After an extended winter break,
the crazy students and faculty at
Greendale Community College are back on campus – and you know what
that means, new episodes of the cult fave must-see sitcom
A few days before the show
returned with a rash of new spring and
summer episodes, star Joel McHale and show creator Dan Harmon gave a
conference call with media outlets to talk about the show’s return.
And just like the Wichita lineman, we were
on the line for this chat.
Since we've seen the cast of
Cougar Town do a major push to gain viewers doing things such as holding fan
viewing parties and preventing spoilers and having lots of
interviews, have you considered such extreme measures for
Dan Harmon: No, we haven't
Joel McHale: You're looking
at it right here because this is it. This is all we're doing - this
Dan Harmon: Our way of
trying to get people to watch the show is make the best show
possible. I'm from Wisconsin, so I always feel a little nauseous
about begging and trying to trick people into liking me. I'm
obsessed with earning people's attention, so I wouldn't be the right
guy to do it anyway. But I welcome NBC and Sony to promote the hell
out of the show. I think they should definitely do that.
Joel McHale: I would like
to get the budget from Kourtney and Kim
Do you think that Jim Rash at
the Oscars mimicking Angelina Jolie will give the show a boost?
Dan Harmon: Yes I think
there's a huge demographic out there looking to see Angelina Jolie
get hers – I'm sure – no, as I've said there were 30 million people
watching the Oscars with ratings like ours, if 1/10th of a
percentage of them decided to Google Jim Rash out of curiosity, it
could double our ratings. That's probably one of the benefits of
pulling a 1.4. Also if someone's cast us on the remote you know that
could set things in a whole different direction too.
Joel McHale: Yeah, that one
little leg move may make things go up.
Joel, you did make a NASA
comparison at PaleyFest to getting viewers to watch Community.
Would people be there when radio silence ended? How did you come up
with such an interesting metaphor?
Joel McHale: Yes. No, I
think… I mean obviously that was a joke, but with being taken off
even though at the time seemed like a huge bummer, if anything it
really shows the insane support for the show by the fans. That was
just so wonderful. The tremendous response was just… I think it's
kept our show in the conversation and created even more of a
conversation about the show. I hope that huge brush fire that the
fans started will spread to other people and will catch them on fire
and they will be burned by it.
Dan Harmon: It's true like
they say that if you lose one of your senses the others intensify. I
mean our worst measurement has always been the Nielsen ratings so
we're eliminating that sense of our success. All of a sudden the
only way to measure us was by the fanaticism of a global audience.
So all of a sudden it felt like there were more people watching our
show than ever when we were off the air.
Joel McHale: Yes. It was so
weird because we used to read the ratings and they weren't you know
weren't great but it was so weird to see the ratings. But then at
the time the show was on we would be a trending topic worldwide. And
that to me showed the great sincerity in how the viewers and not
watching young viewers [using] appointment viewing and in reality
that there's a huge number of people that I think watch – or at
least it makes me feel better – that watch the show not in a way
that is traditional. Once they learn to measure that and quantify it
and put a number on it and that can be shown to advertisers, I
believe that is will be a…
Dan Harmon: Well they know
how to measure the number. It's easier to measure the numbers now
more than ever now that you can actually you know count clicks and
stuff. The problem is that you can't sell that number to anybody
that's willing to pay money for it because you can't guarantee those
people will watch a Colgate ad.
Joel McHale: That’s true.
Dan, what do you think the
Webisodes will bring to the show?
Dan Harmon: I don't know. I
think it was a nice methadone shot for people craving to hear those
beautiful voices. I thought Tom Kaufman and Dave Seger did a great
job capturing the voice of the characters on the page. Will it
increase ratings? I don't know. Like I said an earthquake could
change our ratings, a basketball game changes our ratings.
Everything changes your ratings when your audience is into the wits
of the meter's needle.
