11 Things We Learned About ‘Community’ from Dan Harmon’s Reddit AMA

Community showrunner Dan Harmon has always been candid with his fans. At one of his regular Harmontown events, he told the audience about his feud with Chevy Chase (a disclosure he came to regret). And when he was unceremoniously fired from the show he created, he shared his uncensored reaction with viewers on his popular Tumblr: “Why’d Sony want me gone? I can’t answer that because I’ve been in as much contact with them as you have. They literally haven’t called me since the season four pickup, so their reasons for replacing me are clearly none of my business.” So, what’s left for Harmon to open up about? A lot, actually. He answered fans’ questions in a Reddit AMA this afternoon (in fact, the conversation is still happening as of 5:30pm ET), and we’ve posted the most illuminating (and entertaining) responses below.

1. He wouldn’t come back to Community under any circumstances: “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.”

2. What happened when Chevy Chase walked off the set: “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.”

3. One storyline he knows we’ll see in Season 4: “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…!”

4. The Community storyline he wishes he got to write: “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.”

5. Storylines he wishes Community had done better: ” 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.”

6. Harmon’s all-time favorite Community episode: “[T]he Dungeons and Dragons episode in season 2.”

7. His favorite 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.”

8. Danny Pudi blew him away in his audition to play Abed: “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.”

9. Yes, the Season 3 finale was intended to be a series finale, if necessary: “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.”

10. He may watch Season 4 — but only if it’s good: “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.”

11. Community‘s most perfect moment: “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.”