What is Harmontown?
On the surface, it is a weekly podcast hosted by Community creator Dan Harmon in which he regales for a live audience and about 100,000 podcast subscribers dispatches from his id. But when Harmon found himself fired after the show’s third season concluded in 2012, he decided to take the show on the road, renting a tour bus and traveling the country for three weeks, recording the podcast in comedy clubs and theaters around the country. Director Neil Berekely was invited along to document the trip and the resultant film reveals that Harmontown is more than just a podcast but a community of fans who have found common ground with the writer/producer and each other.
Harmon, in an age where celebrity image is micromanaged to a near microscopic level, brings a rather unexpected level of candor and rawness to his podcast, discussing his work and personal life with virtually no filter. And it is Harmon’s openness that fans have latched onto. It is not just that they identify with his characters on Community, they see that he is just as flawed as them. He is one of them. And indeed they can join him on the usual professional – fan divide as evidenced by Spencer Crittenden. The bearded twenty-three year old went to an early podcast recording. When Harmon asked if there was anybody in the audience who played the classic role playing game Dungeons & Dragons and had experience as a game referee, or Dungeon Master, Crittenden put his hand up. Brought up on stage, it seems as if he never left, with the now weekly Dungeons & Dragons segment of the show being the most popular.
Interestingly, Berkeley also shows that the fame that Crittenden within the Harmontown community Spencer has acquired doesn’t extend far outside its confines, intercutting between Crittenden meeting with fans and signing autographs after a show and him taking a subway ride to New York City’s Times Square, walking anonymously through the hustle and bustle of the Manhattan tourist season.
But Harmon’s honesty is virtually unbridled and that can lead to some exceedingly dark and uncomfortable moments on stage. One night, late in the tour when everyone’s starting to feel a bit frazzled from the relentless schedule, Harmon talks about a fight that he and girlfriend/regular podcast cast member Erin McGathy had the previous evening. There’s not much laughter to be found in the confession as Harmon acknowledges the angry things he said to his girlfriend and under careful questioning from show co-host Jeff Davis, the segment seems more like a session with a psychologist than a comedy show.