You guys have mentioned that
it's going to be a darker season this upcoming season and Joel even
came on that little trailer even dumped a dead body. Is it going to
get to that point to take the season in a different direction? I'm
sure Dan you and the writers have a way to make even death funny
Dan Harmon: Yes, well we
did and that's nothing new to sitcoms. I mean one of the funniest
episodes of Mary Tyler Moore was when Chuckles the clown
died. I think that death just like Christmas, birthdays, weddings,
love, sex, jealously and all that stuff is as handy a tool for
comedy because it's something everyone speaks. We're all scared of
death; we all face it together so you can get as big a laugh as you
can get a tear out of a topic like that. When I said that this would
be the darkest season it was more of a prediction then anything. It
turned out to be right, because the show itself in a medi-sense
suffered a cardiac arrest. And yes that energy trickles into the
writer's room then when you've got a guy like me, who thrives on
constant affirmation. A big spoiled baby who is so used to the show
airing once a week and us getting that feedback and having that ego
stroke. Me being deprived of that, we can translate that into a
darkness that seeps into the second half of the season. But
expressing darkness is just another way of worshiping the light. So
it's all good, as they say in the hackie sack circle.
Joel McHale: If you look at
one of the darkest episodes last year of “Dungeons and Dragons,”
which was literally dealing with a guy who was giving away his stuff
because he was going to commit suicide. Which I mean that the fact
Dan that you did… that was basically like during the dunk contest
that he did like a 780 in the air and slammed it with one hand and
with the other hand he was taking a photo of himself with his cam
phone. I mean just Dan and the writers can take those things and
make them as you would say make them absolutely hilarious. And yes
there's going to be a bunch of that stuff.
Dan Harmon: But let's not
raise our expectations, because also I was probably bummed out to be
off the air.
Joel McHale: I don't want
to raise expectations but this is going to be the greatest second
half of any television show in the history of the world.
We've seen Jeff pretty much
hook up with everyone at Greendale from students to teachers. Is he
going to get serious with anyone?
Joel McHale: He's going to
hook up with Leonard. I'm going to get together with a flag team.
Jeff's romantic life in the second half of this season it's not like
a huge topic. There's always stuff going on with Annie and Jeff,
Dan Harmon: The focus is
very much on the group for this season. The relationships between
two people are sort of a subset of that. There may come a day when
we're in season five or six when if I get married or something and I
start to find humor in monogamy maybe Jeff Winger will attempt
another relationship. He hasn't had one since he tried one with
Slater [Lauren Stamile]. Romance in general, while an absolutely
necessary component of story-telling because again like death and
holidays and things, it's a part of our lives, it's a thing that we
share. Not only do I think it's dangerous for it to eclipse an
ensemble comedy, I also even if I didn't think it was dangerous I
would still have to observe the fact that we just finished watching
The Office nail it. I mean they did everything you could
possibly do in terms of watching two people couple up and taking
part in the joy of love blooming before our eyes week after week in
a sitcom environment. So what could I possibly do in a Greg Daniels
contest against Greg Daniels? So I go the other way and just I'm
going to stay focused on the hilarity and joy and sadness of being a
group of people.
Joel McHale: Yes and we
really do have to come together as a group this year because of
Chang [Ken Jeong]. In the trailer they just ran you see the Chang
poster being revealed and the group needs all hands on deck to
When you noticed the ratings
for 30 Rock in the same time slot were as good or bad or
worse than what you were getting, did you feel a little vindication
that it wasn't you guys as much as it might have been the time slot?
Dan Harmon: Of course. I
mean I could be diplomatic and say, “What are you talking about?”
