Until #SixSeasonsAndAMovie comes true, we might have to be satisfied with #SixSeasonsAndAVultureFestivalReunion, because unlike the former, which demands a Herculean amount of schedule balancing, the latter happened! Earlier this month at the Hollywood Roosevelt, as part of the Vulture Festival presented by AT&T, Dan Harmon, Joel McHale, Jim Rash, Yvette Nicole Brown, Alison Brie, Danny Pudi, Gillian Jacobs, Ken Jeong, and Chris McKenna got together for the first time publicly since Community wrapped its final season on NBC in 2015. A great time was had by all, as the panelists walked the sold-out crowd through their favorite moments and episodes from the series.
You can read a transcript of the conversation or listen below to the panel, which was released as a bonus episode of Good One, Vulture’s podcast about jokes. Download the episode from Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher, Overcast, or wherever you get your podcasts. Pop! Pop!
Jump to a section:
“Introduction to Statistics”
“Conspiracy Theories and Interior Design”
“Advanced Dungeons & Dragons”
“Critical Film Studies”
“Paradigms of Human Memory”
“Remedial Chaos Theory”
Dan Returns, Donald Leaves
“Bear Down for Midterms”
Six Seasons and …
So I asked the cast for their favorite episodes and moments, and we’re going to go through those. But before that, I want to talk a little bit about the pilot, which premiered ten years and two months ago.
Alison Brie: And yet I haven’t aged a day.
Dan Harmon: It retained 97 percent of The Office’s ratings.
Yvette Nicole Brown: It did.
Harmon: That’s all I remember. The following week … [makes raspberry sound with mouth] … done.
The show changed quite a bit after that, but for the pilot, was there something in the script or your characters that you can point to and you’re like, “That’s the special sauce of what the show was”?
Harmon: No. When I think about the difference between the pilot and the series, I think of Britta. Because Britta’s character in particular, it was such a — all props to my colleagues — but it was such a straight-dude version of a girl as a carrot, you know, for the male protagonist. From the way we dressed her to every line of her dialogue, it was like we didn’t discover the Britta character for a long time, and by the end of the series … Britta became so developed. I think of the pilot and I’m just like, Oh, she was a mannequin.
Do you agree, Gillian?
Gillian Jacobs: She certainly changed.
Harmon: But you knocked it out of the park also.
Jacobs: Oh, thank you.
Jacobs: I think about the first Winger speech when I think about the pilot. What was essentially Community to me was Joel delivering the sharks and pencils and Ben Affleck speech. But the thing that was special was that I had never gotten to do a pilot that was that well written. Then when we started shooting it and were sitting around the table, I was just blown away by the extraordinary talent of the people in the cast, which the world has since discovered. But that truly felt like something special. And I remember one of the camera operators said to me, “You better find your apartment in L.A.” No one had ever said that on any pilot I’d been a part of before.
Joel McHale: He was a stalker and had nothing to do with the pilot.
“Introduction to Statistics”
We’re going to go through the series based on your favorite episodes, so the first choice is season one, episode seven, “Introduction to Statistics.” Danny had mentioned this. Danny?
Danny Pudi: When I think about the show, I think this is the first time, during this episode, that felt like we were all clicking. I think everyone was kind of doing their own thing and everyone showed up. The costumes were all very specific. It felt like the world was kind of starting to establish itself, meaning that the world was … there was nothing. It was just chaos. And I got to play Batman, which was a dream of mine ever since I was a kid, so.
Can you still do the voice? Can you do it right now?
Pudi: Uh, yeah. Also one of my favorite lines: [In Batman’s voice] “Chex Mix. Pretzels. Baby carrots. Predictable but appetizing!”
Harmon: This was Justin Lin’s first episode he directed.
McHale: He never went on to anything.
Harmon: He rigged the chair-fort explosion. And the other thing is after NBC changed its clock, it just happened that this was the first episode, about six episodes in, where the tags started needing to get shot. So, this episode was the first time that we put Troy and Abed together in this intimate way, in that tag for that episode, where you guys are sitting there improvising really about Cookie Monster and stuff. And so this episode was the birth of that friendship, which was based on organic chemistry between actors on set as opposed to us having predetermined that Pierce and Troy were going to be, like, the Beavis and Butt-Head of the show.
In many ways, rewatching it, it felt like a sort of second pilot, where it’s like a complete reintroduction. What did you learn from this episode that paved the way for the show to become the show that we think of when we think about Community?
Harmon: I think that because it was about six or seven weeks after the pilot. The weird thing back then was that if you had a show on NBC and you opened your laptop, you could, for the first time — Twitter was relatively new, [and] I was just watching people watch the show. This episode was being produced around the time I was watching people watch the pilot. And I was watching what they were responding to. What they were responding to was obviously character. They were quoting lines, and the lines weren’t one-liners. They weren’t like Henny Youngman jokes that were really crafted. They were lines that encapsulated the characters, that made them unique. So I think that was the big thing for me — as of this episode, there was a puberty that the show kind of hits, because it was just like, Oh, these characters are real. You service them and then the world can be insane.
McHale: Apologies to the Henny Youngman fans.
Harmon: These millennials. Just because he has “young” in his name.
So there are two character decisions in this episode that I want to talk about. First was Gillian helped in choosing the costume. Can you talk about being collaborative on that idea?
Jacobs: They asked me, “What do you want to be?” and I said, “How about a squirrel?”
Ken Jeong: Finally. We really get deep. Saw the scene. Chew on that.
McHale: That’s how the Sistine Chapel was made as well. Want something on the ceiling? Please.
Jacobs: I don’t know why I wanted to be a squirrel.
McHale: She was high every day, you guys.
Jacobs: I don’t remember. Dan, do you remember anything?
Harmon: No, I think you really just said “Squirrel.”
Brown: I think you wanted the comfort of it too. I think every costume you wore was comfortable.
Jacobs: Wrong. That tail was very heavy.
