Dan Harmon

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Dan Harmon
Dan Harmon (14790686643).jpg
Harmon at the San Diego Comic-Con in 2014.
Born (1973-01-03) January 3, 1973 (age 44)
Milwaukee, Wisconsin, US
Occupation Writer, producer
Known for Community
Rick and Morty
Channel 101
Monster House
Heat Vision and Jack
Spouse(s) Erin McGathy (m. 2014–2015)

Dan Harmon (born January 3, 1973) is an American writer and producer. Harmon created and produced the NBC comedy television series Community, co-created the Adult Swim animated series Rick and Morty, and co-founded the alternative television network/website Channel 101. Harmon published You'll Be Perfect When You're Dead in 2013.[2]

He also hosts a weekly eponymous podcast, Harmontown.

Early life[edit]

Harmon was born in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. He graduated from Brown Deer High School in Brown Deer, Wisconsin, a suburb of Milwaukee, and attended Marquette University. He briefly attended Glendale Community College. He would later use his experiences at the community college to form the basis of the show Community.[3]


Early career (1996–2008)[edit]

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.

Dan Harmon at a panel for Community at PaleyFest 2010.

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.[4] He is credited for 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)[edit]

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 let go from his position on Community as a result of tensions between himself and Sony executives.[5] On June 1, 2013, Harmon announced that he would be returning to Community, serving as co-showrunner along with Chris McKenna;[6][7] this was confirmed by Sony Pictures on June 10.[8] NBC cancelled the show after its fifth season in May 2014,[9] 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.[10]

Harmontown (2011–present)[edit]

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 Sudekis, Zoe Lister-Jones, Ryan Stiles, Robin Williams, as well as Harmon's ex-wife, podcaster Erin McGathy.[11] 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.[12][13]

Rick and Morty (2013–present)[edit]

Harmon and co-showrunner, Justin Roiland, began developing ideas for an animated show during Harmon's yearlong break from Community.[14] 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.[15] The show premiered on December 2, 2013 and was renewed for a second season.[16] Harmon voiced the recurring character of Bird Person.[17]

Great Minds with Dan Harmon (2016–present)[edit]

Since February 2016, Harmon has starred as a fictional version of himself in Great Minds with Dan Harmon, a time travel comedy series on History.

"Story embryo" technique[edit]

Harmon's illustrated story technique

Harmon has invented a storytelling framework referred to as the "Story Embryo".[18] 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 says. "Some simplicity." [19] 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.[20] 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 supposedly can be applied to all stories. Harmon uses it whenever he's writing a new story, saying "I can't not see that circle. It's tattooed on my brain."[21] 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:

1. A character is in a zone of comfort or familiarity.

2. They desire something.

3. They enter an unfamiliar situation

4. They adapt to that situation.

5. They get that which they wanted.

6. They pay a heavy price for it.

7. They return to their familiar situation.

8. 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."[22] 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 techniqe, as well as the work of Syd Field.[23]

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.[citation needed] Harmon has used the Story Embryo technique extensively throughout projects such as Community[24] and Rick and Morty.[25] In an interview on Collider.com 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 a six part series on the Channel 101 wiki, Harmon broke down the specifics of the technique.[26] In this series of blog post Harmon also revealed the influence the Sigmund Freud and Carl Jung have on the technique, saying:

Your mind is a home, with an upstairs and a downstairs. Upstairs, in your consciousness, things are well-lit and regularly swept. Friends visit. Scrabble is played, hot cocoa is brewing. It is a pleasant, familiar place. Downstairs, it is older, darker and much, much freakier. We call this basement the unconscious mind. The unconscious is exactly what it sounds like: It's the stuff you don't, won't and/or can't think about. According to Freud, there are dirty pictures of your mother down there. According to Jung, there are pipes, wires, even tunnels down there that connect your home to others. And even though it contains life-sustaining energies (like the fuse box and water heater), it's a primitive, stinky, scary place and it's no wonder that, given the choice, we don't hang out down there. However, your pleasure, your sanity and even your life depend on occasional round trips. You've got to change the fuses, grab the Christmas ornaments, clean the litter box. To the extent that we keep the basement door sealed, the entire home becomes unstable. The creatures downstairs get louder and the guy upstairs (your ego) tries to cover the noise with neurotic behaviour. For some, eventually, the basement door can come right off its hinges and the slimy, primal denizens of the deep can become Scrabble partners. You might call this a nervous breakdown or psychotic break, it doesn't matter. The point is: Occasional ventures by the ego into the unconscious, through therapy, meditation, confession, sex, violence, or a good story, keep the consciousness in working order.

