Who is Dan Harmon?
You may or may not know who Dan Harmon is but the great achievement of this documentary is that you learn so much about the man through his journey of self discovery. An inspiration to many people across the world, Harmon’s a writer and creator, most famous for his show Community, a show beloved by a deeply loyal fan base and also his first real success. Harmontown is the story of what he did with his life after he was fired from Community and him discovering the real effect he has on people.
His friends and colleagues consisting of famous comedians and actors list various disparaging jokes at his expense to try and describe him but one says that Dan is indescribable. Dan Harmon is a man who achieved his dream only for it to be taken away from him because of his own self-destructive nature, his inability to be happy with what he had. The story also involves an angry voice messages with Chevy Chase and growing alcoholism but Harmon needed a new outlet. Harmontown is the name of a podcast that Harmon, his friend Jeff Davis, girlfriend Erin McGarthy and Dungeon Master Spencer Crittenden are a part of. It usually hosted inside a comic book store but in the wake of Harmon’s firing, he decides to take the podcast on a tour across America.
The documentary follows this tour and how Harmon uses it as a way to connect to people, to find his audience and it becomes a new way for those people to be inspired and unified. Despite the positive reaction it creates for the audience, on the other side it shows a portrait of extreme self loathing and reflection, there is no set routine to Harmontown, it’s almost like a therapy session. Harmon takes the stage for 90 minutes and speaks his mind, comedy coming straight from his complete improvisation. He’s a very complicated man and the filmmakers don’t shy away to show the darker side of who he is. Some shows in the film have Harmon having a great time but then he’s getting blackout drunk and making a fool of himself.
The effect of Harmontown is seen within the show itself, the dungeon master Spencer was an audience member who was inspired by Harmon to become involved. Spencer, is an introvert, a person who struggled with social interaction, believes himself to be alone. Through Harmontown we see Spencer completley leave his comfort zone and discovering new sides to himself along this journey. Harmon himself sees Spencer as the hero of the documentary and is moved that he is responsible for changing the young man’s life. While we see the positive effect Harmon has on people, the film shows the negative effect. Harmon’s relationship with Erin McGarthy is also explored, it really shows how disturbed Harmon views himself as he describes how cruel he can be to his girlfriend. He clearly loves McGarthy but Harmon rejects and doesn’t respect any kind of authority and their relationship suffers because that trait.
The film never tries to show that because Harmon is an inspiration that means he’s a good person. Harmon won’t allow that to happen, his controlling nature has him always reflecting on himself, he’s telling the story in the documentary. Whether he’s on the stage or in private looking into a bathroom mirror, Harmon is dealing with his emotions trying to comprehend why he is the way he is and what he really want the tour to achieve. His bad moments don’t detract from the good and the film does give you context to Harmon’s struggles during his career. Three years and three projects are showcased in between the Harmontown tour: 1999, 2007, 2009. In 1999, Harmon creates a pilot for Heat Vision and Jack with Ben Stiller and Jack Black, both praise it as insanely creative in the film but networks don’t understand it and scrap the series. 2007 has Harmon team up with Sarah Silverman with her own sitcom, his perfectionist nature drives the two apart and Harmon is fired. We see that while many find Harmon to be very talented, he’s always struggled to really express him as a creator.
Community was created in 2009 and has a role in the documentary even though Harmon no longer is involved, its always with him. His dream come true and connected with audiences in extraordinary ways. Both the show and his podcast has been a way for people who believe they don’t belong to make discoveries about themselves. When people watch Community they don’t feel alone anymore. Its amazing to see all sorts of people embrace Harmon as their saviour in a way, stories are told about how his work have changed their lives and those stories connect into Harmon’s personal journey through the documentary. He wants to be a positive force who can change the world and the film shows that he has become that, whether or not he likes who himself or if he really believes it. It’s a great display on how art can influence life, how a TV show that can save a life, how important it is for people to come together when they are in need.
During one of the darkest points of his life, Harmon didn’t vanish from the real world, he sought out and embraced the people. Did he want an audience to his own destruction? Or did he not want to abandon those who believed in him and continue to create a community of people who feel they don’t belong. It’s a complicated adventure and the discoveries he made about himself may lead to Harmon becoming better but the film shows a clear revelation. People don’t love Dan Harmon because of Community, they love Dan Harmon because he is Dan Harmon and everything he creates helps people who feel different find a unity and bond with complete strangers forming their own community, and that is what Harmontown becomes in this documentary. Harmon brings people together and it is an amazing sight to watch this man be an inspiration to so many.
The editing of the film works extremely well, the emotional journeys of Harmon, Spencer and the rest are handled very well. It’s a film about a tortured genius and his effect on the world, it creates a powerful portrait of a man who may never be truly happy with who he is. While very powerful for those who know Harmon’s work, this documentary works just as well for an audience who doesn’t anything about him. It presents its story so well that after you’re watching Harmontown and you’re asked the question of Who is Dan Harmon? the answer is still as complicated as it was before but yet now so simple.
Dan Harmon is indescribable.