Brown: It wasn’t?
Jeong: We all thought that.
Jacobs: They did not rig that tail well. It was grooving ridges into my shoulders for that week.
McHale: We got the furry audience big time on this.
Jacobs: Yeah. It just felt right for Britta that she would not wear a stereotypical “girls on Halloween” costume.
A joke I believe that Shirley was supposed to do in the statistics teacher’s office was cut out. I’d love if you can tell the audience what was supposed to happen and why we determined Shirley wasn’t a person who would do that.
Brown: Okay. So I’ve told this before. Dan knows I’ve told this story before. Shirley was supposed to take a shit in the drawer.
Harmon: She was supposed to want to. She was supposed to want to.
Brown: I thought she was supposed to do it?
Harmon: No, I don’t think she would be …
Brie: I mean, she was supposed to open the drawer and, like, drop her pants.
Brown: And I felt, as a dignified black woman, that no dignified black woman would ever do that, and I remember I was so sad. I was so sad that I had to go to my boss and try to explain. I remember I went to Joe and I said, “Joe, something has happened and we have to fix it.” And I told Joe what my problem was, and Joe cracked up. He was like, “Yvette, it’s a comedy.” “You don’t understand, I’m the only black woman on this show.” So I went to Dan and I talked to Dan and I said, “Listen. Our show may not be for Christian black women of a certain age, but you know, if one or two was watching, we’re gonna lose them as soon as I drop my trou. They ain’t never coming back. They ain’t never coming back! Never!”
Harmon: You only get one chance with Christian black women.
Brown: You defile a black woman once, and you’re out of there. So I said, “We should find something else. Please. Sir.” And he was kind enough to come up with the hose in the drawer. So thank you.
Harmon: It’s funny that you think there would be a debate. Like nowadays if you came to my office and said, “Black woman,” I’d be like, “Um, yeah! Don’t cancel me.”
McHale: Ironically, when we weren’t filming, Yvette would shit anywhere.
Brown: Everywhere. All the time.
Harmon: She would always say before she did it, “I’m not representing my race or my gender.”
Brown: I’m not representing black women as I do this.
Harmon: I’m just representing someone who had a lot of Chick-fil-A.
Before we go to season two, does anyone have any stray thoughts about “Contemporary American Poultry” or the first paintball episode?
McHale: I’ll say “Contemporary American Poultry,” which was the homage to GoodFellas … when that freeze happened and when Danny as Abed says, “I always wanted to be in a Mafia movie,” I was like, I think I’m on the greatest television show ever made.
Brie: I think that episode also sees the introduction of Annie’s Boobs, a monkey that was very well known on our show. I don’t know why people loved the monkey so much or why I’m mentioning it now, but here we are.
Brown: Nicely done. Nicely done.
Pudi: At one point, people became convinced that that monkey was going to save our show, and we had to do a syndication photo shoot of it, and they tried to work the monkey into every shot. At one point, it was all of us pressed up against the study-room window, and the publicist was like, “And remember to look down because they’re going to add the monkey swinging on the door handle.” And Joel went, “Not more monkey!” And then, since then, I have called the show Co-Monketty. But yeah, that monkey was supposed to save us all. You worked with the monkey before.
Jeong: Oh my God, Hangover 2 and 3. It was amazing. Made a lot of money.
Chris McKenna: Crystal.
Jeong: Crystal the monkey. Tom Gunderson’s the trainer.
McHale: Can’t believe Ken dropped that in there.
Jeong: What? How dare you.
Jim Rash: Ken has been waiting to say that.
There was an audience question: Does anyone know if the monkey is still alive?
Jeong: Oh my God, I was at the little beach house in Malibu right next to Nobu. We had amazing sushi. Yes, I am bragging. And it was great. I had a great time. Crystal and Tom, they send their regards.
Harmon: I’m pretty sure if there’s an animal that you learn the name of, it’s already dead six months ago. Sorry. There were 70 Lassies. You heard it from me first. Don’t Google Milo and Otis. I got a letter from PETA to shut that monkey shit down.
“Conspiracy Theories and Interior Design”
Season two, episode nine, “Conspiracy Theories and Interior Design.” Dan and Chris, you both mentioned this episode. What did you love about it?
Gillian Jacobs: Kevin Corrigan.
McHale: If needs must.
McHale: That’s what is said: “If needs must.” I just remember him saying it in that episode.
Brie: “Et cetera.”
McKenna: “Did you just mispronounce ‘et cetera’?” No, it was just really a great, fun episode. It was like an idea that was kicked around; I think Megan Ganz had come up with, like, “Oh, what if there was a conspiracy theory episode, and it was like Joel is taking a class that didn’t even exist?” We came up with a fun plot that was only half of a plot though, and we would always come back to it. We actually wrote a whole conspiracy about night school the night before we started shooting it.
Harmon: When you watch that episode, the point where Jeff says he never saw that professor before and it goes to commercial … with her going “What?” And him going, “I don’t know.” And it goes to commercial — that was the entirety of the pitch of that episode, was just this idea. Like we knew this was a good idea, but we didn’t know.
McKenna: There we go, Dan. Do it. Do your thing. Two more acts of it. I was so excited about that first act.
Harmon: I thought you were saying “Go ahead, be a panel hog.”
McKenna: No, but we were so happy with that act break, but we didn’t know what to do with it, and we still didn’t when we started shooting it.
Harmon: It was amazing. I mean, I work in animation now, where you can just make people draw stuff, and we’re not that ballsy. We have human beings that had to show up and go into makeup, and we were like, “Meh, we’ll figure it out.” It was crazy. The third act of that episode was literally like Chris and I ran to the phone, we had figured it out, and we were like, “Oh, there’s a lot of guns in this,” and we had to call S&P at NBC, and we pitched the fine, wonderful woman at S&P at NBC. We pitched her the whole thing, and she heard it all, and she said, “Ah. So they’re not really getting shot?” Like, “Yeah, but they’re squibs.” Then she said something like, “Can the whole thing be about gun safety?” Yes it can, because it wasn’t about anything ten minutes ago. May as well be about pretzels.
