Harmontown barged into my life like an unwanted guest a few months ago and took up residence. Despite my resentment, every week when the time comes, I download the next episode.
Being a huge Community fan (with the exception of the gas leak year, obviously), I have been aware of Dan Harmon for some time. I, like most people, largely thought of him in terms of sitcoms and the incident with Chevy Chase. Then Harmontown (the documentary about the podcast) came onto Netflix and I watched it out of desperation on New Year’s Eve (I was psyching myself up to go out. I really hate NYE) in the hope that I would catch a few lingering shots of Joel Mchale, ideally shirtless.
So far as a shirtless Joel was concerned, I was left wanting, but what I found instead was a drunken idiot I was equal parts intrigued and disgusted by (Harmon). Watching that movie, I experienced for the first time the strange feeling of rooting for someone and wanting his girlfriend to break up with him simultaneously.
Harmontown (the podcast) is a live show featuring Harmon himself, obviously, comptroller Jeff Davis, dungeon master Spencer Crittenden (although they never really do that anymore) and (usually though not officially) Rob Schrab, Dan’s screen writer friend.
What it’s about is a little difficult to define.
Nerd culture plays a big part. Despite my frustrations with Marvel, I remain the sort of person who can listen to people get passionate about super heroes. Other times – the times when I start to wonder why I’m listening, incidentally – they talk about Dan’s Porn Hub addiction (the girlfriend – then wife, actually – did break up with him), and his thing with mannequin legs…
Schrab can always be relied on to do something ridiculous.
At its heart, though, Harmontown is its audience. It’s a community of weirdos in a safe space being weird together, and that’s reflected in the fact that Harmon doesn’t hesitate to pull audience members on stage for an interview if he thinks they might say something interesting. And – at least as far as I can tell – they are more than happy to oblige. Some of the time the conversations Harmon strikes up with adoring strangers are just silly, but other times the moment takes a turn into something more sincere. Sometimes he’ll talk to someone who’s chronically depressed, or someone he recognises as having had the same sort of childhood he did.
It’s part comedy show, part therapy session.
Sometimes part TMI.
But all the moving parts of this show connect into something generous, weird, and funny.
It’s a strange new obsession for me, this one.