But I have to stress and this isn't diplomacy, this is religion for
me. I do not take pleasure in seeing… I did not like being put in
the position where I was rooting for a fellow creative’s bad fortune
at all. I think that there's probably room for everybody to get
entertained and to entertain, but at the same time yes obviously,
numerically, scientifically, I was relieved to see that my suspicion
that that environment temporally was a little bit hazardous to
anybody who might step foot in it. American Idol is a
juggernaut. It's bigger than baseball and it only picks up in its
appeal to people and its demand that you watch it live as time goes
on. More so than Big Bang Theory, that thing just ate us
alive, it's a killer. Hats off to them for figuring out how to keep
people watch live TV, in an era when you don't have to. You're a
narrative show, people can just subscribe to it now. I watch
Breaking Bad. I've never turned my dial to AMC. So that's the
bummer. It's a monster, that show. People singing and people voting
for the singing and there's no stopping it. Because you can always
watch 30 Rock later. You could watch it in your car on the
way to the wedding – but if you get to the wedding and you didn't
watch American Idol you might as well not have watched it.
You might as well never watch it. So, anyways, that was my big
tangent on the genius of American Idol. But it's a tough slot
and I've always felt that way and I've always been proud to plant
our feet there and take a kidney punch week after week. Always been
ecstatic that we're chosen to stand there with our bayonet and
experience terror under this peacock banner that I'm so proud to
stand under. That they would choose us to go into those front
trenches and look at the whites of the enemy’s eyes… as long as
there's an understanding that that's what the environment is. That
it's different from being in the back tents. I've felt like maybe
now our 1.5 can be looked at with a little more than a frown.
Now that you know that unless
something goes really wrong you're going to be on through May -
through the May sweeps. Now that you look back you know does the
time off now seem like okay we weren't like spread out? We didn't
have a bunch of repeats thrown in there. It's just going to be a big
intense shot of new episodes through May. And do you think that
might work out a little bit better for the show?
Dan Harmon: Certainly. I
mean that's a very positive way of looking forward to this. There
are negatives to throw in there. I don't follow basketball but
apparently we have [March Madness] to contend with. We would have if
we were in repeats or not. But yes, I think Big Bang Theory
will have a lot of repeats going against original stuff by us. That
can only help.
Joel McHale: CBS is
actually pre-empting Big Bang for basketball, because they're
the NCAA station.
Dan Harmon: Oh, then I
guess that's just out of the frying pan and into the fire, right?
Joel McHale: Yes, but the
great thing is that you know the groundswell is seemingly huge and I
pray that that reflects in people watching it. I pray to God.
Dan Harmon: To answer your
question, yes. I hope that that will be a positive factor. I also
hope that things like all of our episodes being available on Hulu
during the hiatus [is] lending itself to people emailing links to
their friends and saying, “Look, that show I keep harping about at
parties that you thought you'd catch up on one day. It's off the air
right now, all the episodes are right here. Get caught up.” I see
tweets in forum posts from people who are just halfway through the
first season during this hiatus and going, “Oh my God, I can't
believe I haven't seen this show.” My naive hope is that there's a
million of those people joining us next week.
The Timeline episode was so
acclaimed, got so much excitement, people watched it over and over.
Are there any future episodes you can tease us about that sort of
scratch a dirty itch like that?
Dan Harmon: It's hard to
say. I mean I didn't know until the night it aired that that was
going to be the favorite of the season. I thought there was an equal
chance that people were going to wretch at it because it was a
conceptual episode that mainly focused on people eating pizza. And
that 7/8 of the show didn't exist. So I'll be the first to admit I
never know what people are going to like and not like. That's a big
part of why the show is so awkwardly ambitious because it never
trusts itself to stick with something that works. It never assumes
that it knows it's going to work. We're going to throw a bunch of
stuff at the wall, like we always do. The one thing that I've always
been able to rely upon is the audience's love of the actors. Let's
face it we're selling heads on a box and people fall in love with
those heads. You’re going to get plenty of those people that you
Joel McHale: I know that
studio is really excited about the Law and Order one, right
Dan Harmon: Yes, we've been
excited about episodes that have been met with faint praise. We've
been dreading episodes that people have gone through the roof for.
The “Dungeons and Dragons” episode was not a popular dance partner
politically, so there was a scramble to cut it throat with some of
the halls of the corporate buildings because it was a nerdy topic
and all this stuff.
