The question I'm using for my dissertation is 'Should there be limits to comedy?' like, should there be any subjects that are off limits and such. It'd be great to hear what you think. Cheers.
Of course there should be limits to comedy! There should be - and are - limits to everything in the world, comedy included.
If jumping wasn’t limited by gravity, people would fly into space and die. If life wasn’t limited by disease and death, our parents wouldn’t have met, because Atilla the Hun would be president, which would have been distracting.
And if everybody was able to be funny any time they wanted, laughing would be like breathing, and jokes wouldn’t be remarkable. If there were no limits on comedy, there would be no comedy, because comedy is essentially something done wrong. You’re not supposed to throw a pie at someone’s face. Pies are for eating, faces are for scowling. A person is supposed to knock on your door with their hand, they’re not supposed to say “knock knock,” and if they do, when you ask who’s there, they should have a name like Mark Johnson, not a long ass sentence. And nobody that owns a baseball team with a guy on first named “Who” should be unprepared for the question “Who’s on first.” They should call him by his first name or call him “Mister Who.”
They should. Technically speaking. There should certainly be limits to comedy.
Because, technically speaking, nothing funny should ever happen.
I feel like I'm using people. I feel like I'm using them to validate my intelligence, my skill, my lovableness, my everything. I feel like a vampire, sucking at people's hearts, desperately craving validation, until they have nothing left to offer and then I feel terrible. I don't think they all see it this way, but I do and I feel like I don't deserve their gracious friendship. How do I love people without taking from them?
What a question. If only more people asked it, every day. If only I had spent more of my life asking it.
I don’t know if you listen to my podcast, Harmontown, but our friend, Siike, a multiple aneurysm survivor, once offered us some wisdom from his tragically unique position at the outer edge of certainty: “Give more than you take.” Sounds like you and I have both been spending time lately feeling like we aren’t succeeding at that. My attempts at contribution often end up feeling like siphons. And while I’m working so hard to make people like me, the people closest to me can take a flying fuck, except when they’re nourishing me. My girlfriend loves me unconditionally, and so, like a baby, I suck on what she offers me, cry when it’s taken away, giving nothing in return but occasional Walter White rants about how folks will appreciate me one day, they’re going to see what I gave, and blah blah blah.
Which obviously indicates that these contributions I think I’m making aren’t contributions at all. No more than a mosquito’s contribution of anti-coagulants into a host’s bloodstream.
I think I slip from the right kind of “giving” to the wrong kind without noticing because they’re identical in terms of behavior. One minute you’re carrying a box because you want to help your friend, the next minute, you’re carrying the same box to be a good person and a few steps later, after not getting some thank you you decided you deserved, you’re carrying a box because your asshole friend is a selfish piece of shit and you can’t wait to move out of your house just to make him lift a piano and you hope it crushes him to death. In one conversation’s time, you can end up eighty miles from the nearest patch of honesty, still insisting that you’re where you are because you’re a hero. And you could pass a polygraph test while saying it, because you’re not exactly lying, you’re just… lost.
So you and I need to know, today, how do we get back on track. How do we stop telling people our asses look fat in these jeans and get back to having accidentally hot asses in sweatpants on laundry day.
First we reset to that crucial gateway, where we just want to be good people. We drop the rest of our bullshit. Who cares if we got fired from Grey Matter, it’s back story, now. Who cares which meth is the best meth, or whether meth is bad, we just drop every thought in our head except the one that can’t be dropped, come hell or highwater, come bipolar autistic alcoholic schizophrenic self-diagnostic disorder or childhood trauma or anything we think is fundamental, because nothing is as fundamental as this: we want to be good people. Nobody can fuck up standing in one place wanting something, not even us.
Now how do we make sure we move forward without getting lost? According to Taoists, we don’t. We follow through on the “action” we took to get back here, which is inaction. We relax, like a puppet, so that our next move is more the universe’s than our own. When you let the universe do the moving, it will never use you to hurt people. When you’re hurting people, that’s your Ventriloquist God saying “hey, dummy, get my hand back up your ass, because the only thing creepier than our ordinary routine is whatever the hell you’re trying to do right now.”
I believe we’re heroes when we’re transparent and we’re villains when we’re blocking light, throwing ego-shaped shadows all around us, then fearing those shadows and clenching up, which blocks more light, feeding the darkness, making the problem seem unsolvable. I believe that if we all went transparent at once, all problems would stop, but that it’s probably impossible, and that having that as a goal would make us opaque and cast more shadows. I believe that Katy Perry is wrong, I think that having fireworks shoot out of your chest is dangerous, I think your clothing would catch on fire and you could die.
And I think your question, which is also my question, is its own answer. We can stop sucking other people’s necks and start giving more than we take if we ask ourselves how we can do it and make sure we don’t block the real, honest answer. Sometimes working hard is the hardest thing we can do, and sometimes it’s just our really easy way of trying to take stuff from everyone around us. Sometimes the hard thing is the easy thing. Sometimes we should do the dishes and sometimes we should take off our apron, tell our boss to fuck off and walk away, because we’re not a dishwasher, we’re just a writer washing someone else’s dishes.