McHale: She’s the head writer of This Is Us now.
McKenna: But in typical fashion, we wrote ourselves into a corner, and while we were trying to burrow our way out of it, the production was going. I mean, it was like, This is happening! and it was like, Hello, I guess you have to shoot the thing because it’s Thursday now.
Brie: This is an answer to so many questions about why our hours were so long. I do remember because Kevin Corrigan was so great in the episode but also very shocked by how long it took us to shoot an episode, and I remembered I’d be standing in the hallway, and he’d be like, “I don’t understand. It’s a half-hour comedy show.” And I’d be like, “It’s okay Kevin, now get on your hands and knees. We got to race through this blanket fort.”
McKenna: Adam Davidson shot that episode, and we thought, It’s a movie. There are a million shots in that.
Brie: And then at one point, he’s playing the trīdeksnis. I studied for this panel, you guys. And I will show off my knowledge.
Rash: You prepped. You did prep, Alison.
Pudi: Did you watch the whole series?
Brie: I did not watch the whole series.
Pudi: You watched a lot of episodes though.
Brie: I skipped the gas leak year.
Brie: And I just jumped around.
Pudi: Next question.
What about a blanket fort made you say, “We need to revisit this in a future season?”
Harmon: We did the Ken Burns episode.
This was a creative compromise, right Dan?
Harmon: It was a combination of desperately What have we done that we used to love? and Sony being like, “You’re a million dollars over budget.”
McHale: They had reduced the budget to about $50,000 an episode.
Harmon: I mean, in order to pay for the episodes that we had done. They were like, “You can’t keep making movies every week.” I was like, “What if it’s just photos?” And they’re like, “You got us. You can keep making a TV show technically. This isn’t over. Back to making our VCRs.” See that’s the thing: You can’t trust a TV studio that makes VCRs. They’re like … they hate TV. They’re like, “We must destroy TV.”
McHale: Laser discs.
Season two, episode 13, “Celebrity Pharmacology.” Joel, this was your choice. What did you love about this episode?
McHale: This is where Jim, the dean, has to warm up the junior-high-school crowd before we presented a play about not doing drugs. And Jim did a one-man freeze-tag game and then he kept saying, “Can I get a suggestion?” And the kid just goes, “Bald.” They’re like “All right. Can I get an occupation?” “Mayor of Bald City.” And then Jim proceeded to do … I thought Donald was going to choke to death because he was laughing so hard. When they asked what my favorite episode was, all I said was, like, Jim doing one-man freeze tag and Chang falling in love with a burnt mannequin leg, and I said the scene where they’re discussing monkey gas. And that is, that was my entire … there wasn’t an entire episode. Anyway, that’s what I loved. And when the kids in that episode, at the end of the first act of the play, are chanting “We love drugs!” — again, I was just like, I think I’m on the greatest television show ever made.
Harmon: Was this Hillary Winston or Lauren Pomerantz?
McKenna: I think it was Hillary.
Jim, what do you remember from that?
Rash: Well, now, everything.
McHale: And his bad miming. He was like driving.
Rash: I remember there was a fire.
McHale: There was a fire with the cleaners.
Jacobs: Oh, on the moon or Mars?
Rash: No, I insisted that I was going to definitely say “dry cleaning,” no matter what they suggested. They said, “Go out there and do improv, because the rest of the cast was doing a scene back there, so we might use the audio of your improv while they’re back there.” And so I just did a long improv about a fire at a dry cleaner.
Harmon: What a show.
Rash: What a show.
Pudi: What a time.
“Advanced Dungeons & Dragons”
Season two, episode 14, “Advanced Dungeons & Dragons.” Dan and Chris, you mentioned this episode.
Brie: I chose this episode because I loved playing Hector the Well-Endowed. And I loved that during that part of the episode, I got to improvise a long sex scene with Danny’s, like, maiden. None of the audio is in, but you can figure out what I’m saying.
Brown: It was so dirty, you guys. It was so dirty.
Brie: But also upon rewatch, it’s just storytelling. It’s a very beautiful episode. I’m being genuine, Ken. How dare you.
Jeong: How dare you.
Brie: Take me seriously for once in your life.
McKenna: You got to put it like this if you want to get paid.
McHale: Ken, you were so serious when you filled in for Ellen last week, so can you please.
Jeong: I was not! I was trying to get laughs.
Brie: Let’s not forget that Ken’s sort of in blackface in the episode.
Jeong: You had to bring that up right now. Right now. 2019. Really? Really?
Brie: I heard that was his choice.
Jeong: Right now. How dare you.
Brie: As I was saying, it’s great storytelling, and it has a lot of heart, and it solidifies Pierce as the villain of the group, which is very important to the show.
Jacobs: He was on a throne.
Dan, you mentioned the scene where Jeff confronts Pierce outside, and Pierce says, “You’re giving me a look like I can’t get erect,” as your favorite moment, which is a pretty small moment in the show. What was that about that scene that was so special to you?