— Story Structure 102: Pure, Boring Theory[27]

Fans and critics have retroactively applied Harmon's Story Circle to other shows, such as Breaking Bad.[28] Harmon's technique has been adopted by Irish sitcom writer Graham Linehan, the creator of shows such as Father Ted, The IT Crowd, and Black Books. In an interview with the Telegraph, Linehan said: "Whenever I write for television, I plan the story on whiteboard wallpaper in my office, using a system created by the American writer Dan Harmon. "It’s remarkably simple: a character wants something; they enter a new world and adapt to it; they get what they want, re-enter the old world and change. "The great thing about it is that once you have an idea for one bit, the section opposite comes naturally, as do the ones on either side, and so on. It’s basically a distillation of the ‘hero’s journey’ idea, but it’s undetectable and applies to any ideas, big or small."[29]


Dan Harmon appears in a cameo role in episode two in season four of Arrested Development as the Yurt Clerk and in Funny People as a paparazzi. He also has a guest spot as a voice actor in the Fox animated television series Axe Cop.[30] His voice also appeared as a disclaimer-style voiceover in the Community finale.


In July 2009, Harmon was nominated in two Emmy categories for his part in writing the Oscar telecast: Outstanding Writing for a Variety, Music or Comedy 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.

Personal life[edit]

In December 2013, Harmon proposed to his long-time girlfriend Erin McGathy.[31] The two married in November 2014.[32] The two announced they were divorcing in October 2015.[33]



Year Title Role Notes
2006 Monster House Writer
2008 Kung Fu Panda Uncredited writer
2014 Harmontown Himself Documentary; also executive producer
2015 Back in Time Himself Documentary
2015 Anomalisa Executive producer
2016 Doctor Strange Additional screenplay material.
TBA Bubbles Producer[34]


Year Title Role Notes
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 Spike Video Game Awards 2008 Television special; writer
2009 The 81st Annual Academy Awards Television special; writer
2009–2015 Community Creator, writer and executive producer
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"
2013 Axe Cop Audience Member (voice) Episode: "Babysitting Uni-Baby"
2015 Drunk History Narrator Episode: "Miami"
2015 The Simpsons Episode: "Mathlete's Feat"; wrote couch gag
2016–present Great Minds with Dan Harmon Dan Harmon Also writer and executive producer
2016–present HarmonQuest[35] Himself / Fondue Suvac Also creator, writer and executive producer