Joel McHale: Dan is
amazing. They weren't even worried about the suicide, it was the
nerdy stuff – it was the nerdy part.
Dan Harmon: Yes it was that
we kept saying goblins. Stop it! Stop saying sword.
Joel McHale: I'm really
excited, I don't know if you've cut it yet but the pillow fort. I
don't know how that's cut together, but I'm really excited about for
that one just because biolystically it will be totally different
Dan Harmon: Yes, I live in
terror. That's why I'm a horrible PR spokesman because I'll just be
honest about the fact that I never know. My stomach is in knots
coming back from a hiatus. I feel like the hiatus is the best and
worst thing that can happen to this show simultaneously. It has
awakened a fandom - an intensity of which may, like what if it
outweighs quality of the show? What if people love this thing too
much? What if let them down? I wake up in the middle of every night
for the last two months with my stomach in knots. I'm terrified. But
that's 39 years and counting of that. So things have been good so
far. What am I doing? Save it for your shrink Harmon.
Joel McHale: But, just
think Dan if you were the opposite where you were just way confident
and over confident. The show would be a different show because you
care so deeply about it and you're like the pro who just made some
great catch. Like only had 200 yards in the game you're like but
last week I had 208 and next week you'll have 300. So thank God Dan
is beating himself up over this is what I'm saying.
Dan Harmon: But what if
it's not enough! Agghhh! Dammit!
Joel, you also do The Soup.
Between that, this and all your movies, how do you find time to
Joel McHale: I really
don't. I don't sleep or see my family very much. When Community
is in season that's my focus and that's where I spend my time. The
Community production has graciously allowed me to run away to
do The Soup. And I come back. I haven't been in movies. I
try. Two years ago when I did Spy Kids I was flying away on
the weekend but it is really busy but thankfully at Community
we all like each other. So it would be difficult if it were… you
hear horror stories about sets, but as much a time as we spend
there, those people have really become my friends. So it's a really
good problem to have which I thank God. I don't know how it happened
but I get to work in the field that I love working in and I also get
to work on a show that I love. It would be really strange and odd to
be on these calls if I didn't like the show I was on. So it's really
good high class problem to have. I'm not like a person in Syria who
might get shot by a sniper while buying milk so I count it as you
know very thankful.
When is the new Spy Kids
Joel McHale: It came out
Oh, Joel, I’m sorry…
Joel McHale: It’s okay. I
had a feeling that you weren’t going to see it in the theater, so I
bought you a BluRay edition of it.
Is this the one where they
become Spy Men and Women and they actually have Spy Kids?
Joel McHale: The original
Spy Kids are older and they are adult spies. Not adult like
porn stars, but they are adult spies. I play the husband of Jessica
Alba. That was tough. The kids are our kids. So they are not the
exact… it’s kind of… All right, I’ll stop talking. It’s not as
complicated as it sounds – as I just made it.
The cast is full of comedians
and fun people like yourself and Joel. Who's the most difficult
person to do a scene with without cracking up or messing up? Who
makes you laugh the most you know when you guys are trying to do
scenes for the show?
Joel McHale: I'm going to
say it's a three way tie between Donald Glover, Jim Rash and Ken
Jeong. Those three guys, they did comedy where there was no comedy.
They make moments out of things that I didn't think were possible.
They're just so - they're just comic - they're just different.
They're cut from a different mold. But for that matter, Danny Pudi
is just wonderful. So I have trouble getting through a lot of stuff
and once again it's a great problem. But there are some things like
in an episode coming – that Ken Jeong and Jim Rash do that I can't
look at them while they're doing it or I will ruin the take.
Now what can you both tell us
about the upcoming episode? I'm sure Jeff's wedding speech is going
to be an instant classic.
