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“I Hate Myself”: Dan Harmon on His Candid New Road Documentary ‘Harmontown’

On 10, Mar 2014 | In Press & News | By SBI

AUSTIN, TX: One of these days, we’ll grow to understand that strange period a couple of years back when men were fired from their entertainment industry jobs, and responded by going out on tour. First came Conan O’Brien, whose Tonight Show ouster was followed by his “Legally Prohibited From Being Funny on Television” Tour and an accompanying concert documentary, Conan O’Brien Can’t Stop; Charlie Sheen followed suit after his noisy departure from Two and a Half Men, though that disastrous tour went thankfully undocumented. And then there’s Dan Harmon, who threw himself into his Harmontown podcast after he was removed from Community, the television program he created. In January of last year, Harmon and his crew of misfits went on the road for a 20-city tour, playing clubs sparsely populated by comedy nerds, and documentarian Neil Berkeley came along. The result is Harmontown, a film that is far more complicated and entertaining than the fanboy home movie you might anticipate (and dread).

Berekely’s participation is the tip-off there; this is no for-hire hack, but the director of the remarkable Beauty Is Embarrassing, another recent portrait of the pitfalls of talent and genius. That film prompted a plea from Harmon to make this one, Berkeley explained at Harmontown’s Saturday night SXSW premiere, and “the reason I said yes, and the reason I’m here tonight, is that I went to Dan’s podcast, and I met the kids that were at that show… and I quickly understood why there were there. I became fascinated, I fell in love with these people that were at these shows. And eventually I realized that this movie’s not about liking or loving Dan, but understanding why these people are in that room.”

Most, it seems, are there because they see in Harmon something of themselves. He states in the film that he started doing the intimate weekly podcast not as promotion or entertainment, but as an outlet — it’s what he does instead of going to therapy. At its best, the show (and the film) burns with that kind of raw, open honesty; “Dan goes up there and he says, ‘Hey, I’m a flawed person, I have problems, I have issues, but I’m talking about them,’” Berkeley explained, “’and let’s talk about that and let’s be real with each other.’ And all these 50 kids in that room go there every Sunday because they want to be open and honest, because they’ve been quiet and scared and lonely.”

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