And sometimes people get away with telling other people how the world works by starting their rules with “sometimes,” which is dumb, because how are you supposed to know which times are the some times. But this time, I can tell you when the sometimes are: they’re when you know, in your heart, which can’t be fooled, whether you’re really giving or just taking from behind. DAN HARMON COMPARES MISPLACED ALTRUISM TO FORCIBLE SODOMY. Please watch Rick and Morty on Adult Swim in December and watch Season 5 of Community in the future.
Dan, I'm hung up over my ex we have been broken up for 5 months, but I can't get over him. Every time it look at him I hurt worst... How can I get over him? I see him everywhere I go. It's like I can't just look somewhere without seeing him. He broke my heart bad, and he acts as if nothing happens ever happend between us. HELP
First and most important advice: Find Erin McGathy’s This Feels Terrible podcast. She lets people email her, and almost always writes back whether she responds on the show or not. She gets this stuff way more than me, and she might even be able to share with you the fact that having a boyfriend can also suck.
I know it doesn’t feel this way but what you’re experiencing - the most troublesome parts of it - is chemical in nature. You have a dude in your bloodstream. You’re going through withdrawal. Five months is not a long time for this kind of thing, sadly.
You might be having feelings like “I knew who I was when I was with him, now I’m nothing.” And you’re probably thinking ALL kinds of stuff about where he is and who he’s with and what he’s doing. And now we’ve got 600 apps and sites to help us torture ourselves with that stuff. Even just thinking about it while typing to you gives me a little feeling of panic, because we’ve all been there.
That’s part of the good news: you are part of a club with about five or six billion members. You can find some of those people online, I bet, and talk to them about this. It would help if they were strangers, oddly enough, because it sounds like you’re in a complex social situation where there’s friend circle overlaps and stuff, which is a big reason why it’s lingering five months. Cut down on conversation about this guy with mutual friends as much as you can for as long as you can. Find something new to add to your life, something that never existed before this guy became a thing: a TV series to binge-watch, a random subject to fixate on, something you’ve always wondered about, like “how do submarines work?” Start googling and just dive in, and let submarines or Peter Pan or Godzilla be your thing. Your symbol of how you have an identity, you have your own brain, your own body, your own control over your fixations.
If you do talk to people anonymously on the internet about what you’re going through - there’s bound to be forums for it - my advice is don’t let talking about what you’re going through turn into talking about the guy.
One more thing: this stomach turning feeling, this panic, this sadness…that’s not what real love feels like. What you’re feeling is powerful, but so is heroin and morphine, and those aren’t love. I also swear that it will go away. There’s no telling when, there’s just going to be this day when you wake up and magically do not give a shit. And a few months after that, it’s actually going to be laugh out loud funny to you that you felt how you felt. I have never felt more comfortable promising anything to a stranger.
Hang in there. Also watch Rick and Morty on Adult Swim in December and Season Five of Community in the year 2014 AD.
Can you give some advice for a person who dropped out of college, to follow her dream (I want to be a doctor.) But I failed the test I need to take to get in med school (in Brazil) more than 3 times. And today my Mom said to me that when other people ask her what I'm doing... she feels ashamed to say that i'm still studying to get in college. I mean, I'm still nothing. I'm feeling like shit, but I can't give up, but I have the feeling that no one believes that I'll be in med school someday. :/
Nobody has ever been nothing. We are all equally something and some of us are much luckier than others. I was less lucky than I am now for over a quarter of my life, which is something like three quarters of my adult life - I’m not lucky enough to be good at math - my point is, I’ve felt like “nothing” for more waking hours on this planet than I’ve felt like anything.
I’m as bad at giving advice to others as you are at passing that med school test. But believe me, that’s all that test is measuring: your ability to pass it. It is not measuring the type or quality of doctor you might one day be, and it is certainly not measuring your worth as a person. If this is something you honestly want, I would bet you’re going to end up getting it. Or, at the very least, being totally satisfied that you left no stone unturned.
Your Mom is probably just expressing, in that frequently frustrating Mom way, that she’s worried she’s not being a good Mom. She doesn’t want to see you fail, she doesn’t want you to have a bad life, because she’s measuring her abilities as a Mom by your outcomes, same as you’re measuring yourself by this med test. I’m sure being a Mom is harder than being a doctor but I’m also sure the entrance exam was easier. Moms can’t push a button and stop being Moms just because we’ve decided we’re grown up, and the things they say in an attempt to keep “raising” us can get under our skin. But the biggest favor you can do yourself and your Mom (and everyone else) is to be confident about what you want. To know why you want it. Then you have honesty on your side. Then anyone opposing you is opposing the truth, and that’s a bad side to be on in the long run.
I don’t know you, I don’t know you’ll be a perfect doctor, or a doctor at all. There are realities with which to contend. But because reality is inescapable, it’s important that we make a choice, in our heads, to counterbalance reality with things that defy it. Gravity is a reality, but humans fly. The language we’re exchanging, the fillings in our teeth, the pavement on the road outside, everywhere you look, for better or for worse, you’re going to see evidence that accepting reality is not a human’s tendency, and not what we’re good at, and not, in my speculation, what God or Natural Selection hired us to do. We’ve been hired, by this universe, to dream, to aspire, to make things that weren’t real real - and because that involves a lot of failure, we’re damn good at doing that, too.