Dan Harmon: Well lower your
expectations there. The story is more about Jeff's inability to come
up with a wedding speech. That does create a revelatory moment for
Joel McHale: I can tell you
that at least in the trailer and they keep showing it because it's
so funny. Gillian Jacobs when we're yelling at each other I was like
“what about babies?”And she goes “What about them?” And I say “How
many?” And she goes “Pick a number, dick!”
Dan Harmon: Like it's up to
Joel McHale: Yes it's so
funny and every time I see it I laugh. It's weird because I've shown
my kids that trailer and they're three and seven and they keep
wanting to rewind that moment.
Dan Harmon: It's great.
It's really visual because she kind of gestures at her own ovaries.
She sort of like gestures at her mid-section in this kind of defiant
way – "pick a number, dick," like it's up to me. I can certainly
guarantee that that's the product of the female half of our writer's
room. It's a great example of why it pays to have gender-balanced
writer's room because it's not because women are funny doing jokes
about being women it's just that that Britta character can really
sing in the hands of people who have that fundamental thing in
common with her. There's a Britta inside every woman. Even if you've
been running from it your whole life or you really feel like you are
her. Her zealousness you know. She's called a feminist icon and the
worse thing to happen to women in the same breath by certain people.
It wouldn't be possible if there weren't really, really, really
smart funny girls working here.
Joel McHale: Yes and
Gillian is comedically touched. It should be a crime that someone is
as beautiful as she is and as good of an actor as she is that she
can nail jokes. She's amazing.
Dan Harmon: But wait we're
not answering. The question is what we could tell her about the
episode coming up. Malcolm-Jamal Warner is wonderful. Watching him
in the episode makes me really yearn to have him back consistently.
I think his relationship with Shirley feels very alive and
explorable. I think that Troy and Abed being normal is fun to watch
for a small dose.
Joel McHale: So good.
So do you have a favorite Jeff
and Pierce moment?
Joel McHale: Boy, there's a
lot of them but one that stands out is when he and I are screaming
at each other in the “Dungeons and Dragons” episode. I'm yelling at
him because he's being terrible to this unstable kid, Fat Neil. And
just out of blue he just screams "I can still get erections" and my
character was like "what?" And then we just move onto the next part
of the argument.
Dan Harmon: Yes that same
conversation is the one where he says "I don't like being excluded
Jeff, do you?" and you say "yes". Which is a great example of
well-defined characters not needing terribly clever set-ups and
punch lines. And for me that's just a laugh out loud moment that's
funny because the characters are real in that moment. I really have
a wonderful show.
Joel McHale: You do.
(They both laugh.)
Dan Harmon: Thank you.
Joel McHale: You should end
every single question with that.
Dan Harmon: Well, that’s
the way I feel. It’s the elephant in the room. Like why are you
talking like this?
The professors on the show are
so great. So are there any plans to see Michael K. Williams and John
Oliver at some point in time the rest of this season?
Dan Harmon: Michael K.
Williams comes back for a final triumph in the Law and Order
episode. He's great in it. The difficulty with him is schedule and
pre-existing agreement based. I would have certainly loved to have
had him for twelve episodes, if not more, of the third season and
have him be a fixture and base the stories around the biology class
and therefore his character. But the truth is that we had to finagle
and got like three episodes out of him. That's the trouble with
guest stars. It's the same thing with John Oliver. When you see him
in the show it's Jon Stewart doing us a huge favor letting him go
and John Oliver doing us a huge favor making it work with his
schedule. Because of Michael K. Williams and John Goodman's
involvement this year, John Oliver we just put on the bench to use a
familiar phrase because it's too hard. When you start compounding
all of that juggling you end up having episodes where you go okay
you have to use John Goodman for two days and you have to use John
Oliver for half a day but it has to be in the cafeteria. Now write
an episode. You don't want to get into that corner. So John Oliver
is sorely missed this season both by the writers, by myself, by the
audience, by the cast I'm sure. Would love to see him return when we
get our fourth season.
Joel McHale: Yeah!
