracts are signed or when I am at the premiere or whatever. I would love to think about making a movie. I will give it serious thought if it becomes a real thing.
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