Without the benefit of details, I say stay the course. I say keep failing. Fall flat on your face, feel every scrape, roll in the dirt and scream in frustration. Tell your mother you love her but the fact is, she either raised a doctor or she raised a girl that’s going to fail, spectacularly, at it, and in either case, she’s done her part. Go fail that test a fourth time. And get it on the fifth. Or sixth. Push this thing to the absolute limit, make them create a new law against your level of desire, make them arrest you for wanting to be a doctor, and when they let you out, run to fail the test again, so that when you’re slipping away from this reality, which could happen at any time, you’re not spending your last moments thinking anything but “well, I did my best.” Also, watch Rick and Morty on Adult Swim in December.
Hey Dan i'm molly i'm 15 I listen to your podcast. it's pretty epic and strange... but love it none the less. My question is random but still I feel curious and it does say ask you anything. what are your thoughts on miley cyrus?
I don’t know a lot about her. I know her Dad is a country singer and that she’s a pop singer. I know that whenever she does anything in public, old people get excited about wanting to hurt her. So she must be doing something right. Johnny Cash said “it’s good to know who hates you and it’s good to be hated by the right people.”
The rest is mostly rumor, I can’t say that I really know any of this for a fact. I have heard that she is taller than she seems on TV. I have heard that she is able to see in very low light. Someone told me that she is actually ashamed of this, and has had numerous surgical procedures attempting to “cure” herself of her special eyesight, which, to me sounds like more of a gift. I think I read somewhere - but please do not quote me on this - that if she is standing twenty feet from a tablecloth, in normal light, she can make out individual fibers, and that the FBI will sometimes bring her in to assist them on special cases, cases which are particularly time-sensitive, i.e., a human life is at stake, and/or a crime happened in a convertible with the top down and it’s going to rain soon, and they can’t wait for someone to look at fibers through conventional means.
Apparently, in those cases, the head investigator will say “get Miley” or “where is she this time” and it will cut to her finishing a concert, and she will look over from the stage into the wings, and there will be men in black suits waiting, and she’ll have this look on her face, like, “here we go again.” Because I guess she doesn’t get along with the FBI on a personal level, because they’re highly trained and very cautious people, and she’s just sort of a free spirit with these very powerful eyes.
As I understand it, and I need to stress this is all gossip, this is just stuff I hear in the kitchen at work, but supposedly, in the end, they get the job done together, in spite of their different approaches, and justice is essentially served.
Also, I heard she twerked, I don’t know what that is but I heard she twerked. Thank you for listening to my podcast but I feel like you should tell your parents to stop letting you do that for a couple years. There’s like a million podcasts and you’re listening to a guy your Dad’s age talk about poop. But I am glad you like it and thank you for writing. But stop listening for three full years. Thank you.
I’ve discussed before how Dan Harmon (creator of Community, co-writer for Monster House) has distilled the Joseph Campbell’s Monomyth into a very basic tool for describing the arcs of a story. Harmon prefers to see his story structure as a circle, whereas I believe that it is in fact a Cosine Wave. Since I’ve posted the above gif I’ve gotten quite a few notes about it and I thought I’d expand on my idea of why Harmon’s circle best fits a Cosine.
Could you explain a particular Community episode with the story circle? In the simplest, four quadrant version.
Sure, let’s do it with season 2’s D&D episode:
Keep in mind what I’m doing here is deconstructing a finished story, not recalling the process by which the story was broken. Back in season 2 it was probably about identifying act breaks, i.e. asking “what new world are we entering (step 3) and what’s the worst thing that can happen there (step 6).” But no matter how it was assembled, if the end result is a story, we should be able to detect four distinct quadrants.
If I were to take a stab at the episode’s “quadrants” in terms of general plot…and forgive me, I could really screw this up without watching the episode again, but here’s an EXAMPLE at me taking a stab, you can do this on your own and refine it.
Upper half = The Game is a Game
Lower half = The Game is Real
Left half = Pierce in Control
Right half = Abed in Control
The more important use of quadrants is in creating or checking for what the suits call “arcs.” You go through the story in the shoes of any particular character and ask yourself what’s changing from top to bottom and from right to left as they move through the plot. Here’s some possible upper and lower halves choosing Jeff as the protagonist:
- In Control / Out of Control
- Altruism / Guilt
- Pierce is a child / Pierce is a threat
All of those and more might be valid, it’s all subjective, but my favorite is:
- Altruism / Guilt
When I draw a line between “altruism” and “guilt,” the idea that there’s a difference sparks my interest. Sometimes we want to help people because we’re good people and sometimes we want to help people because we don’t want to be bad people. To someone else, there’s no distinction there, but it only needs to be visible to the writer. To me, the arrival of Pierce, who kills Chang and runs off with Fat Neil’s sword, ushers Jeff across a threshold between altruism and guilt, yanking him from a world in which he was “fixing” Neil and tossing him into a world in which he may end up responsible for Neil’s destruction if he “loses” the game.