Joel, you guys have already
spoofed Glee this season, you're spoofing Law and Order.
Are there any other shows out there that you think would kind of
serve Community well to have a little bit fun with?
Joel McHale: I would like
to spoof Hillbilly Hand Fishing. I don't know if you've seen
Hillbilly Hand Fishing but these hillbillies stand in the
river and then they reach into mud holes and pull out catfish.
Dan Harmon: Oh geez, yes
I've seen that.
Joel McHale: And then they
get people to slide their hands down on their hand and it very much
sounds like they're teaching them to jerk off. So that would be a
Dan Harmon: Yes, I think
it'd be cheating to do it and I don't know how we would do it but
Gilligan's Island would be perfect. Because I basically I
realized yesterday… I found an old document from when I was
designing the characters and I completely just ripped off
Gilligan's Island and split up the Howells and made Ginger a
Radiohead fan. That was the configuration of the characters and so
it would be really easy to have them be Gilligan's Island but
I don't know how you do that without being ridiculous. On one hand
you want to see something like that for five seconds but what kind
of show would that be.
Joel McHale: That would be
awesome. How about maybe Flipper? That also takes place in
Dan Harmon: Yes maybe if we
– when we – get a fourth season I kind of want to see if we could
just do a full blown Scooby-Doo Halloween episode. Or maybe
just do something like an ersatz like sort of in that very familiar
style, like Jabberjaw and all that stuff like the 70's gang
of sleuths and animated in that style. Maybe just thinly justify it
by do an episode where you guys break down in your van and spend the
night at a haunted house and solve a mystery. Seems like you have
permission to do stuff like that on Halloween.
Joel McHale: Yes. Talk
about moments. Yes now I'm just saying, yes that'd be great. Yeah,
dammit, that would be great!
You guys had so many fans that
had all these creative ways of showing their appreciation of the
show during the hiatus. What surprised you the most about what you
saw on the internet and stuff?
Dan Harmon: I think the
thing that surprises me the most is always the YouTube videos. There
are ones that make sense given your understanding of the attention
span of an average human and the amount of love that someone can
have in their heart from your experience. Then there are the ones
that blow you away because the only way this person could have
possibly meticulously gone through all the footage of our show and
assembled this particular thing is if they cared about the show
almost literally more than me. And that always like unsettles and
shames me when I see [it]. There's a video on YouTube that is edited
to one of Donald's Childish Gambino songs called “Freaks and Geeks.”
If you YouTube “Freaks and Geeks Community” there's a video where
you know in editing we call it Mickey Mouse-ing. It's not something
you're normally supposed to do where if Donald's rap mentions an
orange then he uses and image that includes an orange from the show.
But he does it incessantly for a solid three minutes. Every
syllable, every word of Donald's rap is reflected in some piece of
imagery from Community in multiple boxes that go to the beat
and it is spectacular. I don't think our entire editing staff would
have time to put that together if we had to broadcast it, you know?
It would be too big a project for them. And someone just did it by
themselves. So that stuff always astounds me. That and the standing
outside in the freezing cold singing “Oh Christmas Troy” outside
Joel McHale: My personal
favorite was the week when they changed the Battlestar Galactica
opening. I loved that show, so it was great.
Dan Harmon: I haven’t seen
Joel McHale: It’s awesome.
So awesome. Not nearly as difficult as the “Freaks and Geeks,” but…
And there used to be a neat Batman trailer. Anyway, it’s
amazing, the fans’ response.
In what ways are you the most
happy with the way that the show has evolved overall?
Dan Harmon: I'm most happy
with the fact that it's focused on the characters. I'm least happy
with the notion of anyone getting turned off from the outside by the
word of mouth advertising that makes us sound like a sketch show or
a bunch of inside jokes and lampoonery. Because the truth is the way
that we get away with that stuff is having handed off some very
basic archetypes to some incredibly talented, versatile actors who
are so consistent in their dimensionalizing of these characters.