Harmon: It was the perfect scene. You showed a clip of it when we came out. “I don’t like being excluded Jeff, do you? Yes!” And it’s just such a great example of it. I’ve never been a joke writer, and I didn’t write those lines about that and those aren’t jokes, but those are lines that are incredibly funny because you love the characters. There are jokes coming from those other characters, and it was just this high point of Chevy. I was like Finally! As much as he hates doing TV — and he should because it’s hard and he’s a self-described legend. Legend. Legend, legend, legend. I have a tic. I say “self-described” just randomly. A very self-described carpet, I love it. No, but like, I get it. I get it, like, from coming from features and having like this career, working the hours that these guys work, was grueling to him, but I remember [thinking] in that moment, Chevy is finally going to thank me. He’s going to see this episode. He might get an Emmy or something. Like, this is like an amazing character for him to play, and it’s courtesy of our writers, Chris, Andrew Guest, Megan Ganz, and me. I had a milk crate full of my old D&D stuff from when I was a preteen, and I hung on to that stuff because Marie Kondo didn’t exist yet and it did spark joy. It did. And I brought it into the writers’ room and just plopped it on the table, and the pride I felt when the writers’ room didn’t go … I was like, “If you guys want to take a look at this stuff, you know, I’d love to do a D&D episode.” And they were like “All right.” And then I went to set or I went to the edit bay, and I came back and had this pitch, this idea. The concept was it [was] created by them, not me. How do you make a D&D session compelling? The idea of the Fat Neil thing, that was you guys, and I was so proud because it was such a great idea, such a great thing. And then the Chris …
McKenna: I came into that room late and they already had this Saving Private Ryan element with Fat Neil, which was a throwaway joke in the conspiracy that then became a person, but I think Hillary was in it too. I forget who was in that room, but it was such a crack team. I mean, if you compare it to …
Harmon: I didn’t know how. I guess this is what it’s like to have a staff of writers.
McKenna: And all of our hard work paid off after that table read.
Harmon: But I just want to say, also, Chris came into the show with this particular ability to start bringing the Chevy character to life — it was like weird, like he’s the 10-year-old son way. That Daffy Duck kind of version of Pierce who’s being dragged out by the ear by Jeff and lectured. It was just magical. And Joe Russo was on point. He’s the guy that’s going to go on and make Marvel movies, but he’s owning that room. There’s no special effects in that episode. Boy, what a show. Just such a good character piece and then the whole thing, yes. We wrote it till 11 a.m. We stayed up all night at Andrew Guest’s house, did shots of whiskey to wake us up after finishing the script, brought it in in time for the table read, read it, and because Game of Thrones wasn’t out there yet, Sony had to have a special meeting and said, “There’s a lot of goblin in this script.” And one of them said, “We wish you had handed this in on time so we could have thrown it in the garbage.” And I was so proud, because this justifies everything about my horrible dysfunctions. This is the most enabling thing that could ever happen.
McKenna: Again, never turn anything in on time.
Harmon: Had you been more professional, you could have made worse TV.
McHale: My favorite line probably, from the whole series, is when [he] gets the sword of Duquesne and he goes, “Oh, I wipe my ass with it and throw it off a cliff.”
Brie: And then he rapes the Duquesne family twice.
I want to open the floor for any Chevy Chase stories or feelings.
Pudi: I will say the erections line — that is another moment for me that I will never forget, because we were outside reading the script with Chevy and he was reading that line for the first time. I was watching him read that line for the first time, and he was saying “erections” or “erection.” And I think he mentioned it should be “erection,” or he wasn’t sure why it was “erections.” And we were all trying to convince him no, that it should be “erections,” plural. And that was when I was like, We made it. This show is the greatest show of all time.
Harmon: Like all of the dialogue wasn’t lifted from the meetings where he’d summon us to his trailer. He just never would remember saying this stuff. “66, dick.” I swear to God, so many lines of dialogue were just written in the margins of the script during these meetings in his trailer. “I speak seven languages.” “I play the piano.” And then we’d write them in the script and he’d be like, “Now we’re talking. Who’s this writer?”
“Critical Film Studies”
Season two, episode 19, “Critical Film Studies.” Danny mentioned this one. I remember when this one came out, it felt like a “eff you” to the people who did not watch and just assumed it was like a bunch of parodies. And also I imagine “eff you” to the network, who’s like “You can’t do My Dinner With André.” How does this sort of represent a difference of what a Community thing is as a homage versus parody for you guys, and what does that mean for writing or performing?
Harmon: Well for me, it was always Abed the character licensed us to do homage. The show wasn’t like, I don’t know, Family Guy. I’ve seen it. My therapist watches it. The show doesn’t just go “Hey, thanks for tuning in. We’re going to do Taming of the Shrew this week.” I grew up watching Moonlighting and I observed, Oh, I love Moonlighting, but this seems like it’s off the rails. And God bless him for experimenting, but it’s like that was the deal-breaker, that it wasn’t an expression of a character. Abed was the guy that made it possible to riff in the vocabulary that the character understood, thereby making it more realistic than if I just did stories about credit cards and jealousy and dyeing your hair. I just understood, like, how do you relate to people without getting kicked out of society? Abed was a film major, and it allowed for this stuff. I think I answered your question.
McHale: I just loved that critics, when the show came out, they were like, “It’s just reference humor.” Critics apologized two years later, going like, “Well it got better.” And I was just like, “Fuck you. It was always good, dick.”
Do you remember memorizing that monologue?
McHale: No, we had teleprompters. You had weeks to memorize it, Danny. What happened?
Pudi: Uh, I don’t know it at all. I just remember the last line: “And I pooped my pants.” I remember that. I remember this is the only episode where I went up to Dan’s office with the director Richard Ayoade, who is incredible, and I thought did an amazing job.
Jacobs: And that was all Joel’s doing, getting Richard to direct the episode.
McHale: One of the funniest, most talented people on the planet.
Pudi: We showed up in Dan’s office, and there was no script yet, and we were talking about My Dinner With André, and I’ve never seen My Dinner With André, so I was like, “I know what I’m doing tonight.” I had to watch My Dinner With André, and then I was like “How is this related to our show?” Because everybody else was dressed in Pulp Fiction clothes. So that night, I remember watching My Dinner With André and being like “These guys are just having a conversation. It’s super-engaging,” but then thinking “Okay, so everyone’s having a Pulp Fiction party. Me and Jeff are just talking at a dinner table? Okay.” And then we showed up with teleprompters, and it was amazing, and the best thing was that Tim Tebow showed up that day.
Jacobs: Oh my God!
Pudi: Because while we’re doing the scene, he’s standing over there because he’s shooting a Hanes commercial right there. I don’t think he was a fan of the show at all.
