“I don’t trust [authority]. If your job is to tell me what to do, I think that’s weird.”
This was an overarching theme to an intimate, no holds barred live taping of KCRW’s The Treatment with Elvis Mitchell and his guest, Community creator Dan Harmon. The recent event was held for KCRW Champions at the beautiful, mid-century modern home of Karen and Stephen Hillenburg in San Marino.
Over the past five seasons, Community has garnered plenty of critical acclaim, but struggled with ratings. Harmon famously left the show for season four, only to return to the show for season five.
“It’s a peaceful time right now.” He told Elvis in front of a crowd of about 90 guests seated around them on pillows and armchairs. This is an unusual sentiment for Dan, who admittedly grew up with not only an aversion to authority, but a massive chip on his shoulder. The audience saw that anger firsthand when Harmon abruptly snapped at someone to turn off their cell phone.
As Elvis pointed out his tendency towards anger, Harmon’s deep self-awareness and vulnerability became incredibly palpable. He confessed that his anger streak has debilitated him over the course of his career. “If I was 28, I would pretend it would have something to do with my work being good so I could justify it, but I’m 41 and I want to have kids and settle down and I don’t think you have to be angry or go dark in order to be meaningful.”
Harmon has channeled that anger into creative pursuits, like Rick and Morty, his animated show on Adult Swim, and his Harmontown podcast. He also created Channel 101, what he calls “punk rock television,” a group of TV creators who are constantly experimenting with many TV tropes, finding out what works and what doesn’t without a studio acting as the middle man between creator and audience.
After all, the audience is the group of people he trusts the most. His job, he says, is to make people happy. That’s also another difference between television and film. “You can go to a film festival and make people watch 45 minutes of a tea kettle whistling in black and white, and you can hear nothing from the audience, and you can still walk out with your beret on feeling like maybe you nailed it. But in TV, if people aren’t laughing, and they’re not crying, and they’re not responding, and you’re not hitting your story points in a timely fashion, you’re held accountable, by the people who supposedly we’re all trying to connect with.”
You can hear the full interview on KCRW’s The Treatment, Wednesday March 12th at 2:30PM on 89.9 KCRW, online at KCRW.com, or wherever you download podcasts.
Written by Jenny Radelet
Photos by Colin Young-Wolff.
See more photos of the event here.