Dan Harmon Learned From ‘Community,’ Says ‘Rick and Morty’ Won’t Make Any Meta Jokes About Justin Roiland’s Removal
Rick and Morty Season Seven premiered on Sunday, marking the beginning of the show’s post-Justin Roiland episodes after Adult Swim removed the controversial star and co-creator. Though the series now treads uncertain waters, fans can take solace in knowing who is steering the ship — Dan Harmon has plenty of experience with cult meta comedy TV shows acrimoniously removing creators and actors.
Throughout Roiland’s high-profile arrest, arraignment and eventual dismissal on felony domestic violence charges, his former creative partner stayed uncharacteristically silent. Only recently has Harmon begun to open up about the degradation of the relationship between him and Roiland over the last three seasons of Rick and Morty and the pain he feels now knowing how Roiland was using his position on the show to prey on young fans. Earlier in his career, Harmon organically grew a sizable following by sharing his every thought, feeling and personal problem on his previous podcast Harmontown and through his numerous social media accounts, which made his own bitter removal from Community in 2012 and public clashes with one of the show’s biggest stars even more explosive for the entertainment reporters and gossip blogs of the world. But now, on the topic of the most recent controversy surrounding his life, Harmon has been choosing his words carefully and infrequently.
In a recent talk with The Hollywood Reporter regarding the recasting of Roiland’s roles and the selection of the new Rick and Morty voice actors, Ian Cardoni and Harry Belden respectively, Harmon was asked whether the flagrantly fourth-wall-breaking series would ever address Roiland’s unceremonious departure during an episode. “I doubt it,” said Harmon, presumably as a specter of Chevy Chase shouted a racial slur in his subconscious.
Harmon made clear his hope that the drama of the Rick and Morty off-season will not spill over into its return, saying, “Our metric of absolute success in the transition would be if the hypothetical casual viewer who was out of the loop on any behind-the-scenes drama about the show were to keep right on watching it and say, ‘This season’s better than the other one’ or ‘This may be my favorite episode.’” He added, “If that person is able to continue their journey from the womb to the tomb with Rick and Morty and a furniture-like stability, that is the best we can do in this particular job.”
Though Harmon projects have characteristically blurred the lines between art and artist, fiction and reality, Harmon says that the maniacally meta Rick and Morty will not mine behind-the-scenes drama as part of the artistic experience. “I used to do that all the time on Community,” Harmon admitted. “If you watched Community, you followed along with Tumblr, you were given big insight into my various personality disorders and relationships with fans. This, I don’t think, is the right way to play it on this one.”
Community could pull off cheeky nods to its real-life drama expertly — like when Harmon killed off Chase’s character Pierce by having him jizz himself to death after Chase got himself fired for being a huge dick — but the subject matter of the Roiland scandal doesn’t lend itself to side-eyed snark or dirty jokes. Harmon concluded with a thought no Rick and Morty writer has ever heard from Roiland, saying, “We want to suck it up and play it grown-up style and get back to work.”