Dan Harmon did a Reddit AMA yesterday and, of course, it was the best and nerdiest. He talked about what was the specific Chevy Chase straw that broke his camel back, meeting Charlie Kaufman and Mitch Hurwitz, and tons more. The best quotes are below:
What actually happened with Chevy:
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…
…I heard from the people on set was that he didn’t think it was funny. After he realized how upset I was about it, he said things in voicemails like “there was no script” (untrue) and “I have a weird relationship with the name Cornelius” (dumb, he had no dialogue in the tag). The real answer, I believe, is that he wanted to go home because he was tired. He probably didn’t realize he was permanently damaging the episode by doing so because he often walked off set and then we would just pick up his shots later in the week. But this was the final shot of the season. The sets came down after he walked away. So this was the one time in three years that his personality caused unfixable damage to something I really held valuable.
Casting Chevy in the first place and who he wanted to play Pierce:
Sony made us. I’m not saying it was the wrong decision ultimately, but the honest answer to the question is that Pierce was literally the only role for which nobody else was considered after the actor we cast put his hat in the ring. Even McHale had to “test” against two other great guys. The short list of people I wanted to see about playing Pierce: Fred Willard, John Cleese, Patrick Stewart. That’s a juicy role, man, there’s a LOT of brilliant old dudes out there, but in the end, Sony felt (accurately) that Chase was a household name. And I remember Krasnoff saying to me, “listen, you make the decision on your pilot that gets you a series order. You take these things one step at a time.” And there was wisdom there. Vile wisdom, but it’s a vile industry. And I think the writers and Chevy ended up creating an unforgettable character.
His Favorite Community Episode:
I think the Dungeons and Dragons episode in season 2.
Meeting Mitch Hurwitz:
I asked him if I could tweet the pic and he said yes but I won’t say anything else, other than: I was on the set of Arrested and I met Mitch Hurwitz, who hugged me and acted like it was cool for HIM that I was there, and we talked smack about network politics and it was a dream come true. He is as cool and smart as you’d imagine him to be. The thing that took me by surprise is that he’s not a 500 pound, pock-marked bald guy with squirrels in his beard, because I would imagine that his level of talent would involve that kind of body. But wouldn’t you know, he’s not only a genius, he’s also spry and adorable. The more I think about it, the more I realize it made me feel like shit to meet him. Just kidding. It was awesome.
How he feels about season 4:
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.
The one storyline he never got to do that he regrets:
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.
Working with Charlie Kaufman:
It’s very difficult for me to look Charlie in the eye and when I’m in a conversation with him, it’s 70 percent obscured by the throbbing hum of my ID saying “HOLY SHIT YOU’RE TALKING TO CHARLIE KAUFMAN”… I will tell you why I feel this way in a very narcissistic story. Years ago, I was attempting to adapt a short story by George Saunders called Civilwarland in Bad Decline for Ben Stiller’s company. It’s a very nuanced, stylized, psychological, dark, personal and absurd short story and I desperately wanted to be the one to successfully adapt it but was desperately failing to do so on paper and it was haunting me day and night and ruining my life, to the point where, at one point, I thought, “what I ought to do is just call the script ‘Adaptation’ and write the story of me trying to adapt it, because it’s the only story I can actually understand at this point, etc.,” and a day later, there was a billboard for a movie called “Adaptation” on Sunset boulevard and it turned out it was written by the Being John Malkovich guy, so I went to see it, and I walked out of that theatre feeling simultaneously demoralized and enthralled on a level theretofore unexperienced. I felt what it must be like for the schizophrenic guy that thought Monster House was sending him hidden messages about his dead daughter. Kaufman’s writing made me feel insane and beaten and turned inside out. Even if I would ever be capable of doing what he does, he is always a full decade ahead of me doing it. He mocks me with lack of effort. So I am the Salieri to his Mozart, and I have the choice between being Bad Salieri, and trying to figure out how to beat him, or I can be Good Salieri and just figure out whatever I can do to help. It is for that reason that we are doing Anomalisa and it is for that reason that I can’t answer your question because my brain becomes a balloon animal when I enter the same room as him.
I don’t perceive the character as being dumbed down, I think we evolved her into one of the most sophisticated characters in TV comedy. Britta’s pop cultural ignorance (“rowboat cop”) and the fact that she dropped out of high school and ain’t so well-read are human qualities to which I found a lot of women relating and/or joyfully not relating, but in any case BELIEVING. I always felt that the triumph of Britta as a character was that she was the only “real” person, stuck on Gilligan’s island, and ironically being punished for it. Sometimes we would cross the line. I did find myself telling the writer’s room here and there, “let’s not make her a dumb blonde, she’s a high school dropout and she’s computer illiterate and she’s a late bloomer because she’s lived a fuller life, but there’s a difference between that and an airhead.” If we made her an airhead, it was an accident, or an isolated instance of us being too tempted by a funny joke. Troy was an airhead. Britta was a work of art. She was a post post feminist masterpiece and a televised work of art. If I do say so myself.
On the Dean and his sexuality:
Dean Pelton goes through something we’ve all gone through - the sudden, panicked, defeated realization that we’re a joke, that all our life is spent in futility, that we’re wrong about everything, that we’re alone and nobody cares… The good news is, being messed up doesn’t mean the story’s over. It means the story’s just starting, and in the end, we all find out we’re NOT ALONE, or maybe that we’re ALL ALONE and therefore united in our loneliness… Dean Pelton is understandably perceived by some to be a queer stereotype, like, ha ha, laugh at the gay guy, and I’m always finding myself clarifying, he’s not gay, he’s not straight, he’s an ocean-deep, planetwide labyrinth of kinks and turns. He represents the part of all of us that doesn’t get turned on by Budweiser ads, and sometimes feels a little lost because of it, but that heroically, CHARGES ON in the discovery of himself.