Jacobs: He didn’t know who we were. He knew Ken from The Hangover.
McHale: He was so excited to see Ken. He was like, “Do The Hangover. Do it. Do it. Do the thing!”
Harmon: “That’s that monkey’s friend!”
Pudi: The whole crew, no one’s watching me and Joel. They’re all watching Tim Tebow talk about a Hanes commercial, and I was like, “This is perfect for our show.”
Brie: It also was like, not the start, but sort of the start of the increasingly creative ways that we would disguise Chevy’s body double so that he was never on set while we were shooting the episode.
Pudi: There were three different Chevys, right? I think there were three different Chevys.
Brie: Yeah, his body double, the gimp.
Pudi: The gimp, the body double.
Brie: Stand-in John, who would read his lines. So we’d just be staring into the body double’s eyes and his blank face, and from way over there you’d hear John like, “What, I get erections. I get erections.”
Pudi: We had to react to one face while we hear “erections” over here.
Brie: That was a really good one.
Pudi: I love that episode.
“Paradigms of Human Memory”
Season two, episode 21, “Paradigms of Human Memory.” Yvette and Jim, you picked this. This is also my favorite episode.
McKenna: “Feast your ears on these memory pops.”
Brown: This is my favorite episode of the whole show because, one, I was so impressed with how quickly we moved. We did like 70 scenes in a week, wasn’t it, you guys?
McHale: How many drawers did you shit in?
Brown: At least five. We were thinking like, We could do this every week? We can do 70 in a week. Why we taking so long? That’s part of the reason why I loved it, because I feel like we were so efficient this week because we had to be. You know what I mean? We had to be efficient.
Brie: We shot at Universal Studios, which was different because we usually shot at Paramount until we moved it to …
Jacobs: We didn’t have the budget to go outside normally, so we were just excited to have sunlight in our faces.
Brown: We also got to see all of the behind-the-scenes stuff. Like we knew how everything works at Universal and things like what. Water that comes down. We know how that works.
Brown: Jaws, we knew how that worked. So we got to be on the other side. You know, I’m a fan of entertainment, so I just love that part of it too, and it’s a really funny episode because just everything goes so fast. The writers created jokes in every single nanosecond, so if you guys haven’t watched this episode in a long time, go back and watch it because there’s jokes on the walls, there’s people walking by that are jokes. It’s not just what we’re saying. It’s jokes on top of jokes on top of jokes. I love this episode.
Jacobs: Chris, that was your …
McKenna: No, that was … my name’s on it, but this was gang-written because we ran out of time, as I know you’re shocked to hear. And so it was gang-written. Dan always wanted to do a clip show that was not a real clip show, which was the opposite reason why you do it. The reason why you do a clip show is like, we’re exhausted, and you just have people sitting in the living-room couch. But you know, everyone thought we were insane for doing this but the crew — Tristram Shapeero directed it — it was this crew, it was like an army, we marched through Universal all day long and got …
Harmon: But also the Russos, right? Didn’t we have three crews going? I don’t remember if they picked up some of this now. Joe, you know, like doing that thing where he seems like a little Mafia character. He’s like, “I’ll tell you what we’re going to do. We’re going to go to the Universal back lot. We’re going to run and gun guerrilla style. I’m going to go over here, Anthony’s going to go over here.”
Brown: That’s your Russo? That’s a good Russo.
[Everyone imitates Russo.]
Rash: I love the idea that you’re acting like he wasn’t sitting at a laptop the whole time typing on it. “Did you watch me?” “Yeah it was great, we got it.”
McHale: He would do fantasy football and be like, “Again, guys.”
Rash: “Do it again. Louder.”
Harmon: That guy really needs to get his shit together or he’s gonna fail.
Rash: I do remember when we were there that day, the War of the Worlds set, the trolley and the things go off. So we were shooting that thing where we supposedly did Habitat for Humanity, and it burned down, and I was scolding them. So every now and then, it would just go off. So we’d be in the middle of a take and we’d hear the car go [makes exploding sounds]. “Let’s hold. Say it fast.”
Harmon: One of the funniest bits I remember is we were at the War of the Worlds set with all of the exploding things and it was this dumb bit.
Jeong: This habitat was for humanity. Yeah, this habitat was for humanity.
Harmon: Did I just do the Dan thing where I repeated your story?
Rash: You know what I loved? When we were on War of the Worlds and I was standing in front of the house. What if we just do Groundhog Day with one answer?
Harmon: I was just thinking of the War of the Worlds bit and like for him yeah, right, okay.
McKenna: But like the detail … I remember like the whole montage. One of my favorite sequences of the whole show I did was the dean’s montage of coming in. They were told it’s too hard because we wanted to do changes — we wanted to actually have everyone in the foreground change, and it was one of those things like, How are we going to do that? But you did a bunch of quick changes.
Jacobs: It was me and Joel and Jim, yes.
Brown: Yeah, we had like a half-afternoon off because guys just sat there as you guys changed clothes.
Rash: Yeah, they just locked it off and then I’d do one and then run and change everything and those two just sat around there.
McKenna: You had multiple. I think Joe and Anthony had to come on and oversee it. By the end of the week, there were definitely like three different sets going on.
Jacobs: But the DGA did call a few times.
Harmon: The core of why the episode succeeds is because we were smart enough to go, “We can’t just do stylistic masturbation. We can’t just send the audience the signal that we’re bored with the show, and we’re going to make fun of TV because what am I doing here?”
McKenna: Except for the cape.
Harmon: And I was talking, “There needs to be something as major here as this is empty,” and Emily Cutler was like, “Britta and Jeff fucked.” That was the episode where we learned that, and it was like you easily forget that where it’s like, oh, a clip show.
McKenna: She only pitched that because she thought she got money for it since paintball they fucked. She thought it was like a character payment.
