Is NBC’s Community Already Dead? Dan Harmon certainly acts like it is.

I went to see a live recording of the Nerdist podcast on Saturday night. As part of SF Sketchfest, Chris Hardwick brought co-hosts Jonah Ray and Matt Mira to San Francisco for about an hour of stand-up comedy ahead of a podcast interview with Dan Harmon, creator of NBC’s show Community. It was my second Nerdist show, and I’ve been a fan of the podcast since early last year. It was the Nerdist, and Matt Mira in particular, that inspired me to read The 4-Hour Body and to start losing weight, so when I met Chris and Matt after the show I had a chance to thank them for that in person.

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The stand-up was good, but underappreciated by Harmon who, “blind drunk” (as he repeatedly described himself), kept up a running show of genuine or exaggerated pique at being kept waiting in the wings for three hours with nothing to do but drink. (He arrived two hours before showtime, at a Nerdist staffer’s request, he said.) He was funny, and we laughed along with him quite a lot as he aped doing stand-up bits, starting with premises like going to the post office, but returning again and again to a “this is how white people do this….this is how black people do this” joke about jokes. Delivered sober, I’d have appreciated this, but delivered drunk it didn’t work the eighth time in a row Harmon brought it out. He couldn’t keep it good-natured enough, allowing cynicism to lead him around by the nose. Chris Hardwick, sober for nine years now, tried to keep the interview moving along, but I couldn’t help wondering if he saw his former alcoholic self a little in Harmon’s spiraling performance. No doubt he wanted to keep everything light, so he never really tried to reign his guest in, but this meant Harmon ran roughshod over the panel. As I said, he was funny, so it wasn’t a waste of anyone’s time, but I’m sure it wasn’t how anyone had expected the interview with Very Special Guest Dan Harmon was going to go.

It wasn’t all Harmon being his own Drunk Hulk, though, since of course he was able to answer some questions about the business of writing pilots, putting on a show, why he would never go back to writing features (because in TV the writer is the king, while in features the writer is a cog), and about Inspector Spacetime, the Doctor Who parody that appears on Community on occasion and who has become a nerd icon in his own right. But while fielding questions about Community, Harmon’s inebriated honesty may have gotten the better of him: He seemed overwhelmingly cynical about the future of the show.

Is Community going to be cancelled?

Nobody asked that question. And Harmon never said anything specific. But his attitude about the likelihood of doing such-and-such with Abed, or casting Chris Hardwick as a regenerated Inspector Spacetime, was very negative, as though he had already written off Community’s future.

Admittedly, the conversation was loose and rambling. His addled brain may have been seeing the world much more darkly than realistically, and so that may have been infecting his attitude as he spoke about the show. Or, he may have been more honest about the show’s future than he would have been had he gone on stage completely sober.

Dan Harmon was embarrassed by what went on, and on Sunday morning he apologized to Chris, Matt, Jonah, San Francisco, America, Comedy and Erin McGathy.

I don’t want to give the impression that Dan Harmon spoiled the show in any way. In fact, I think much of the crowd enjoyed bearing witness to it. I know I laughed a lot, even if it was with increasing discomfort every time he pulled out his “white people/black people” meta-joke. I want Community to be on the air for years, but I’m afraid that I what I saw on Saturday night was a show creator already in mourning.

9 thoughts on “Is NBC’s Community Already Dead? Dan Harmon certainly acts like it is.”

  1. I had heard that the show was already cancelled. I hope not? Sounds like a great opportunity for you, though, and I’m jealous!

    1. I kept wondering, during the recording, if it was just public knowledge that the show was cancelled and I was missing something. But I never got that sense from either Chris or anyone in the audience. The last public announcement I see on Google is early in January, with execs saying the show is coming back in spring. But it’s on hiatus at the moment.

  2. To be honest, I’ve never seen Community. We’re turning into cable snobs. :) But I love, love, love The Nerdist podcast! (do you listen to Aisha Tyler, too?)

  3. I really hope it doesn’t get cancelled. I’m hoping for 6you seasons and a movie!

  4. To be fair, Dan has always been kind of like that with the show. The show is coming back for at least the end of the third season and, because of the future possibility of syndication (including the deal with Hulu that has already been announced), there’s a fairly good chance we’ll get a fourth season to at least cap it off with.

    I think Dan being kind of aloof about it is really just Dan being Dan. Having followed him on Twitter for years now, listened to a bunch of podcasts with him, read and watched other interviews with him, and just generally being an obsessed fan, the behavior you describe isn’t new at all.

    It’s cool that you got to go see this. I ended up here because of a Google Alert I have setup for Dan Harmon.

  5. Just stumbled across this and wanted to make sure you and
    your readers know in case they hadn’t heard, but Community is coming back on
    air next Thursday (March 15th) and, even better, there are rumors
    that the show will get picked up for a fourth season. I can understand Harmon
    being a little dark and negative at the show though, and I’d followed the
    self-described debacle through Harmon’s twitter feed, but now that everything
    is back as it should be (we’re back to the prime time line, so to speak) I’m
    focusing on getting in a Greendale frame of mind. Some coworkers from DISH and
    I have been going to DISHOnline.com during our lunch break to watch episodes of
    Community as well as tons of behind the scenes stuff, interviews, and the
    animated short they did. The cool thing is you don’t even have to have a DISH
    account to watch a lot of this stuff, and if you do have an account, all the
    content is provided for free, anyway. Six Seasons and a Movie!

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