You know him as the TV creator able to successfully navigate both animation and live-action, with Community and Rick and Morty ranking among the best in their respective genres. You may know him as the man who learned that he might have Asperger’s after writing one of his own characters. But did you know that Dan Harmon started off by doing training videos for restaurant chains? Or that he’s served as a script doctor for a massive animated film franchise?
We’re going to dive into those tidbits and more about the man who despises Rick and Morty trolls as much as the next person and who, for all his faults, at least tries to be better…
A Firing Led to ‘Community’
Harmon and Rob Schrab co-created the 2007 sitcom, The Sarah Silverman Program, along with Silverman. Harmon, however, only lasted six episodes before he was let go. “Basically, I was head writer for the first order of six episodes, but I didn’t even get through writing all of those,” he has remembered. “But a couple episodes into the writing process, I started lipping off to Sarah too much, and we… I tend to work very hard, and I get emotional. Emotional’s not the right word either; I get obsessive. I want to make everything perfect, and I have a delusion that I’m the one who has to make that happen. And when you’re working on The Lucille Ball Show with Lucille Ball, that’s a pretty unprofessional attitude to take.”
Out of work and looking for something to do, he wound up taking a Spanish class at an L.A. community college, where he got his idea for his now legendary sitcom.
He Did a Training Video for Cousins Subs in the 1990s
Before becoming a successful TV writer in Hollywood, Harmon acted in a training video alongside Schrab for the Cousins Subs chain, playing an uncaring employee who has a Looney Tunes moment in the kitchen.
He Won an Emmy for Writing an Academy Awards Opening Song
In 2009, Harmon won his first Emmy — not for Community, but for writing the “Hugh Jackman Opening Number” at the 81st Academy Awards. The bit was filled with Harmon’s love for all things meta, and he would later go on to win two Emmys for “Outstanding Animated Program” as the producer of Rick and Morty.
He Was an Uncredited Writer on ‘Kung Fu Panda’
“I came in about four writers into the process,” Harmon once revealed. “It’s kind of hard to write a ‘better’ scene than the last writer when the rules are that you can only change 30 percent of each scene or completely change 30 percent of the scenes. So, for instance, the panda comes up a flight of stairs carrying a bucket of water, slips on a banana peel, says something to two geese and does an air guitar. The good news? There can be anything in the bucket. Your mission: Make the movie better.”
He Once Wrote and Starred in a Film with Tenacious D
Before they would make a show about a belching grandpa and his forever quivering grandson, Harmon wrote an iTunes short film that saw him star alongside Justin Roiland and the Tenacious D duo, Jack Black and Kyle Gass. Called Tenacious D: Time Fixers, the bonkers short was supposed to promote the Tenacious D in The Pick of Destiny album and, subsequently, the movie.
How He Became Part of #MeToo
On New Year’s Day 2018, Harmon (who was still on Twitter back then) tweeted this:
That reply comes from Megan Ganz, a Community writer who revealed that Harmon was talking about her and that he’d treated her like shit after she rejected his advances. Harmon, in turn, used his podcast Harmontown to apologize (at length) to Ganz and take full responsibility for his actions. He’s been lauded for the way he handled the reckoning, especially his immediate and full admittance of the harm he had done; meanwhile, Ganz accepted his apology, saying that she felt vindicated. She added that, due to the specificity of his acknowledgment speech, it was a masterclass on how to apologize.
’Cheers’ Was One of His Biggest Cultural Influences
In a list that includes Joseph Campbell, George Lucas, RoboCop and Special Agent Dale Cooper from Twin Peaks, Harmon also credited the 1980s bar sitcom for his own creativity. “The characters were so distinct,” Harmon said about Cheers. “As with Peanuts, you could put them in outer space and still know which one was Charlie Brown. And my goal has been to make characters that distinct from each other and identifiable at their core. A neat freak is not a character; that’s a behavior. If the character is a neat freak and you do an episode where they’re forced to be sloppy, you’ve jumped the shark.”
