Community creator and showrunner Dan Harmon could have done any number of things after he was unceremoniously dumped from his own NBC TV show in 2012. He could’ve jumped to another show on a rival network. He could’ve wallowed in misery and self-pity. Or he could’ve pursued his dream of making a Dungeons and Dragons movie (we’re still holding out hope for that one).
Instead, Harmon set off on a cross-country tour in support Harmontown, the comedy podcast he co-hosts with Jeff B. Davis. They brought along filmmaker Neil Berkeley to capture it all for the new documentary, Harmontown, the exclusive trailer for which you can watch above.
While the comedian admits there were dark times following his dismissal from the beloved sitcom — which helped launch the careers of such stars as Donald Glover and Gllian Jacobs, and which led to a public spat between Harmon and cast member Chevy Chase — the 41-year-old Harmon says he didn’t have any reservations about letting the cameras in on his rebound attempt. “I think it was the opposite,” Harmon told Yahoo Movies by phone this week. “It was a comforting thing to do in the face of what would otherwise be a dark time. I had grown accustomed to feeling creatively active, and feeling like the center of attention working on the show. So rather than just go back to being behind a laptop trying to make something from scratch — which was a [scary] proposition — the easier and more cowardly thing to do was to get on a bus and surround myself with cameras, and go from town to town accepting hugs.”
Listeners of the comedian’s weekly podcast (which he dubs “Harmeniens” — a play off LA’s heavy Armenian population) know that Harmon makes no secret of his desire for attention. “I’ve always been kind of obsessed with myself, or obsessed with my obsession of myself,” he said. Watching Harmontown, he said, ” confirmed something that I guess I already suspected, which is that I don’t really exist without approval from others. I want to be the person who wants to make other people laugh. But I do want credit for it, and I want a hug from them for doing it.”
Harmon approached Berkeley about directing Harmontown after seeing the filmmaker’s 2012 debut, Beauty Is Embarrassing, a stylish documentary about pop artist Wayne White. “I loved the way it looked, and I also felt like [White] was a guy who I otherwise I wouldn’t have known existed,” Harmon said. “He toiled behind the scenes, and [Embarrassing] was bringing him into my living room, and making him seem very cool and beautiful.” Harmon, added with a laugh: “And I just very selfishly thought maybe we could do that to me, as well.”
Harmontown features testimonials from many of Harmon’s famous friends and collaborators, including Joel McHale, Jack Black, Ben Stiller and Sarah Silverman — though not Chase, whom Harmon said they reached out to, but couldn’t coordinate with, schedule-wise. All were given free rein to discuss Harmon as honestly as possible. “Anybody that says anything negative about me, they kind of make the documentary more interesting,” Harmon said. “I’d rather be a bad person in a good movie than a good person in a bad movie. “
Harmon, of course, returned to Community in 2013. The show was canceled by NBC after its fifth season, but Harmon announced earlier this year that it would return for a sixth season right here on Yahoo. Production is set to start again on Nov. 17, and Harmon says the show will make its online debut “sometime in the new year,” so look for new episodes to pop pop in early ‘15.
Harmontown opens in select theaters and on nationwide VOD Oct. 3.