THE STORY of the beloved cult sitcom Community has been a weird one, with lots of twists and turns and false stops. Watching the documentary Harmontown, that chaos seems like a given; Community's creator and (briefly former) showrunner is Dan Harmon, a "giant, rich, hairy toddler," the patron saint of loners, losers, and nerds, and also kind of an asshole.
This film chronicles Harmon's year of exile from Community, when he traveled the United States performing in comedy clubs and recording his podcast. As captured here, his performances ranged from nervous to giddy, wasted to weird. (I saw him in Portland last year on one of his wasted nights; I don't think any parts of that show even made it into this movie.)
Harmontown is at its most fascinating during the off-time: We get to see Harmon simultaneously creating and self-destructing. Throughout this tour, Harmon was halfheartedly working on pilots for CBS and Fox, which never got off the ground. He makes fun of himself for getting fired from his own show while clearly agonizing over it.
We watch Harmon interact with his girlfriend, Erin McGathy, who takes far too much shit. And we see a lot of Spencer Crittenden, the mondo nerd who attended a taping in Los Angeles and randomly became the tour's Dungeon Master, and whom Harmon deeply respects. Harmontown has interviews with lots of famous people (Sarah Silverman, Jack Black, Joel McHale, not Chevy Chase) who are as quick to confirm his talent as to declare him a huge pain in the ass.
Harmontown is a pretty tour movie, a decent comedy movie, and great study of a weirdo. It works in the way that Community works: We're all flawed jerks in one way or another, but we can find each other, and connect with each other. So we connect with Dan Harmon. Even if he's a giant, hairy toddler.