Harmon: You’re right. I conflated stories. Emily cut that for the paintball episode. Britta and Jeff fucked. This is the episode where someone decided this is everyone finding out.
McHale: I can’t believe Donald didn’t use this image as one of his album covers.
Harmon: Look at Yvette. I love the rakish angle to the hat.
Brown: No, because I had that doggone weave in, so we kind of pinned it to the side.
“Remedial Chaos Theory”
Season three, episode four, “Remedial Chaos Theory.” Gillian.
Harmon: See, season three was good.
I will note, you almost all picked season two moments.
Jacobs: No, this is my favorite episode. This nearly killed us. We were shooting this until the week it aired. I remember one night, we were shooting a completely different episode and they said, “Yvette, Gillian, go put on episode 303’s outfits.
Brown: And I think we cried. I cried.
Jacobs: I just, it … I just think that it’s brilliant and this is just …
McKenna: We need to spray your face one more time with fake blood.
Jacobs: I love this show, guys. Was this the beginning of toilet olives? Was that the introduction? Yeah.
McKenna: As a thing?
Jacobs: No, no, no, that’s existed for time immemorial, since toilets. This was just the first time it had been mentioned on our show.
Brown: Because it was an issue too, because they did want to put blood on my face again, and I remember thinking, We’re still filming another episode!, and I told them how long it would take to redo my makeup, and then you didn’t do it. I remember that. Because it takes a long time to do my makeup.
Jeong: Look at me. But with my kids going “Me so hungee, me so hungee.”
Danny Pudi: Pizza dance.
Brown: Do it. Do it.
Jeong: That pizza dance.
Do a little of the song. You don’t have to do the dance.
Jacobs: All right.
Jeong: It was a joke. I didn’t know she’d do it.
Brown: In those cute shoes, too.
Jacobs: “Pizza, pizza, me so hungee!”
Brown: Yes! Gillian Jacobs. Gillian Jacobs. Gillian Jacobs.
Jacobs: I feel humiliated, but you guys seem to like it, so.
Pudi: For you.
Harmon: I remember McKenna’s face and the storyboard behind him that was one circle for every single character, every single timeline, so 36 circles. It looked like a serial killer’s lair. Was that when you got scratched by the cat? No? maybe.
McKenna: Is was right around there, maybe after.
Harmon: I remember you were looking like, “Anything else?,” and I was like “No, I’ll just do a quick pass on it. You go get some rest.” But then you’re going to rewrite it. I’m like, “No, baby, no.”
Jacobs: Is that why Chang got scratched by a cat?
McKenna: I got bit by my wife’s cat when we were moving out, yeah. So it was right around there, and it was like I was sitting in the room for about a day and a half, and it just started getting bigger and bigger, and then it got really painful and I had to keep holding it over my head, and at some point, I think everyone was like, “You have to go to the hospital.” It was like this big.
Jacobs: You don’t remember?
Harmon: All his fingers were the same length. That’s how big his hand was.
Jacobs: And I also love that it was supposed to air as episode 303 but it aired as 304, so the show opens with us knocking on the door and 303 was the apartment number. Guys, it was a good show.
Pudi: Decent show. Decent show.
Dan Returns, Donald Leaves
So season four happens. Okay, season five, Dan’s back. Not unlike [for] a couple that broke up and got back together, were there sort of commitments? Was it like, “We’re going to be better this time,” in terms of working?
Harmon: I don’t even remember.
McKenna: Hence the promise in the opening musical number. That was like a big promise to NBC.
Harmon: I was like, Why am I back? What back-alley deal did they do to like pick up Pan-Am for more episodes? I don’t know how I got my job back. I have no idea.
Jeong: That was Joel McHale right here.
Jacobs: It was Joel McHale.
Jeong: It was Joel McHale. Seriously. That was all Joel.
McKenna: But it was also amusing how you get a ton of publicity for firing the creator, but then guess what? A ton of publicity for hiring him back.
Harmon: Yeah, the Classic Coke move.
Out of the frying fan, hit the fryer. Donald leaves. Now is the time where I open the floor for stories or feelings about Donald leaving.
Harmon: Why can’t you be a worse rapper?
McHale: I was just worried we were never going to see LeVar Burton again.
Brown: I’ve said this 1,000 times before: Think he’s one of the most talented human beings I’ve ever met. I say it all the time. And I also want to add I didn’t meet Prince, I didn’t meet Michael Jackson, so I’m not trying to say that, but he’s so talented in every creative endeavor. He can bake, he can crochet, he can dance — I’m not kidding, he can bake and he can crochet, he can dance, he can do comedy, he’s funny, physical comedy. He just can do everything. He’s also a kind man, which a lot of people who are super-talented, they’re not always nice, and Donald is. So I just wish him every success.
McHale: There he is, you guys, right back there.
Brown: Donald Glover, everybody! Donald Glover.
Brie: Donald was so funny on the show, and also I think I would put him as the No. 1 who, behind the scenes, had us crying laughing so hard.
Brown: All the time. All the time.
McHale: There was a bit he would do all the time, but I don’t think …
Brown: We can’t talk about it.
Brie: I didn’t think we could.
Brown: But were funny like over and over.
Brie: They’re saying no. They’re saying no. But also …
Jeong: You can talk about [it] on our text chain later.
Brie: We’ll text each other. I’ll text you, Ken, about that. I was just going to say that also [it] will be forever really special to me that we would hear his music before anyone. I will remember always him coming to set being like, “I’m going to make a mixtape,” and us being like, “You make music? Let’s hear it.”
Harmon: “Oh, that’s good. Oh, it sounds good.”
Brown: A real efficient use of time too. Like I talk about this: When they would say “Cut,” I would go to craft services and I would eat doughnuts. That’s how I got diabetes. Donald would write like a TV show or write an album. Like he really used his time efficiently every time they said “Cut.”
Brie: And then I would use time between takes to try to memorize all the lyrics to Donald’s songs and rap them back to him.
Brown: She’s pretty good. She’s pretty good.