Moving on to picking a left/right division for Jeff. I’ll tell you a lazy trick we learned in the Community room: when in doubt, the right half of the circle can just be “dishonesty” and the left half “honesty.” It’s almost always going to click because the mid point of a story is almost always where “shit gets real.” But it’s kind of like putting “order” on top and “chaos” on the bottom. Sure, D&D is taking us from dishonest order to dishonest chaos to honest chaos to honest order. But so does Star Wars, Miss Saigon and a commercial for gum. If you’re using quadrants to assemble or identify a specific story, it’s more valuable to get more specific.
I think what’s noteworthy and specific to Winger’s story in D&D is:
Lack of Control / Control
Note I’m “stealing” that idea from my first list of brainstormed top/bottoms. When I was riffing that list up there, I threw out “control,” and thought, “well, it’s not like Jeff ends this story back in control, he kind of loses it and never gets it ba— Ah ha.” Jeff spends the first half of the story - the right half - taking charge (first out of altruism, then out of guilt). Even when his world changes, his preferred methodology doesn’t. He attempts to get Abed to “cheat,” he physically pulls Pierce out of the room and tries to make him stop playing, he also leads the charge on berating Britta for her commitment to the game. But Jeff’s commitment is tested when a fictional Elf Maiden flirts with him. He’s too shy/narcissistic/cool/homophobic to engage with Abed, so Annie takes over and gains the group access to a flock of Pegasi, which Jeff had stated as the goal. Jeff never ends up back in control, not of the group nor of the game. Which allows for the amazing things that transpire between Neil and Pierce, who have their own quadrants to get through.
So, to me, Jeff’s quadrants are, clockwise: Controlled Altruism, Controlled Guilt, Uncontrollable Guilt and finally Uncontrollable Altruism, which is another way of saying Jeff learns that sometimes you’re a bad guy and sometimes you’re a good guy and you don’t really get to choose when or how that happens, but if you try to control it, you’re going to end up the bad guy, and if you stop trying to control it, goodness will prevail.
You could do this process with Neil, with the group, with Pierce and they might all be different and/or overlap in different ways…overall, to me, no matter what character you choose, this episode takes us on a beautiful circular journey around a central point where guilt, altruism, control and surrender intersect and merge with each other.
Yep, no doubt about it. It’s a great show! By the way, I can never mention this episode without giving shout outs to Andrew Guest and Chris McKenna, who stayed up all night writing the script with me for the table read so that the studio could give the note “they’re talking about goblins a lot.”
Start with random IDEAS. Ideas can be anything - Poop is an idea, America, pickles, the number six, a raccoon, anything.
Some ideas will reveal related ideas, i.e. you may think, upon thinking about raccoons, that you have more than one thought about raccoons. Clouds of related ideas that your mind recognizes as related in any way are potential story AREAS. Look for areas that make you laugh and cry.
Draw a circle to symbolize your area, because your story will take the “reader” through related ideas in a path around a central idea. You don’t have to know what the central idea is. It’s probably dumb. For God’s sake, you’re writing about raccoons.
Divide your circle into a top half and bottom half and ask yourself what those halves might be. Like, your raccoon area might become divided into “positive thoughts about raccoons” and “negative thoughts about raccoons.” If the division doesn’t feel charged for you, pick something else, like male raccoon thoughts and female raccoon thoughts, or biological raccoon thoughts and storybook raccoon thoughts. At some point, you will divide your area into two parts that create a personal “charge” for you, like a battery. ”Ooo, I like the idea that there’s a difference between biological raccoons and storybook raccoons, that tingled when I drew that line, I want to know more.” <— that’s my impression of you nailing it.
Divide the divided circle down the middle and pick another charged dichotomy for left and right. For instance, biological/storybook raccoon area could get divided into dishonest/honest.
Now you have four quadrants to your circle, going clockwise: biological dishonest raccoon, storybook dishonest raccoon, storybook honest raccoon, biological honest raccoon. Any point at which you stop feeling charged, go back a step or start over. Maybe you had to get this far to realize you don’t give a shit about raccoons. Please note that at this point, people around you will start to express confusion and frustration, because they thought the idea was fine already. Depending on your mood and standing, these people are called hacks, traitors, parasites, scabs or successful colleagues.
When you find an area that yields four charged quadrants, experiment with protagonists. Easy answer first, maybe I’m a raccoon. So once upon a time there was a dishonest biological raccoon that became a storybook raccoon, which lead to him becoming honest before finally going back to being biological again. Cool? If not, go back or start over. Again, please note that many people will not want you to go back or start over. These people will one day drown in their own blood while you point and laugh with God. Or maybe they’re good people and you just have Asperger’s.
Then you keep dividing the pie, adding “curvature” to the protagonist’s path with the 8 point story structure you can find me blathering about elsewhere online.
Create more characters as needed, give them their own stories as needed.
Repeat every day until rich people give you money to do it for them. Buy a house, become one of them and hire poor people to do it for you. Somewhere in there try to get a dog and a funny girlfriend or it’s all pretty pointless. Speaking of which, I just realized I’m the only one at the office. Thank you for this question.
