Community Creator Dan Harmon on Reference Humor, TV Love, and Whether Joel McHale’s Going to Grow a Beard

By , February 4, 2010

The New York Magazine has an interview with Community Creator Dan Harmon. Here are the highlights:

When I first started watching the show, I was initially turned off by McHale’s character, Jeff. And then very quickly, it seemed like he turned into a nice guy. Was that always the plan?
When we started out, I wanted to spend the first twelve episodes telling the story of this guy who’s this lone wolf, having his membranes dissolved by a new community. That plan sort of went awry in that I think we were more successful than we predicted we would be with making the audience comfortable with this group as an unlikely family. So really, by the Halloween episode, it already felt like we’d told the story of Jeff growing on these people and vice versa. We also didn’t predict that people would adore every single one of those characters for different reasons. It feels like we jumped light years ahead of schedule, and could do this ensemble-comedy show. … And Joel McHale can do his own thing in the background that can be some sort of geek psychological story about him overcoming his pettiness. That’s an upcoming episode, by the way.

What’s up with Jeff and Britta (Gillian Jacobs)? Are they going to be the next Pam and Jim?
That’s actually another important thing about the pop-culture aspect of the show: The characters have all watched Friends, they know Star Trek, they’ve watched The Office and 30 Rock, even. Much like the audience, they’re not going to tolerate having a “will they/won’t they” shoved in their face. The nice thing about having a character like Abed is that you can be meta, and the audience can trust you because you can send them little signals that you’re on the case.

And what about some of your other pairs, like Abed and Troy. They’re such a funny duo; was that a casting choice?
No, it was way more organic than that. I remember the writers and I being very excited about Chevy Chase’s character and Troy, how they were going to be the Beavis and Butt-head of the show. But we sort of abandoned that story, because it didn’t germinate as quickly. And then when we did that first 30-second tag that goes on the end of an episode, that rap with Troy and Abed, and people loved it so much, and you could feel the chemistry while we were shooting, it was instantly apparent that that’s the thing you go towards.

How long do you think the show can last?
Jeff is going to get a bachelor’s degree, and contrary to popular belief, you can get one of those at a community college. And so we’ve got that four-year story — is his life changed or the same? Or is something going to happen to derail the whole thing, for example, the cancellation of our show? I don’t have any ambition to be the next Laverne & Shirley, and have it run two decades. Jeff’s not going to grow a beard and start teaching there while the rest of them open a pet store across the street.

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