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What The Hell Is Harmontown?

On 13, Mar 2014 | In Press & News | By SBI

Empire explores the cult writer’s new podcast-documentary…

If you Google Dan Harmon, amongst the suggestions that appear are “Dan Harmon Community,” “Dan Harmon Chevy Chase” and “Dan Harmon fired”. In its neat little way, the search engine thus sums up the three things for which the writer is best known: creating cult US comedy Community, having an enormous bust-up with cast member Chevy Chase (involving Harmon publicly playing an expletive-ridden voicemail from the actor) and getting fired from that very same show he created. It wasn’t always this way.

Dan Harmon isn’t a household name, but he’s a 41-year-old writer with a remarkable legacy: as well as Community, he co-wrote Monster House, co-created The Sarah Silverman Program, and in 2009 won an Emmy for Hugh Jackman’s opening number at the Oscars. But as Google attests, such glories aren’t the first things that spring to mind when Harmon’s name comes up. That’s already changing, though, and Google should probably do some catching up: last year, the writer was re-hired to Community (in what appeared to be an industry first), co-created with Justin Roiland the brilliantly inventive cartoon Rick And Morty for Adult Swim, and now is releasing a documentary, Harmontown, about… well, about him. How did this remarkable turnaround happen? And is the documentary anything more than just rampant egomania?

In the midst of his troubles with Community, Harmon turned to the stage, and to podcasting. With the help of comedian friend Jeff Davis, in 2011 he started Harmontown, a weekly show where he and Jeff thrash out Harmon’s problems and emotional hang-ups to a small, dedicated audience in the back of a comic book store. Thanks to their wit and intelligence, the entirely unplanned Harmontown quickly proved popular, and after turning it into a podcast – and Harmon finding himself fired – they decided to take it on a nationwide tour and film pretty much everything that happened. The man with the camera was director Neil Berkeley, who previously made the documentary Beauty Is Embarrassing, and after a year of editing, the final product premiered this month at SXSW.

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