Much like Peanuts or The Muppets or the cast of
Gilligan's Island or any other of these very iconic ensembles,
you can just take them and put them in space suits, you can put them
in a musical, you can make them pirates and it still stands. That
makes me very proud. It makes me feel like I’ve been a part of
something, a successful rocket launch.
Joel McHale: Yes and for me
fans bring - it's like… what's the guy from X-Men United that
Patrick Stewart plays?
Dan Harmon: Professor
Joel McHale: Yes Dr.
Xavier. In the imagination the universe of that show is under the
imagination of Dan and the writers is so vast. When you get the new
script it's like opening a gift on Christmas morning. I couldn't
imagine what it would be like to be on a show where kind of the same
thing keeps happening. Or like a soap opera or something. Because
the imagination of the show is so huge and so vast and I'm sure
there have probably been network discussions on wanting to rein the
show in but I think the fans would burn the place down if that
happened. So I think just the imagination of the show and of course
how good the jokes are and the way that the group has come together.
I mean I just basically named everything. But if I have to say just
one thing the answer just might be creativity of this show is
unmatched I think in television history. Thank you very much. I
actually I really do believe that. I'm not kidding when I say that.
Do you feel like there's a
formula for good comedic TV?
Dan Harmon: Well I think a
good formula for TV whether it's comedy or drama is your ultimate
goal is to create a family. A group of people who are quote on quote
forced to be together and forced to be subjected to all manner of
hypothetical situations. So whether you're doing that with real
families – i.e. modern ones – or a group of friends or people
who hang out at the same bar or people who have been launched into
space or stranded on a mysterious island, the formula is you've got
to figure out how to bottle up a diverse group of people and just
keep shaking that bottle and putting wasps in it and torturing them.
And exploring how they react because that's what people are going to
that box for. For better or for worse it is a comforting substitute
for our own sloppy unmarketable families.
Joel McHale: What's great
that Dan has done and what Dan doesn't realize [is] he takes the
regular convention of television like the battle episode – points it
out and then does a battle episode, makes a comment on battle and
executing a great battle episode – a perfect battle episode. I think
and the way he uses Abed points these things out and then proceeds
to do them incredibly well. It's so cool to watch because you don't
feel like; oh we're doing this now because it's always new.
I wanted to know Joel has to
kind of acknowledge everything on
The Soup but is there any celebrity TV show or pop
culture phenomenon that you just do not want to touch with a ten
Dan Harmon: Joel brings his
up-to-the-minute savvy unspoken on Community or not you get
that vibe off of Jeff Winger is like the Joel McHale of the group.
But truthfully I'm pretty stuck in the 80's. I tend to not go near
things that have happened too recently pop culturally because I
don't know whether or not they're going to endure. Some stuff slips
through that net and which you justify by saying look we just have
to make people laugh on Thursday night but I try to think of people
watching the DVD ten years from now. So I ironically make very dated
references to Die Hard and things because that's all I
understand to be timeless.
Joel McHale: And right here
I'll reveal now, Kim Kardashian will be guest starring along with
Ice-T and Coco. So that’s going to be really interesting. I’m
joking, that’s not going to happen.
Well I mean have you thought
about doing any stunt casting like that or getting the Big Bang
Theory gang there or like somebody from Glee? I think NBC
owns Adam Levine at this point.
Dan Harmon: We've tried. I
mean Community is strangely unable to get a lot of… like
we're constantly on the phone trying to get somebody to play a
certain character that we think would be perfect for it. Maybe it's
just the name of the game. You have to cast a wide net and you fail
most of the time or maybe Community is exceptionally ungifted
at bagging people. But no we've definitely - we've been around that
track. We've wanted Sue Sylvester from Glee to be in the
Glee episode that we did for Christmas, you know. I mean they
shoot next door to us. Actually to her credit I think she was down
for it but contractually it was just impossible. But yes, we're
constantly thinking about it, we're not above it. I will say that
the few times that we've engaged in what is called actual out not
stunt casting like having Hillary Duff on the show or somebody
that's supposed to draw people in because they want to see “Oh how's
that person going to be on that show?” Those things aren't really
scientifically proven to either by our measurements or historically
to hike ratings very much. Betty White got us a huge boost but I
think people love her. It's harder than just grabbing a famous
person and sticking them on your show. The things that research does
show to boost ratings almost invariably are holidays, weddings,
things like that. Things that people share universally. Things that
feel special that unite people. They tend to tune in more for that
stuff – maybe because they're off work, I don't know.
