Dan Harmon is one those creators who is bound to the work wholeheartedly. Without Harmon, Community isn’t the same. What I mean is, when you watch Season 4 of Community it’s still Community but without its voice. It feels hollow. When he got fired from the show he decided to take his podcast Harmontown on tour, document it, and release it as a film.
If you don’t really know who Dan Harmon is, this documentary gives you the history of the writer. If you don’t know the controversy surrounding him and Chevy Chase, you’ll get that too. You’ll also get a very human side to a creator and that comes with all the dark side as well. This is part of Harmon’s charm. He’s an open book and he doesn’t mind if he may be the kind of book you don’t want to read or may not like. He doesn’t like taking showers, he’s probably an alcoholic, he’s a dick to his girlfriend, and he openly admits he leaves the tour having learned nothing.
That is essentially what I like about him, what his audience likes about him. If you know you can be a bad person, and openly admit your faults that may make you a bad person, does that mean you’re a bad person? Even if I believed deep down that Harmon was a bad person the fact that he doesn’t hide it softens the blow.
We watch him self-destruct and then when he’s done self-destructing he picks up the pieces and moves on. Harmon isn’t a rebel or subversive but openly criticizes the system he works in to make his money. His audience are people who feel like outsiders trying to become Dan Harmon or something like him. They want to work within the systems but feel as if they don’t belong in that system.
“Our mantra would always be make the shows you would want to see, and I think that really affected Dan’s work.” – Rob Schrab, director of The Lego Movie sequel.
That’s where Spencer comes in. Spencer is one of those audience members who stayed true to himself, and Harmon plucked him from the audience to become his dungeon master in live D&D games. Spencer is the hero of the documentary, and Harmon openly admits that.
Harmontown is crude, silly, dark, sad, uplifting, and pretty funny. It’s worth a watch if you’re a writer. It’s worth a watch if you’re a fan of Community. It’s worth a watch if you even if you just like to watch someone implode then try to reconstruct themselves.
I love podcasts, to a ridiculous level now. I listen to podcasts more than I do music and more than I watch television or movies. Think of it as talk radio but without the limitations of, well anything. Anything can be a podcast, and anything is a podcast.
One particular podcasts though that I’ve stuck with since it started was by stand-up comedian Pete Holmes, former host of the Pete Holmes Show that ran earlier this year. Beginning in 2011 with the running theme of talking about comedy, sex, and religion. At the beginning, when Pete is learning how to host a podcast this theme is strictly enforced but when it fades into just being the underlying themes of the show is when it really takes off while the length of the podcast starts to get longer.
It is essentially WTF with Marc Maron if it was hosted by Pete Holmes, but the host is what makes the difference. I’m not going to compare the two but Maron’s podcasts tend to delve into what has happened in the guests’ life while Pete’s podcast explores what the guest thinks about life.
It appeals to my brain on a couple levels, all having to do with curiosity. After writers, comedians tend to be the group that hold in the highest regard followed by musicians. So on Pete’s podcast I get a peek behind the curtain. I get to hear comedians not only talk about their own personal beliefs about comedy but about their lives. These are people I admire for their ability to make me laugh opening up about the screwed up childhoods, families, and experiences they had or their individual philosophies on what the meaning of all this is.
I don’t know what your perception is of comedians but if it is shallow in anyway I highly recommend giving any comedic podcast a chance, not just You Made It Weird with Pete Holmes because, and T.J. Miller put in nicely on a recent episode, the last generation of comedians such as George Carlin, Richard Pryor and Bill Hicks were activists on stage while the newer generation rising in fame in the 21st Century have become the philosophers. You’d be surprised at the depth these people get into, which I imagine comes from having to think about life in order to find what is funny about it.
On top of that it scratches that curiosity that comes from our culture of celebrity. These are people I admire, so in a sense they’re my celebrities. Therefore on Pete’s podcast I get the celebrity gossip of straight from the source. Some people read gossip magazines or websites but I get mine out of their mouths on podcast.
Another part, and I have this experience with writers as well, I get to learn about the process. Stand-up comedians are essentially a kind of writer, aurator, performer combination and just like writers, comedians tend to have narcissistic tendencies so of course they want to talk about the career they are passionate about. From Pete’s podcast you learn the jargon, you learn how comedians develop, how they develop differently, how they write jokes and what it’s like behind the stage. I didn’t know what barking was before listening to his podcast, nor did I know there was a difference between the comedy scene in Boston, New York and L.A. I learned which clubs, theaters and places are great to perform at in a certain city and state and how the comedy boom began, ended and how the alternative comedy scene rose to compete with the club scene.
The best part though is just how funny comedians are being themselves, not their ego version of themselves that perform on stage. When you listen to You Made It Weird it is like being in on the inside jokes, and you get to hear material before it’s material, when it’s just something they thought and decided to say. Then what happens is you hear about a stand-up you’ve never heard before become humanize and you say to yourself Oh, they have an special or an album out? I’ll check that out.
Pete Holmes stand-up comedy is fantastic, real great comedian. His talk show, now cancelled, was a sort of filter version of his podcast plus his stand-up. His podcast though? It’s an exploration of comedy on a depth that I explore stories in college as an English major. That’s why I love it and I highly recommend anyone giving it a chance.