He Has Worked on a Marvel Movie
He References ‘Zardoz’ A Lot
“Community” — Netflix
In yet another article where Harmon (along with his disgraced former Rick and Morty collaborator, Justin Roiland) talks about pop-culture influences, he brings up his fondness of Zardoz, the bizarre sci-fi fantasy movie in which Sean Connery sports the wildest red outfit in cinematic history.
“I like Zardoz. It’s an insane film,” Harmon told Vulture. “At the beginning of the director’s commentary, John Boorman says, ‘Hello, I’m John Boorman. In (1974), I made a movie called Zardoz, and it’s kind of got away from me.’ It’s so ambitious; it has so much crazy shit in it. For that reason, it’s stuck in my brain alongside classics that have supposedly earned it, like Citizen Kane, or Moby Dick, or whatever. I’m referencing Zardoz more often than people know.”
He Has Been Quite Disappointed with ‘Rick and Morty’ Fans
In a 2018 interview with GQ, the creator of the show that turned some of its fans into Szechuan sauce maniacs lamented the trolls and the negative meme-ification of Rick and Morty viewers. “It’s a huge bummer,” Harmon said. “Do I worry about them ruining everything? Yeah, I do. Once the title of your show becomes a way of describing a demographic, that is toxic.”
The Hallmark Movies That Broke His Brain
In 2021, Harmon took to Instagram to share his confusion over Hallmark seemingly producing and broadcasting two movies (both titled Sister Swaps) with the same plot, characters and actors mere days apart.
He later posted a side-by-side comparison, pointing out the similarities and one tiny disparity:
The creators of both films eventually responded and explained that it was some new novel way of thinking outside of the box and creating two movies within the same time frame or whatever. No one, however, responded to the fact that Hallmark clearly scored on payout here, with the creators essentially filming two movies at once.
The Two ‘Rick and Morty’ Episodes He Dislikes the Most (So Far)
Harmon said that the Season One episode “Raising Gazorpazorp” was his least favorite, especially after people started commenting on it. “I was so proud while I was writing it, and then I read people’s comments on it how it felt stale and ’80s in its observations about gender,” Harmon told Entertainment Weekly. “And now I hate it and want it to die by fire.” As for Season Three’s “Vindicators 3: The Return Of Worldender” — that is very much Guardians of the Galaxy meets Saw. Harmon called it “the worst episode of Rick and Morty ever.”
He Learned a Lot From Watching Himself in ‘Harmontown’
Harmon said that it was quite something watching himself in his documentary, Harmontown, in which he took his podcast and traveled around the country after being fired from Community after Season Three. He said that he could see how “clinically mean” he was to his then-girlfriend, Erin McGathy. “I had to have a documentary made about me to see what a shitty boyfriend I was,” Harmon said. “I’m not kidding at all. You can see me behaving that way toward her.”
He also added: “You don’t see me rise back up in that movie. You see me realize that I’m a big baby, and you see me realize that I can’t be a man.”
His New TV Show Has Already Been Renewed for Three Seasons
As reported by Deadline in March, Fox not only shifted Harmon’s new animated blockchain series Krapopolis from premiering in May this year to, uh, sometime in the future, but it’s already been renewed up to Season Three — without viewers even seeing a single episode.
He Once Shared Some Great Advice on Dealing with Depression
Harmon might be a loud, brash and often unfiltered individual, but he can also be introspective, compassionate, and, you know, pretty deep. After all, he did cite Joseph Campbell as helping him let go of his former arrogance toward religion and spirituality. When a Twitter user once asked him for advice on dealing with depression, Harmon shared this: “The most important thing I can say to you is, please don’t deal with it alone. There is an incredible, miraculous magic to pushing your feelings out. Even writing ‘I want to die’ on a piece of paper and burning it will feel better than thinking about it alone. Output is magical.”