Daniel James Harmon
January 3, 1973
(m. 2014; div. 2015)
|Partner(s)||Cody Heller (2016–present)|
Daniel James Harmon (born January 3, 1973) is an American writer, producer, actor and comedian. Harmon created and produced the NBC sitcom Community (2009–2015), co-created the Adult Swim animated series Rick and Morty (2013–present) and its subsequent franchise along with Justin Roiland, and co-founded the alternative television network and website Channel 101. Harmon published the book You'll Be Perfect When You're Dead in 2013. He also hosted a weekly podcast, Harmontown (2012–2019).
Harmon was born in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. He graduated from Brown Deer High School in Brown Deer, a suburb of Milwaukee, and attended Marquette University. He briefly attended Glendale Community College. He would later use his experiences at the school to form the basis of the show Community.
Early career (1996–2008)
Harmon was a member of ComedySportz Milwaukee, alongside Rob Schrab, a member of the sketch troupe The Dead Alewives. They produced an album, Take Down the Grand Master, in 1996. Harmon frequently appeared at Milwaukee's Safehouse free comedy stage early in his career. A notable routine was a song about masturbation.
Harmon co-created the television pilot Heat Vision and Jack (starring Owen Wilson and Jack Black) and several Channel 101 shows, some featuring Black, Drew Carey, and Sarah Silverman. He co-created Comedy Central's The Sarah Silverman Program and served as head writer for several episodes.
Harmon portrayed a highly fictionalized version of Ted Templeman on two episodes of the Channel 101 web series Yacht Rock, a satirical history of soft rock, featuring stories about Templeman's collaborations with The Doobie Brothers, Michael McDonald and Van Halen. He was the creator, executive producer, and a featured performer in Acceptable.TV, a Channel 101-based sketch show airing for eight episodes in March 2007 on VH1. He and Rob Schrab co-wrote the screenplay for the Academy Award-nominated film Monster House. He is credited with writing part of Rob Schrab's comic book series Scud: The Disposable Assassin, as well as the spin-off comic series La Cosa Nostroid.
Community (2009–2012; 2014–2015)
In 2009, Harmon's sitcom Community, inspired by his own community college experiences, was picked up by NBC to be in its fall lineup. Harmon served as executive producer and showrunner for 3 seasons until May 18, 2012, when it was announced that Harmon was being terminated from his position on Community as a result of creative conflicts between himself and Sony executives. On June 1, 2013, Harmon announced that he would be returning to Community, serving as co-showrunner along with Chris McKenna; this was confirmed by Sony Pictures on June 10. NBC cancelled the show after its fifth season in May 2014, after which Harmon announced on June 30, 2014 that Yahoo! had renewed the series for a 13-episode sixth season to air online on Yahoo! Screen.
Harmontown (2011–2019) and Harmonquest (2016–present)
On May 23, 2011, Harmon began hosting a monthly live comedy show and podcast at Meltdown Comics in Hollywood called Harmontown. After his firing from Community, the show became weekly. The show is co-hosted by Jeff B. Davis. Notably, Harmontown has featured a regular segment where the hosts played an ongoing campaign of pen-and-paper role-playing games, first Dungeons & Dragons, and later Shadowrun, with the help of show Game Master Spencer Crittenden. The segment inspired the Seeso original animated series HarmonQuest. The show has featured guests such as Kumail Nanjiani, Curtis Armstrong, Bobcat Goldthwait, Mitch Hurwitz, Aubrey Plaza, Eric Idle, Greg Proops, Jason Sudeikis, Zoe Lister-Jones, Ryan Stiles, as well as Harmon's then-wife, podcaster Erin McGathy. Harmon and Davis took the show on tour in early 2013, broadcasting from Austin, Nashville, Somerville, Massachusetts, Brooklyn, Rhode Island, and more. The tour became the subject of a documentary produced by director Neil Berkeley that follows Harmon, Davis, McGathy, and Crittenden. The documentary, also called Harmontown, premiered at the Austin Film Festival SXSW on March 8, 2014. On September 10, 2019, the Harmontown Twitter account announced that the podcast would be coming to an end, and its final episode was published on December 5, 2019.
Starburns Industries (2010–present)
During the first season of Community, Harmon also co-founded Starburns Industries together with several people including Dino Stamatopoulos, who played a character called "Star-Burns" on Community. In its first year, this production house produced an all stop motion episode of Community which garnered the company an Emmy for Outstanding Achievement in Animation. Starburns Industries was then involved in the creation of Rick and Morty and animated films Anomalisa and Bubbles. It has also produced two more Adult Swim series: Moral Orel and Mary Shelley’s Frankenhole.
Rick and Morty (2013–present)
Harmon and co-showrunner, Justin Roiland, began developing ideas for an animated show during Harmon's yearlong break from Community. For its fall 2012 season, Adult Swim ordered a 30-minute animated pilot from Harmon and Roiland. The pilot, Rick and Morty, is about the adventures of a brilliant but mean-spirited inventor and his less-than-genius grandson. The show premiered on December 2, 2013 and was renewed for second and third seasons. The series' fourth season concluded in May 2020. Harmon voiced the recurring character of Bird Person. In May 2018, Rick and Morty was renewed for a further 70 episodes after Harmon and Roiland came to an agreement with Adult Swim.