  1. ^ Keveney, Bill (2007-03-23). "'Acceptable.TV' puts the Net in comic vignettes". USA Today. Retrieved 2008-08-02. 
  2. ^ "Dan Harmon's "You'll Be Perfect When You're Dead" Now Available". The Comedy Bureau. Retrieved December 11, 2014. 
  3. ^ Ebright, Olsen (September 17, 2009). "NBC's "Community" Based on Glendale Community College". NBC Los Angeles. Retrieved 7 July 2014. 
  4. ^ Dan Harmon at the Internet Movie Database
  5. ^ Rose, Lacey (July 17, 2013). "'Community's' Dan Harmon Reveals the Wild Story Behind His Firing and Rehiring". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved 7 July 2014. 
  6. ^ Simpson, Connor (2013-06-01). "Dan Harmon Is Officially Returning to 'Community.'" TheAtlanticWire.com. Retrieved 2013-06-06.
  7. ^ Harris, Aisha (2013-06-03). "The Brightest Timeline: Dan Harmon Returning to Community." Slate.com. Retrieved 2013-06-06.
  8. ^ Andreeva, Nellie (June 10, 2013). "DONE DEAL: Dan Harmon & Chris McKenna To Return To 'Community' For Season 5". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved June 13, 2013. 
  9. ^ Butterly, Amelia (12 May 2014). "Community TV show "difficult" to resurrect says creator". BBC. Retrieved 13 May 2014. 
  10. ^ Sepinwall, Alan (June 30, 2014). "'Community' renewed by Yahoo for sixth season; movie to follow?". Hitflix.com. Retrieved June 30, 2014. 
  11. ^ "Twitter Page of Erin McGathy". 
  12. ^ DeFore, John (March 10, 2014). "Harmontown: SXSW Review". Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved April 10, 2014. 
  13. ^ Lies, Erica (April 7, 2014). "Diving Into the Cult of Dan Harmon in 'Harmontown'". Splitsider. Retrieved April 10, 2014. 
  14. ^ Cohen, Ivan (January 24, 2014). "Dan Harmon and Justin Roiland on Rick and Morty, How Community Is Like Star Trek, and Puberty". Vulture. Retrieved 7 July 2014. 
  15. ^ Rose, Lacey (May 15, 2012). "Upfronts 2012: Adult Swim Orders Eight Pilots, Including a Project From 'Community's' Dan Harmon". Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved May 19, 2012. 
  16. ^ Goldberg, Leslie (February 12, 2014). "Dan Harmon's 'Rick and Morty' Renewed for Second Season". Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved March 27, 2014. 
  17. ^ "Rick and Morty: Get Schwifty" at the Internet Movie Database
  18. ^ "How Dan Harmon Drives Himself Crazy Making Community". 
  19. ^ "How Dan Harmon Drives Himself Crazy Making Community". 
  20. ^ "Dan Harmon, Community - XOXO Festival (2012)". 
  21. ^ "How Dan Harmon Drives Himself Crazy Making Community". 
  22. ^ http://channel101.wikia.com/wiki/Story_Structure_104:_The_Juicy_Details.  Missing or empty |title= (help)
  23. ^ http://channel101.wikia.com/wiki/Story_Structure_104:_The_Juicy_Details.  Missing or empty |title= (help)
  24. ^ http://danharmon.tumblr.com/post/75209394079/some-community-whiteboards-for-episodes-1-and-2.  Missing or empty |title= (help)
  25. ^ https://medium.com/fictionhub/rick-and-morty-writers-room-c2b79d6fe43c#.ngyyaswgr.  Missing or empty |title= (help)
  26. ^ http://channel101.wikia.com/wiki/Story_Structure_101:_Super_Basic_Shit.  Missing or empty |title= (help)
  27. ^ http://channel101.wikia.com/wiki/Story_Structure_102:_Pure,_Boring_Theory.  Missing or empty |title= (help)
  28. ^ http://imgur.com/a/CHgAo#0.  Missing or empty |title= (help)
  29. ^ http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/celebritynews/11351923/Does-this-circle-represent-every-TV-show-and-film-there-is.html.  Missing or empty |title= (help)
  30. ^ FOX Releases ‘Axe Cop’ Voice Cast, Sets Saturday Animation Domination HD Premiere. Screencrush.com (2013-01-08). Retrieved on 2014-01-14.
  31. ^ McGathy, Erin (December 28, 2013). "Erin McGathy, "Engaged!"". Instagram. Instagram.com. Retrieved March 27, 2014. 
  32. ^ Rowles, Dustin (17 November 2014). "'Community' Showrunner Dan Harmon Got Married This Weekend, And The Wedding Was Amazing". Uproxx. Retrieved 8 December 2014. 
  33. ^ McGathy, Erin. "Twitter". Twitter. Retrieved 11 October 2015. 
  34. ^ Amidi, Amid (February 15, 2017). "Mark Gustafson and Taika Waititi To Direct 'Bubbles,' Based on Michael Jackson's Chimp". Cartoon Brew. Retrieved February 17, 2017. 
  35. ^ Seeso (2016-07-14), HarmonQuest - Episode 1 - "The Quest Begins", retrieved 2016-07-16 

External links[edit]