Brie: And he would be like, “Please stop doing that.” I’d be like, “I’ll never stop.”
Brown: I thought you were good, Brie. I loved it, Brie. I loved it.
Brie: Thank you.
“Bear Down for Midterms”
Donald is in the next episode. Well, what should have showed up is Ken’s favorite, which is “Bear Down for Midterms.”
Brie: Click it again, click it again.
McHale: Oh my gosh, that explains with the image.
Jeong: I remember there was an episode where I’m eating a pine-cone sandwich. I think they actually … I think it was poorly performed. They cut it from the episode, and then I remember feeling burned out. Maybe it was me just kind of believing my own hype for everything else. I remember sending an email to Dan, and I just said, “Is there a world where Chang could be more grounded?” Because, you know, I used to be a doctor, and I’m eating a pine-cone sandwich. I feel like there’s an arch were Chang could pay his dues. I think he’s been jailed because he tried to murder the study group.
McHale: You tried to murder everyone.
Jeong: But I think that he’s paid his dues, no matter how pathetic he is. He deserves a second chance. I sent this as an email to Dan, and then Dan …
Brie: As punishment, Dan wrote this episode.
Jeong: Yes, and then Dan sends an email back, and I still have it to this day, and it gets me emotional where he said just, “Please, because we’re dealing with Donald’s exit, could you just pretty please eat a pine-cone sandwich for Uncle Dan and Uncle Chris, and I swear to God, in the hot-lava episode, I swear to God, I’ll write you a monologue that you’ll do your best acting. Even your daughters will say, ‘Well, this guy has range.’” And I’m like, “Well I’m not that good of an actor. I’m not that good. I don’t know how to cry on scene.” And then the next episode, which was the “Bear Down for Midterms” episode after the hot-lava episode, it literally is all of my email is in that script, in that monologue. I was describing just what Chang has gone through, and it moved me, it moved me to tears, and when the director said “Action,” I just couldn’t stop crying. It literally was the best moment of my acting career. It’s the best moment, and every time I’ve had to be emotional in a movie since, I always think of “Bear Down for Midterms” because of … it’s because of Dan’s email.
Jacobs: But what would you give to be eating a pine-cone sandwich in a scene now?
Jeong: Oh, I think that would help my career.
Rash: Let’s bring on the pine-cone sandwich.
McKenna: It was chocolate that was made to look like a pine cone.
Jeong: It was not a pine-cone sandwich.
McKenna: Also, we shot the first five out of order. The fifth episode we shot was actually the crack-bandit episode, which I think your final straw was having to walk backwards with the fake …
Jeong: Oh my God, the churro up my ass, from my asshole to my mouth.
Harmon: Season five was good.
Six Seasons and …
I asked for audience questions, and almost every one was the exact same question, which is the movie. Just: “Movie?” I will add, preparing for this, I’ve read you each 5,000 times answer like, “Sure, you’d love to do it.” So I imagine you’d still feel you’d love to do it, but let’s talk about it realistically. What would you need to do it?
McHale: $20 million for Donald. That would do it.
But is it, you know — are you thinking about it? Are you like “Oh, well Alison is wrapping up GLOW, and maybe if we get …”
McHale: My Card Sharks schedule, I’ll check it to see. Part of ABC’s summer of fun, by the way.
Harmon: It is a weird Ouija board thing where who would, how are you supposed to, who’s supposed to say, “Everyone do this”? I don’t know. It just … that’s what I’ve always said. Like I don’t know how to … how does it happen? I don’t know.
Brie: Sounds like it starts with you, Dan.
Pudi: Go, Dan! Do it, Dan!
Brown: Do it. Do it.
Harmon: Yeah, then I’d write it and half the people are like, “Meh, I don’t want to do it.”
McHale: We’ll do it, we’ll do it. Are you guys doing it?
Brown: I’d do it.
Jacobs: I’d do it.
Jeong: Oh yeah.
Harmon: Oh yeah, everyone that’s showed up for the Vulture reunion will do the movie? What a shock. You know who I’m talking about. I’m talking about Jonathan Banks. How are we going to get him?
If there were to be a movie, what would you want from it, regardless of like plot, but like what would you hope?
McHale: A great payday. That would be great.
Brown: I would just love to have everybody back together again. I think that would be sweet. We had a lot of fun. A lot of long hours, but we had a lot of fun on set, and you know, it’s a family, so that would be fun for me to be back and do that.
Jeong: You look back, it’s just like we’re all here because it’s, for me personally, I think it’s the best thing I’ve ever done, been a part of. So I’m very grateful. Very grateful.
McHale: It is the best thing you’ve ever done.
Jeong: Joel tells me that every day. How are dare you. Eff you, Joel. How dare you. I had a moment.
For all of you regardless, you’ve all had super-busy careers, so how does this stack up as you look back on your career over the last 15, 20 years?
Jacobs: I mean, at a certain point, when the fans are organizing their own convention for the show …
Jacobs: CommuniCon, which Yvette and I have attended every … yes.
Brown: Every year.
Jacobs: I think I realized that there was no guarantee that anything I would do going forward would have this kind of impact on people and that’s not … that’s separate from success, but the level of impact and the depth of feeling that people had about it, I recognized at the time that there was no guarantee that anything that I would ever do would mean as much to people. So that is truly extraordinary, and I’m glad that I had the ability to see that in the moment and appreciate it and not just in retrospect. But for that alone, I think it has to be up there for me, No. 1, and I’m so grateful for it. I think for a lot of us, it changed our careers too as actors, in terms of where our careers had been, and so, I mean, it changed everything about my life. So it has to be No. 1.
