Talkin' Shop: A Q&A With Community's Dan Harmon

by Ethan Alter September 6, 2011
Community Q&A With Dan Harmon

TWoP: Is that part of the impetus behind adding high-profile guest stars like Michael Kenneth Williams and John Goodman this year?

Harmon: It's good for press and press promotes your show and spreads awareness of you show. The research indicates that guest stars don't really tend to draw in huge numbers. The things that typically do are special events, like holidays and weddings and funerals and births and things. I don't do that stuff in an attempt to jack up the numbers because I've never really succeeded at doing that. I do it because I think it'll be a cool thing. The characters I use for guest casting are characters that should have this power to them that is supported by a celebrity from the outside playing them. For example, John Goodman appearing as this dean, everything that he has done before adds to the character in an unconscious way.

TWoP: Do you get celebrities asking to be on your show? That happened with Arrested Development as well.

Harmon: Not really. I think I heard that Seth Green really wants to be on the show. Mainly it's just us saying, "You know what would be really funny? If this person walks into the room at this moment." And then we go to that person. It's an uphill battle with that stuff, especially when you're not 30 Rock.

TWoP: Can you offer any teasers of what to expect this season?

Harmon: We're gonna do a pretty crazy multiple timelines episode, where you get to see how an evening would have gone down different roads. Halloween's going to be pretty cool; it's an anthology episode, a little bit more in the direction of "Treehouse of Horror" than we've done in the past. But I think there's an aspect to it that makes it especially Community. Even though you're telling stories that aren't really happening, the stories are providing you with glimpses into the psyches of the characters. And we're going to do another documentary episode.

TWoP: Shows with ratings twice the size of yours often have less than half of the fan passion Community engenders. That's got to count for something.

Harmon: People often ask me about what constitutes a nerd friendly show -- like, does it have to have sci-fi elements? But I think it's just a show that satisfies the secret craving we all have to be obsessed with something and not feel at all stupid about it. Most sci-fi shows give that to people because they're typically written by people who have the same sort of compulsion for detail and surrendering to a narrative. I'm every bit the nerd that anyone who wrote on Star Trek was and I apply that value for detail to Community. And when we go to a convention like Comic-Con, you just hear a different sound coming out of the collective mouth, because there are people in that audience that love the show like you'd love a girlfriend if we were able to have any. They love it the way you love a partner you actually feel secure with -- you can actually say "I love you" without being rejected.

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