I don't know if you answer the questions but I just wanna try it... To be honest, I only know you from Community and I believe the most important thing about this show is the human side of it...) Alright this was not the question I wanted to ask... I want to know if you ever feel stressed / depressed while writing (anything) and if you do how do you deal with it. Because I kinda take you as an example and I wanna know the answer of this question. Sorry for bothering.. :)
Stressed but not depressed. I get depressed when I’m inactive creatively, which happens when nobody’s waiting for me to finish anything. That can be an unfortunate syndrome, if nobody’s waiting to hear from you, why say anything, if you’re not saying anything, nobody’s listening, slipping you deeper and deeper into a creative coma.
The way out of those for me is to trick my brain into having a genuine deadline, with a genuine pressure on it. That’s why Schrab and I created Channel 101, incidentally, to force ourselves and our friends to do things, anything at all. It doesn’t have to be “good,” it just has to have a reason to be made (in fact, the desire to “make something good” is the biggest obstacle in our path to making things). One time when I was in a particularly slumpy slump, my friend Jeff told me he’d pay my rent if I gave him 30 pages of a script. That worked. Helped that he had that kind of money. You’d have to come up with your own trick, but it really has to trick your brain. When I hear writers talk about “setting deadlines for themselves” and “writing for a fixed amount of time each day,” I have to wonder, defensively, if they’re any good at writing. But if it works for them, I guess I’m just jealous as hell.
I don’t know of any other way to write than under stress. I’m going to shift into an even more pretentious-sounding gear here, but I think of creative acts as having a source somewhere outside our minds, and I think that what we call “making something” is actually us being “open to something that made itself.” Please forgive me, anyone reading this, I’m just being honest about how I feel. Anyway, the act of “being open” to these things it’s our job to channel is the agonizing part. You can open yourself to a single idea but as soon as you have one, your ego starts going “okay I’ll take it from here” and the channel closes. Staying open beyond a certain point, keeping your ego from spasming, is like standing on one foot or sustaining a fake yawn for 8 hours.
The odd thing I can’t figure out is why I don’t have to be stressed or pressured to write something like a rambling answer to a tumblr question about writing. I guess navel-gazing, ranting, pontification and overanalysis are some kind of stress relief for me. A chance to let my ego run around the yard between all-day sessions of it having to sit and accept that it’s not in charge.
Thank you for giving me the opportunity, and for keeping me from eating too many hot wings on lunch break. I have to read Tim Saccardo’s outline now. It’s gonna be a doooooooozy!
Tried to post this before i went under but it never went through. Waiting For an upper endoscopy. Still trying to figure something out about episode 501 of community. 502’s going to be great, 503’s going to be greater, 504 makes me cry sometimes…it’s really great to be back. It’s religiously, catastrophically, erotically great to be back. It was also not exactly torture to be gone, because, hey, less work. I was a better boyfriend and a better sleeper when I was a self centered knob in exile, free to mutter anything I wanted into my tumblr (and my tumbler). Now I’m a self centered knob that can let you down again, DO YOU KNOW HOW HARD THAT IS FOR ME just kidding.
If you’re a writer, you already know it’s as fair as it is pretentious to describe writing as a challenge. If you’re a writer. If you have an honest job, here’s an attempt to explain: Remember that moment on your first day of work, when someone asked you to change the tanks, tie down the patient or feed the squirrel, and you realized, “oh, shit, I don’t know how to do that part yet?” That low-stakes fight or flight panic that stiffened your neck and tightened your stomach, because you had to figure something out so you could stop feeling like a useless asshole and get back to work? When you’re breaking a story, that moment is 12 hours long. When you’re not figuring out how to screw around, your job is to press your head against a transparent wall, staring at something you want on the other side. The worst part is, the wall is your own stupid limitation. It’s where your brain ends. It’s the boundary between what you know - which is currently useless, or else you’d be done - and the only thing useful, which is what you don’t know.
The sense of elation waking up. Already fading. I remember the sound of my hearf monit but felt nothing during pprocedure…did i think anything? now am in rcrovery. Wanfed to transcribe it…asked for my phone they gqve it to me. “Lnurse said “he’s a writer, give him his phone.” That was the n8cest thing anyone’s ever sa8d to me. Am I on twitter or tumblr. That was incredible. Where 8s er8n
“Don’t kiss anyone’s ass. Don’t do it. For the rest of your life, everyone will always tell you, ‘Pick your battles. Kiss a little bit of ass. Then you get to stop kissing ass later.’ It’s a lie. They all just want their ass kissed. They think that if they tell you that they’re gonna get to kiss less ass too. It’s all garbage. It’s all bullshit. You have to just do everything yourself.”—Dan Harmon’s Dad’s advice to young people (via eltigrechico)
My apolotweets might not have fit the scale of the crime for some, so I’m following them up with one of my patented apoloblogs. I want to clarify, I’m apoloblogging in an effort to counteract pain I caused other people. Not because I think what I have to say is important - this is one of those days when I’m definitely fantasizing about getting less attention. And less money, and less oxygen, and, like, getting run over by a bus and stuff. But while I accidentally have your attention, I want to use it to say things I would have and should have said instead of what I did say.