The Sirens of Titan and Krapopolis (2022)
On February 8, 2021, it was announced that Fox has greenlit an animated comedy series from Harmon. The series will be set in Ancient Greece and is a co-production between Fox Entertainment and Bento Box Entertainment. The series will be the first fully-owned Fox series and will premiere in 2022. On May 17, 2021, it was announced that the series would be titled Krapopolis.
"Story Circle" technique
Harmon has adapted a storytelling framework commonly known as the "Hero's journey" to use in TV production under the label "Story Circle." He began developing the technique in the late '90s, while stuck on a screenplay. He wanted to codify the storytelling process — to find the structure powering movies and TV shows. "I was thinking, there must be some symmetry to this," Harmon told Wired. "Some simplicity." While working on Channel 101, Harmon found that many of the directors he was working with claimed that they were unable to write plots for television shows. This caused Harmon to distill Joseph Campbell's structure of the Monomyth into a simple, circular eight-step process that would reliably produce coherent stories.
The story circle can supposedly be applied to all stories. Harmon uses it whenever he is writing a new story, saying "I can't not see that circle. It's tattooed on my brain." The circle is divided into eight segments, each representing a stage of the plot. A character is introduced, wants something, enters a new environment, adapts to that environment, achieves their goal but encounters problems as a result, leaves that world and changes as a result. The steps are as follows:
- A character is in a zone of comfort or familiarity.
- They desire something.
- They enter an unfamiliar situation.
- They adapt to that situation.
- They get that which they wanted.
- They pay a heavy price for it.
- They return to their familiar situation.
- They have changed as a result of the journey.
Joseph Campbell's structure of the Monomyth is the main influence in Harmon's technique. In a blog post detailing the second sector of the circle Harmon explains, "The point of this part of the circle is, our protagonist has been thrown into the water and now it's sink or swim. In Hero with a Thousand Faces, Campbell actually evokes the image of a digestive tract, breaking the hero down, divesting him of neuroses, stripping him of fear and desire. There's no room for bullshit in the unconscious basement. Asthma inhalers, eyeglasses, credit cards, fratty boyfriends, promotions, toupees and cell phones can't save you here. The purpose here has become refreshingly – and frighteningly – simple." The Monomyth has been adapted for screen and television writing before, most notably by former Disney developmental executive Christopher Vogler in his book The Writer's Journey: Mythic Structure for Writers. Harmon has noted this book as an influence on the embryo technique, as well as the work of Syd Field.
Harmon states that this circular structure of storytelling can be applied both to film and TV, suggesting in a Channel 101 blog that only the final intentions are different. "A feature film's job is to send you out of the theatre on a high in 90 minutes. Television's job is to keep you glued to the television for your entire life. This doesn't entail making stories any less circular (TV circles are so circular they're sometimes irritatingly predictable). It just means that the focus of step 8 is less riling-things-up and more getting-things-back-to-where-they-started," he says. Harmon has used the Story Embryo technique extensively throughout projects such as Community and Rick and Morty. In an interview on Collider, writer Adam Chitwood said, "The show [Rick and Morty] debuted in 2013 to a serious degree of anticipation, as it marked a new animated venture for Community creator Dan Harmon, but it was the marriage of Harmon's adeptness for structure and character and co-creator Justin Roiland's insanely creative/sometimes insane mind that made Rick and Morty much more than just another animated TV series for adults."
In an interview with Vulture, Harmon named a number of films, television shows, books, and artists that have shaped his writing style: the films RoboCop, Inception and Network; television shows such as Cheers, Mr. Show, Arrested Development, Second City Television, and Twin Peaks; books including Slaughterhouse-Five, The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy series, and the David Mamet play Sexual Perversity in Chicago; and writers, artists, and comedians including Garry Shandling, George Lucas, Spalding Gray, Charlie Kaufman, Woody Allen, Tom Kenny, and Chris Elliott.
In the same Vulture interview, Harmon mentioned the tabletop role-playing game Dungeons & Dragons, musician Tori Amos, and evolutionary anthropologist Elaine Morgan. Harmon singled out Morgan's "aquatic ape hypothesis", calling it "a peaceful, interesting, mythical concept, and a scientific one, that maybe the origin of Homo sapiens was kind of a fairy tale."
For the sci-fi animated sitcom Rick and Morty, Harmon and co-creator Justin Roiland listed a number of influences on the show's style, including The Simpsons, Ren & Stimpy, South Park, Saturday Night Live, The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, Doctor Who, and the cult sci-fi film Zardoz.
In July 2009, Harmon was nominated in two Emmy categories for his part in writing the 81st Academy Awards telecast: Outstanding Writing for a Variety Special and Outstanding Original Music and Lyrics, the latter of which he was awarded for "Hugh Jackman Opening Number" at the 61st Primetime Emmy Awards.
He was also nominated with Chris McKenna for a Hugo award for writing the Community episode, "Remedial Chaos Theory".