Pudi: I’m echoing that. Definitely No. 1. From the moment I read the script, like was like trembling, because my agent said, “This is the role you were meant to play,” and they had never said that before or after. So I was like “Okay,” and then I read it, and I was like “This is unbelievable.” The writing is just so rich, it’s so specific. The cast is obviously incredible, and they’re just amazing. So on set, it was just such a joy. Always unpredictable and exciting, and we’d read the script, it was funny. We’d get on set, it became funnier. We’d watch it, and we’d still laugh, and that to me was just so joyful. And then yeah, connecting to people, I get reactions all the time. People saying “You’re just like me and my best friend,” or they’ll quote stuff to me from Farscape that I have no idea what they’re talking about. Or people will be like, “Hey, Parks and Rec,” and I’ll be like, “Wrong show, but thanks.” That’s fine. We’ll take it. But truly, I feel so lucky, so fortunate. To laugh every day like this, it’s the best, so for me, No. 1. No. 1.
Brie: I think what is unparalleled is the amount of laughs that we had behind the scenes. There will never be another job where I cry, cry laughing every day. Like the silliness level was at an all-time high, and we were so close and still remain close and are such a family. Sometimes Betty Gilpin, who I worked with on GLOW, will be like, “I’ve watched the outtakes from Community, and you don’t do that here.” And I’m like, “I’m being professional now.” This is a new side of my career where I’m an adult.
Pudi: You don’t do taco taco taco?
Brie: I don’t do taco taco taco and I don’t do get that goo gone. I also will cherish the amount of languages and voices and characters that we created backstage behind the scenes — when people would come in to play like a guest-star role, I always felt for them because we were very warm and inviting, but we would be quoting jokes that didn’t make it to air.
Brown: So many inside jokes.
Brie: We had shirts made that said “Don’t Eat the Crab Dip.” But they didn’t say, “Yay Yay-ee.” The version we had was, “Don’t Eat the Crab Dip. What!” Because that’s what we thought was the quote for a full calendar year or however long before we watched the episode, and Troy was like, “Don’t eat the crab dip. Yay yay-ee.” They ran it with that one. That sounds interesting. So, yes, I feel like the fun that was had, it can never be matched.
Brown: The greatest gift of Community, for me, has been getting to watch all of these people at the beginning of their greatness. You know, like just you, all of you, it’s like they were starting out. When Gillian talks about it changed her life, she was living in New York and this was, she moved to L.A. for this job, you know? Everybody blossomed on this set, and we got to watch each other. Everything that we’re doing now that you guys love, we got to watch the seeds of that in everyone. So I talk about Donald, but it’s true for each one of them. We got to watch each of them be great and become great, and that’s something that I cherish. I don’t know if you guys know this, I’m like a huge celebrator of people, so whenever one of them does anything, if you see my Twitter, I blow it up because I’m so proud of everything you guys do. I ran into Alison at the Golden Globes. I’m like, “I’m seeing Allison at the Golden Globes, and she’s nominated!” It’s just huge for me, just that I got to see these amazing performers at their beginning — some had already made it, but at the beginning is the greatest blessing for me.
Rash: I feel bad because mine’s going to be exactly the opposite. For me, I couldn’t get out faster enough. No, I mean, to keep it brief, in the sense they had already started shooting the pilot and I walked in to audition for the dean where they were shooting.
Jacobs: In a closed bank in the Valley.
Brie: In Northridge, the porn capital of Southern California.
Rash: Crammed in there, Russo and everybody just crammed in there.
McHale: That’s Chatsworth.
Brie: How dare you.
Rash: I was sort of playing catch-up to this experience a little bit, and then I was sort of like, “You never know if you’re going to be recurring, what that really means,” and I ended up coming back quite a bit and I think …
Rash: I think it was season three when Joel started making eye contact with me, where I felt like my heart sort of took off.
Brown: It takes that long.
Jacobs: The Oscar really changed things on set.
Jeong: Changed it for Joel.
McHale: It was for adaptation. Not original.
Rash: Down here, down here. Someone else did all the work. No real quick, it’s so hard when you’re in something like this, or anything in life, to be completely present in it. It’s really when you’re sitting onstage here, reflecting on this thing that you see this, that you see these clips that you realize that’s what it was doing — it was tugging at my heart when I was there, and I really do appreciate every moment we had on there. Long hours, the creativity, the fact that we were living in a bubble where we were fighting as these underdogs creatively. I mean not creatively underdogs, but I’m just saying we could do things, experiment, and people were like, “What are you doing?” And then a handful, a giant handful of people got us, and I think that there’s such a reward in knowing that we’re telling stories that challenge some people. You’re breaking molds, you’re doing something that’s not on TV, you’re doing epic things, you’re doing small things, you’re doing character things, and you never lose sight of your characters, and Dan’s exactly right. We were saying lines that were connected to character, and I thought that was such a gift. And, so I would say, in conclusion, to this, as I said, let me just briefly, say, so let me end by saying, “Jim, shut the fuck up.”
Anything to add, Dan or Joel?
McHale: I’ll keep it brief: It’s the greatest fucking thing that’s ever happened to me.
Rash: For me, what was so powerful …
McHale: Anyway, I wanted to say this one thing. So we were on the War of the World set, and uh, this house was on fire …
Rash: I have a story too about that.
Harmon: I mean, look, live action doesn’t move as much merchandise, but I have 15 percent of an emotional back end on this that pays dividends every day in the swimming pool that Rick and Morty paid for. No, this is absolutely the thing that I will always be the most proud of. I mean, network TV isn’t necessarily dead, but it’s turned into a different thing. It’s all becoming streaming platforms now. We were there with Tina Fey and Amy Poehler, and like we were there at the end of this crazy era. The end of must-see TV, the end of broadcast.
Jacobs: We helped kill it.
Harmon: We were the tar pit of that period.
McHale: We were the barn.
Harmon: And we got to work with, there was 150 people that were A-list. The guy that hauled the cable, I never knew his name, but the best at hauling cable.
McHale: John Goodman showed up to do the show a couple times.
Harmon: Yeah. It was hands-down, absolutely the most proud that, the proudest? How do you talk? The thing of which I am most proud of, forever and ever.