On Sunday night, during my award winning Harmontown podcast (*), which is available for free and, for those interested, is a joyfully overflowing source of opportunities to dislike me, I vented some spleen about the allegedly traumatizing experience of binge-watching a season of TV I didn’t get to control (cue microscopic violin). Laughs were had, I felt better, I cried about my Dad, we played Dungeons and Dragons - it’s a great podcast. It’s not as good as “This Feels Terrible with Erin McGathy” or “The Duncan Trussell Family Hour” but it’s pretty okay if you’re, say, a 25 year old aspiring narcissist whose drive to work is two hours long and thinks stammering is hot.
I went to bed feeling great, woke up and started work on season five of Community with our exciting season five staff. I took them to lunch, checked my tweets, discovered my name in several headlines next to several bad words, and, as usual, it was then that I started to consider how my words might affect other people if viewed as headlines. After five seconds of thinking, I realized, as usual, that other people might be hurt, and that I really need to do this whole “saying things and thinking about other people” cycle in a different order at some point. I think it would make my podcast shorter but I think there’s a lot of listeners that would consider that an upgrade, too.
Here’s a list of people of whom I failed to think in that moment, and the sincerely owed apologies to them.
I am first and foremost sorry to Community fans that got paid nothing to stick by Community and get us to a fifth season only to hear the incoming showrunner say some stuff that felt very un-Community. Even if my goal had been to hurt someone, it would never have been you. What I said was disrespectful to your love for this show, love that I sometimes erroneously equate with validation of me as a person. I am unwittingly and unfortunately infamous for the amount I care about your opinion. I often say that I write in an attempt to “make people like me.” I’m realizing what makes me unlikable is that I haven’t made the leap from “caring what people think about me” to “caring about people.” And let’s face it, if I’m doing this at 40 how cool am I going to get before I die. But I do know, every minute of every day, that I owe you folks what I consider to be my life and guarantee you that every time I’ve pissed you off it’s been on accident. And to keep from hurting you, I’m going to try thinking about you before saying things into microphones. I’m usually okay at it when I’m talking to actual press, because there’s a big visual reminder in the form of a cube on a mic or monkey in a diaper on the table. But when you’re listening to Harmontown, or, worse yet, reading transcripts from Harmontown, you’re catching me in unforgivably human moments. Obviously the solution is to stop talking about my job in my podcast until production is safely complete. That will protect the show you love, and your love of it, from the creator with the Mouth from PR Hell. I will do this. But more importantly, I am sorry.
Next I want to apologize to the people that did get paid to work on that season, but not enough: the cast and crew. I get personal value out of being as honest as possible, but, honestly, how honest was what I said? It was dishonest to imply that something you worked on was as hard to watch as my family being assaulted. I was riffing and tried to turn darkness into levity through shock and hyperbole. I was very much not thinking about anyone but myself while watching that season, which was the crime. I hope over time you’ll forgive me. I wasn’t thinking about your contribution or describing it. I was just indulging my petty feelings about being left out. It seemed kind of funny at the time because it seemed at the time like I was the only person with feelings. Because my head was up my ass. Again, it’s been up there 40 years so it would be dishonest to promise it’s coming out, but what I can promise is that I’ll stop talking about the show without thinking of you. You second, fans first. I think that’s how you’d want it.
Thirdly, because they got paid more, but still not enough, the season 4 writers. I’m sorry I pooped on your work. You had to do something nobody should have to attempt, and you had the option of doing it the lazy way or the sellout way and you clearly did what you did because you were thinking of the fans. There was some amazing stuff in there. Funny jokes. I liked the “Hogan’s Villains” line. The idea that in Germany, people watch Hogan’s Heroes, but they call it Hogan’s Villains, is seriously so funny I had to rewind it a couple times to finish laughing. I will apologize to the Germans later. Season 4 writers: Thank you and I’m sorry. As I went on to say in my podcast, the creatives are not the bad guys…I shouldn’t be letting an inhuman system that doesn’t care about humans enough turn humans against humans. Especially us. Don’t tell anyone I said this but all writers are better people than all non-writers. Nobody read that unless you’re a writer. I broke a code when I judged the work of writers with whom I wasn’t in the same trenches. I’ll suffer for it because I’ll be looking for a job soon enough and nobody will want to work with Judgy McPsycho Van Crieswhenhetypes. So I hope my ten seconds of, as the kids say, “butthurt” comedy was worth it to me, and I’ll see you in Hell, where, don’t tell anybody I said this but is where I believe all writers go because we make God jealous.
