Dan Harmon Broke My Heart with His Enormous Brain

I went to see Harmontown at Sketchfest, and got a little fan-girly about it.
Publish date:
February 10, 2012
community, dan harmon, fangirling

I have a giant crush on Dan Harmon, the creator of NBC’s Community. It’s not just that his show is amazingly well-written, although it is. And it’s not just that Harmon is intelligent and funny, although those things are certainly part of the appeal.

I love Dan Harmon because he is, at his core, an openly damaged guy with a mansion-sized host of emotional issues.

Unhealthy? I know. But it’s who I am. I am the girl who falls for broken men.

Harmon is admittedly anti-social and curmudgeonly, seeming to prefer the company of alcohol to that of other human beings. He invests himself in his writing, both comedic and otherwise. He overcompensates for his pain by having an enormous sense of self-worth: a contradiction that can be found in every guy I’ve ever fallen for -- and if I’m being honest, a trait that I myself share.

And so when I saw that he was coming to my town to take part in San Francisco's annual Sketchfest, the yearly comedy festival, I purchased those $20 tickets faster than you could say “fangirl.”

The show, entitled Harmontown, can basically be boiled down to this: With a drink in hand, Dan Harmon talks to the audience for an hour and a half about whatever comes to mind, while comedian Jeff Davis ("Whose Line is it Anyway") encourages him and attempts to keep him on some sort of coherent track.

It’s not for everyone, but I loved it.

Like me, most of the people in the audience were already Harmon fans. My roommate and I laughed when we walked into the small theatre before the show started -- the seats were filled with people looking holding their phones, each screen displaying a Twitter feed.

That’s just the kind of audience that Dan Harmon attracts, I guess: pop culture-obsessed social media nerds. My kind of people.

Dan talked to us about how much he loved our city, entertaining us with stories from the day he’d had with Jeff. Most of the audience knew that they’d been drinking since at least noon. We’d already read his tweets about it!

But that was part of the show’s charm. It felt like sitting around a living room with your friends, beers in hand, all retelling stupid stories that can only be that funny when you’re in the moment.

Right off the bat, Dan Harmon showed off his ego, telling us that he’s “ridiculously smart” and has a “huge, massive brain.” He emphasized this point several times throughout the show, in a way that managed to be both self-deprecating and honest. He has fully embraced the role of tortured genius, and he wears it well.

Another selling point of Harmontown is the level of Harmon’s sincerity. His comedy isn’t the kind of stand-up that’s based on punchlines rather than truth.

He’s talking about his life, both the good and the bad. And it’s not all funny.

The most disturbing (and in my case, crush-inducing) moment of the show was when he sidetracked into a story about his ex-girlfriend.

They’d been together for 3 years. Harmon barely seemed aware of the audience as he admitted that she hadn’t been at all to blame for their break-up. How they came to a point where he needed to propose or pack his bags, and he picked the latter.

She’d been a perfect girlfriend, he said. He thought he was in love with her. You could tell that he was still beating himself up over the relationship’s end, but at the same time, he was elated to tell us about his new 27-year-old girlfriend, with whom he claims to already be in love.

There wasn’t really a point to the story. No one laughed. It would have been inappropriate. I think he told us the story because it was true. It was on his mind.

I could imagine myself being that girl, could almost feel her pain. I know, because Dan Harmon is the kind of guy I always feel like I have to “save.” She dedicated three years of her life to him, probably loved him completely. And one day, he just decided she wasn’t worth the effort.

It stung, but you know what’s really screwed up? Even though I knew I should hate him on his ex-girlfriend’s behalf, his story simply managed to break my heart and make me love him even more.

Further endearing Dan to me was the way he interacted with his opening act, a midwestern white guy duo who performed sketch comedy under the name “Teenager of the Year.”

Look, it SUCKS to be an opening act. Especially when you’re opening for an audience of hardcore fans who are eagerly awaiting the man they came to see.

Teenager of the Year was funny. They weren’t super polished and their act was based on a lot of simple, juvenile humor, but they got the audience to laugh. It helped that they were cute, too.

Dan Harmon came out into the audience to watch their show, when he could have been getting drunk in the green room. He’s the writer of a critically acclaimed television show, and I’m sure he pretty much made these guys’ lives just by sitting in the audience and watching them perform.

But then he did even more than that. Once he was on stage, Harmon referenced Teenager of the Year several times. Even when he was poking fun at them, it seemed to come from a genuine, supportive place. Twice, he pulled them back on stage and asked them to show us some of their unperformed sketches (“Ninja Rapist” and “Nickleback Cruise,” in case you were interested.)

After the show was over, Harmon continued to be a class act, chatting with even his nerdiest of fans, taking pictures and signing whatever was handed his way.

I told him about my crush, because I think that everyone deserves to hear that they’re loved. We had a big hug and took a picture, which turned out so cute that I don’t even care about how awful I look in it. And that’s huge for me.

Although I sometimes wish that I lived in Los Angeles and could go see Harmontown on a regular basis, it’s probably healthier for me that I don’t. The regular dose of hilarious heartache is probably more than I could bear, and I doubt that Dan Harmon is looking for a stalker.

For now, I’ll just keep on falling for damaged men in San Francisco. There are plenty of them. And I’m sure I can find someone willing to ignore me, break my heart, and leave me sad and alone. A girl can only dream.