In 2011, while writing the character Abed for Community, Harmon realized through research that he might have Asperger syndrome. He consulted a doctor about it and concluded that he himself is on the spectrum. Harmon had this to say on the matter on a podcast hosted by Kevin Pollak.
I know I'm not normal, but I think the important thing is that [...] I started to discover that I had a lot more in common with Abed than I did with Jeff.
In 2016, Harmon started dating Cody Heller. In January 2019, Heller proposed to Harmon and the couple are now engaged. Heller adapted a real life experience with Harmon for Quibi, Dummy, starring Anna Kendrick as Heller and Donal Logue as Harmon.
On January 2, 2018, Dan Harmon alluded to misconduct from himself towards other people. Megan Ganz, a writer who worked with Harmon on Community responded, naming herself as a victim in said misconduct. Harmon responded by attempting a dialogue with Ganz, wherein he attempted to apologize, and though Ganz said she appreciated his gestures, she declined to forgive him. After the exchange, Harmon made a lengthy apology on his podcast Harmontown where he went into detail about his wrongdoings, which included making advances on her and then mistreating her after she turned him down. Ganz ultimately accepted Harmon's apology, saying that she felt vindicated by the admission and urging her Twitter followers to listen to this episode of Harmontown, calling it a "master class in how to apologize."
Baby doll video controversy
In 2009, I made a "pilot" which strove to parody the series Dexter and only succeeded in offending. I quickly realized the content was way too distasteful and took the video down immediately. Nobody should ever have to see what you saw and for that, I sincerely apologize.
—Dan Harmon, on the "Daryl" skit controversy
In July 2018, Harmon received criticism when a comedy skit from 2009 resurfaced. In the video, titled "Daryl", which was intended to be a parody of Dexter, Harmon acts out a rape using a baby doll as a prop. Vox reported that the video was circulated on 4chan and spread as part of a coordinated attempt to discredit public figures perceived as having leftist viewpoints. Harmon apologized for the video, while multiple sources associated[clarification needed] his decision to delete his Twitter account with the backlash. Adult Swim released a statement criticizing the video, but they appeared satisfied with Harmon's apology. Talking on Harmontown in February 2019, Harmon revealed that he had deleted his Twitter account prior to the backlash, in response to Disney's firing of James Gunn for jokes that Gunn had made in his tweets between 2008 and 2012. Harmon argued that this is what actually provoked 4chan users to target him, having assumed that he was trying to hide something from his past.
|2008||Kung Fu Panda||Uncredited writer |
|2014||Harmontown||Himself||Documentary; also executive producer|
|2015||Knight of Cups||Dan||Uncredited |
|Back in Time||Himself||Documentary|
|2016||Doctor Strange||Uncredited consultant|
|2018||Seven Stages to Achieve Eternal Bliss||Cartwright|
|1999||Heat Vision and Jack||Pilot; creator and writer|
|2003||Computerman||Eugene Murzowski||Also creator, writer and executive producer|
|2006||MTV Video Music Awards 2006||Television special; writer|
|2007||Acceptable.TV||Various roles||Also co-creator, writer and executive producer|
|2007–2010||The Sarah Silverman Program||Co-creator and writer|
|2008||Googas||Dan||Also co-creator, writer|
|Spike Video Game Awards 2008||Television special; writer|
|2009||The 81st Annual Academy Awards||Television special; writer|
Writer and executive producer (season 1–3; 5–6)
Executive consultant (season 4)
|2012||Mary Shelley's Frankenhole||Dr. Jekyl (voice)||5 episodes|
|2013–present||Rick and Morty||Birdperson / additional voices||Also co-creator, writer and executive producer|
|2013||Arrested Development||Yurt Clerk||Episode: "Borderline Personalities"|
|Axe Cop||Audience Member (voice)||Episode: "Babysitting Uni-Baby"|
|2015||Drunk History||Narrator||Episode: "Miami"|
|The Simpsons||Episode: "Mathlete's Feat"; wrote couch gag|
|2016||Great Minds with Dan Harmon||Himself||Also writer and executive producer|
|2016–present||HarmonQuest||Himself / Fondue Zoobag / Limerick O'Shift||Also creator, writer and executive producer|
|2017||Dr. Ken||Himself||Episode: "Ken's Big Audition"|
|Mystery Science Theater 3000: The Return||Writer|
|Animals.||Ad Man 1||Episode: "Humans."|
|The Simpsons||Himself (voice)||Episode: "Springfield Splendor"|
|Good Game||Suit||Also executive producer|
|2022||Krapopolis||Creator and executive producer|
|TBA||The Sirens of Titan||Director|
|Strange Planet||Creator and executive producer|
|2017||Guest Grumps||Himself (director)||Episode: "The Cat in the Hat with Special Guest Dan Harmon"|
- Scud: The Disposable Assassin #4–5, 8–9, 13–15 & 17–19 (co-writer and illustrator Rob Schrab, co-writer Mondy Carter, colorist Zac Rybaki, Fireman Press, 1994)
- La Cosa Nostroid #1–9 (illustrator Edward Clayton, Fireman Press, 1996)
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