Almost lastly, I have to address this “rape joke” concept. I have to address it because it looks like if I don’t say anything, it could send the wrong message to people with an understandable passion for the subject. This is a subject that is, and should be, insanely volatile and provocative, because it combines the words “rape” and “joke.” It puts them right next to each other, it’s like putting a running chainsaw next to a puppy, it’s just not something you can walk past without getting disturbed and invested. Does anyone think rape is funny? I hope not. Do we become more progressive culturally through the mitigation of inappropriate language? I don’t know, it’s sure worth continued discussion, if you feel strongly one way or the other you should come up on stage at the next Harmontown. In the mean time, I am deeply sorry to anyone I hurt by using the word “rape” in a comedic context. I am sorry to anyone I hurt by conjuring the concept of rape in a metaphor about my stupid hurt feelings. As you saw above, unless you skimmed this blog entry for the word “rape,” I was not thinking about the impact of my words on the people that love Community and work on it. So I hope you can believe me when I tell you I was definitely not thinking about the impact of that word on people that are currently seeking to get it out of comedic contexts. I’m very sorry to have hurt and frustrated you and I will definitely be swayed from the use of that word in comedic contexts because I don’t like hurting people and as an added bonus, I don’t like getting yelled at on Twitter. Especially when the people yelling have phrases like “rape joke” on their side. It’s kind of hard to think of oneself as being “pro rape joke.” Don’t want to be that guy. Done and done.
Oh, on the politically correct side, I just remembered something else. I think when I did my impression of Season 4’s impression of me, I said “durpy durpy dur, I’m Dan Harmon,” which I think I saw someone point out is language used to dehumanize the developmentally disabled, and that’s not cool, I shouldn’t have done that.
Okay, wow, that was a lot of apologizing. That was not a short blog post. Because that’s how sorry I am. Also I love talking about myself, but, trust me, this has been more pain than pleasure for the guy that made you feel bad. Now I’m going to get back to conceptualizing with the writers about season 5 and, I hope, achieve a heightened level of actual empathy in the bargain.
A Remorseful Friend
(*) Harmontown is currently award-free but I don’t want to have to edit this post later.
I want to communicate. I'm going to step forward holding my hands in a non violent manner and I say, "Guys you are us, we are you. That means you don't want to do this either. Let's not do it together and we'll have twice as much a chance at that working. Of that working. You're probably drunk too a couple articles and prepositions aren't going to bug you. I wait for your answer take all the time you want." I step back.
In unison the four draw their weapons.
You’re a fucking dick, Spencer! And you were born a dick and you’re gonna die a dick! You’re vindictive and you’re petty. This is why people don’t like Dungeons and Dragons! They think of nerds as being these people with all this anger welling inside them and they take it out on dice and things or they...Maybe we should go out on a football field and fuck each other up! If that's what you want! If you like pain! If you like discomfort LET'S GO PLAY FOOTBALL! You know this is supposed to be about fun! I don't wanna die! It's Mother's Day! She loves season four [of Community] If I die she won't even care! She won't notice! She was quoting lines I wasn't even there! She won't notice! She only knows I exist because of the fucking television and she's going, "Oh that was a good one!"
I barely have time to write this down, let alone edit it for clarity or easy reading. It’s a dream. You know what you’re getting into if you start reading a description of someone’s dream. No refunds.
I am contacted by someone producing the Oscars the day before the telecast asking if I’d like to perform as a guest co-host. I am thrilled by the prospect and certain I’ll do great, especially without preparation, because I’m so charming when I don’t know what I’m doing.
I show up at the Oscars just as the telecast starts, and I take the stage before I’m supposed to, which I think will be charming and hilarious. I start improvising an opening monologue.
The audience watches me in silence, because, of course, I am a stranger to them, I am a random guy hijacking the stage and stammering about how he shouldn’t be there and how he’s doing a bad job, as if that’s entertaining to them, when it’s the unremarkable, embarrassing truth. Much as you sometimes realize in a dream that you aren’t wearing any clothes, I suddenly realize I’m hosting the Oscars and I have no qualifications to do so and no material and no knowledge of any of the nominated films or artists and everyone just wants me off the stage.
There is no end to the monologue, so eventually, I am “cut off” by the producers having three microphones placed on stage and announcing that Destiny’s Child is going to sing a song. I decide to stay out there and start singing with them, as a joke. Destiny’s Child is not pleased. The audience is not pleased. I figure I’ll help them “get it” a little more clearly by singing more badly and loudly. Everyone grimaces. I laugh and bail, saying, “just kidding, just kidding, you can start over, sorry.” They start the song over while I run off stage.
And this is a really painful detail, the manner in which I run off stage. I do this very dishonest “I know what I’m doing” run. Like a baseball player getting a walk to first base, like I’m “stoked” to play my part in a larger game. I am not. I am in way over my head and I’m not supposed to be there and I am the reason the show sucks and it is only beginning. I am leaving the stage after doing everything in my power to get approval, and failing, I am leaving the stage a quintessential failure, but making the decision to “trot” off with an athletic gait, like, “okay, cool, all systems go.” Not in a Will Ferrelish playing-a-character-that-thinks-all-systems-are-go way. In a Tom Cruisey all-systems-are-actually-go-regardless-of-actuality way. And in the dream, I am conscious of this decision, and conscious of its futility - I’m not fooling anyone - and I’m not only lying to more people at once than at any previous moment of my life, I’m not only doing so pointlessly and ineffectively, but, most importantly, I’m doing it with my run. I’m lying with every bone in my skeleton. I’m literally lying with every fiber of my being. Badly.