Two of my favorite recent
episodes are “Paradigms of Human Memory” and “Remedial Chaos
Theory.” Those episodes like you were mentioning earlier that the
fans would go crazy if you reeled it in and didn't have those. Have
you gotten any pressure from the studio or the Network to avoid
those and go with the more typical sitcom like non-conceptual
Dan Harmon: Yes,
constantly. More so from Sony. In their defense, it’s because they
are foremost experts at the syndication game. Their goal is to
create packages of consistent juggernauts that they can sell
worldwide. They get nervous when I do things like acknowledge the
time is passing. Create episodes that look completely different from
the episodes around it. Or talking about Chevy - pushing Chevy down
some stairs. You know things that would make one season from
another. They're all about that. Let's make 100 episodes of a hit,
of a classic show. So a crazy person at the helm going like let's
make people ask what TV is not - it's not historically the most
profitable thing. So yes there's respectful pressure on me
constantly to find the joy in templating the show. It's also very
productively very precarious to be creative. It turns what it's
supposed to be – an ever increasingly efficient chain of production
like television into an ever increasingly frustrating thing where
each week you're making a little movie that no one knows how to make
and they have to start from scratch every week. Nobody like that's
either. So yes there's a constant cry out for me to chill out and
make something that has a kind of template to it. But they don't
demand it. Nobody's fired me yet. They've always at the end of it
given me my latitude and I've tried not to abuse it. I try to find a
show that is just about regular - that's just about people because I
do know that that's what's truly for sale underneath all of the “Shazam!”
So, the short answer is yes. The long answer is but it is okay.
Joel McHale: Thank God. And
I'll just say on top of that thank God because without the
innovations obviously we would still all be sitting around watching…
I don't know I'm trying to think of a show – I don't know,
Perfect Strangers. Well yes, got you guys.
Dan Harmon: The other thing
is yes everybody's definition of a weird episode is different. I
think that the “Dungeons and Dragons” episode is a grounded episode
because they don't leave the study room. Nothing - no one's dressed
as a gladiator, nothing weird happens. The camera isn't the
character. But other people choose to look at that as a departure
episode because it's not their cup of tea. Like everyone's
definition of a weird episode is whatever they don't like. So that
conversation breaks down pretty quickly. When people say "you're
only allowed to do five weird episodes this year" I say "name last
year's ten weird episodes". Like name them. Then very quickly the
subjectivity creeps in and everyone gets flummoxed and the
conversation turns to rubble and they just say – look, just be less
weird. And I say okay.
Joel McHale: Yes and Dan
you really do say that stuff in meetings which is the greatest thing
Dan Harmon: Oh yes I mean
I'm a terrible, terrible person to employ. I do agree with Joel that
if I do believe in this day and age as Rome is burning in
television, like newcomers at that 8 o'clock time slot, like I
always characterize us as Kevin Costner in Dances With Wolves
being sent out to this outpost. We're very, very dutiful, we're on
honor bound, we clean up the place but we're weird. We dance with
wolves. We are friends with Indians. We are doing weird shit out
there because we're surviving. I think that it's the only way to
survive in this frontier. And I don't just mean the 8 o'clock time
slot, I mean 2012 when everyone can watch TV on their laptops and
their wrist watches. Why on God's earth would anyone ever hear about
our show unless we were making some people in suits a little bit
irritated. I tried to turn that into a good final question with an
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