I go to the back of the theatre and ask myself, how can I dig myself out of this. Not for me, mind you, I mean, fuck me at this point, but for the sake of the show, for the world, for everyone but me, what can I do to mitigate the pain? Should I walk away? No, that might screw the show over even more. Should I just play the rest of the show straight, perfunctoral, get on and off as quickly as possible, no more bullshit? Well, in a weird way, that might make people feel my pain too much. I have to stay the clown but I have to be a god damned professional clown, I’ve got to bring the goods. I am giving these people too much Franco, they’re entitled to more Crystal. I will swing for the bleachers to earn back their trust. What would Billy do.
Ah. He’d sing a medley about tonight’s nominees for best picture. Okay, I can do that. I mean, I don’t have time to write lyrics, but I can “hang a lantern” on the effort to entertain; I’ll go up with a legal pad with the names of the nominated pitcures on it, and I’ll improvise a medley, and if it’s bad, that’ll be part of the bit, it’ll be me saying, “sorry about earlier, this isn’t about me, I’m just an idiot, this is about these movies.”
Then I realize, I don’t know the names of any of this year’s nominees. I try googling with my phone to write them down but there’s no coverage. I’m running out of time. I get a copy of Variety and find a page that has the nominated movies listed. Dreamers note: there were six nominees for Best Picture, each with one word titles, but I only remember two. One was “India,” another was “Grantland.” Grantland is the name of the magazine that published an article about me on tour that a lot of people read, “India” I don’t know the significance of. I try to transcribe the titles, but my pen doesn’t work.
I go to my Mom’s seat in the theatre and ask her for a pen. She doesn’t have one. I suddenly realize, “this is the bit, this is the show, I’ll bring my Mom up and ask her to help me, it’ll be great.” I take the stage and ask if my Mom’s in the audience. I hear her voice say “yes.” I ask for trumpets to play while she takes the stage. A row of medieval horn players lines up and starts playing. I make a “joke” about how it would be funny if farts came out of the trumpets. Nobody laughs. I’ve already fucked up, but Mommy will save me. I look down and see that my girlfriend, Erin, has come up through the rows of trumpets. I say, “Mom, can you help me remember this year’s nominated films?” Erin looks confused and says “Yes.” I realize why she’s confused and say “wait, you’re not my Mom.” Everyone starts booing. Worse than booing, really, booing brings the audience together, booing is a form of cheering, people boo at wrestling matches. This was that sound an audience makes when a show has become an unrepairable fiasco. Disjointed pleas, genuine expressions of frustration, nothing in unison, people just sincerely asking you, as a crowd of individuals, to please just get the fuck off stage. Forever.
I walk off stage. I don’t run, I don’t trot, I just walk, like an honest failure.
I’m in the parking lot. Erin calls me on the phone. She still loves me, she says. Let’s just watch a movie, she says. It sounds like a good idea.
Time and space break down but the dream stays a dream. Erin and I check into a hotel in Japan. We spend a lot of time trying to figure out the elevators. They’re small, almost coffin like, so we have to take separate elevators to our room. They’re lined with those pads you get with a U-haul to protect your furniture from scratching. I get lost. Every room I visit is in a different house. Each house is outside in a different part of the world - it’s like a dream in a hacky movie about dreams. I struggle to get back to the hotel, back to Erin. I finally do. We watch a movie in our hotel room. I can’t remember what it is.
I realize I may be in trouble for bailing on the Oscars. I want to go back and make sure they’re doing okay. I get back to the parking lot and the ceremony is just ending. People are happy. Nobody’s acknowledging me. Maybe they’re so embarrassed for me they don’t want me to exist, or maybe I actually don’t exist. I watch Jamie Kennedy do a post Oscar interview with Ben Stiller. It’s weird to me how detailed the dialogue is, how much of it I remember in spite of so many other things fading from my memory:
They wanted me to talk to you in a folksy way.
That’s good, I mean, you want to take advantage of the sunny weather.
I have two thousand dollars here to give you.
I’ll take two hundred.
I’m laying down in the parking lot, now. I’m barefoot, and my feet are covered in dirt. Artis, a football player from my high school, helps me to my feet. We walk through the parking lot and talk about what happened. He says I was set up to fail. He says “They should have had you just sit with the talent, like out here in the parking lot. I don’t think they knew who you were. I think they wanted you to be twenty five.”
I go home - home in this case being Fox Mulder’s apartment from the X-Files - and I cautiously surf the internet for the public’s response to my hosting the Oscars. It’s not good. There’s a lot of videos online of my attempt to sing a medley, which I don’t remember doing in the show, but which I’m now watching on the internet. Apparently, my improvised song about “India” got pretty racist. And I sang a song about “Game of Thrones” even though that wasn’t nominated, and isn’t a movie.
Everyone in the entire world hates me except Erin.
I wake up a little sad, then lay there a while, forgiving myself for screwing up the Oscars so bad. It’ll be okay. People make mistakes. This too shall pass.
Then I have that great moment when I gain full consciousness and realize that none of it happened.
I still have a chance to host the Oscars and really nail it.
If you’re not familiar with this and have no idea what the list above means, then click on the link and please introduce yourself and get addicted to Dan Harmon and Rob Schrab’s March Madness for short form TV, Channel 101.