Before Rick and Morty, Dan Harmon was mostly known as the man behind the college comedy series Community. Following a group of misfits at Greendale Community College, the series is frequently considered to be one of the funniest American comedy series of the last 20 years. But behind the scenes, Community was fraught with serious problems that plagued the show despite any popularity it achieved. The show was canceled, revived, lost its creator, brought him back, and has left fans still waiting for the promised movie (#andamovie). So how much do you really know about the show? What sort of efforts went into making a show with such layered jokes? Here are 44 hilarious facts about Community.
1. Good Run?
Community lasted six seasons in total. Starting in 2009, the first five seasons aired on NBC, while the sixth season was picked up by Yahoo! Screen.
2. Interesting Inspiration
People love Community, but few fans know the bizarre way that creator Dan Harmon came up with it—it was originally inspired to make Community based on his doomed attempts to save a failing relationship. Even though he was busy trying to make it in the entertainment industry, Harmon enrolled at Glendale Community College in an act of solidarity with his girlfriend so that they could learn Spanish together—because that’s how you rekindle the passion with your soon-to-be-ex, we guess.
3. Reluctant Friend
While Harmon was spending time at Glendale Community College, he found himself involved with a group of “knuckleheads” with whom Harmon shared very little in common. However, he grew to like them and connect with them on a level which he’d never expected to do. And yes, this is basically Jeff Winger’s character arc throughout the first seasons of the show.
4. Hey Actors! Try Acting on the Spot!
Fans were shocked when, after the third season of Community, creator Dan Harmon was fired. The network gave a few vague reasons, including the idea that Harmon’s work habits caused him to clash with the other writers on the show, and that he made the show run both behind schedule and over budget. As a result, co-writers Chris McKenna and Dino Stamatopoulos left the show in solidarity with Harmon.
The fourth season resulted in the cast members of the show having more leeway to improvise—as you may have noticed based on moments where other cast members break character.
5. Out with the New, In with the Old
Following the fourth season’s dip in ratings—and quality, according to many of the show’s fans—Dan Harmon was rehired for Community’s fifth season. Stamatopoulos and McKenna also returned to the show.
6. Sign Up for Tomorrow Today
According to Harmon, in order to write the character of Annie Edison, he borrowed heavily from the character of Tracy Flick from the film Election. He even went so far as to call Annie a “rip-off,” but Alison Brie ended up making Annie her own character.
7. Featuring Abed as…Abed?
Dan Harmon based the character of Abed Nadir on his colleague, Abed Gheith. Gheith actually auditioned to play Abed on Community, but he lost the role to Danny Pudi. That might sting a bit, losing out on a role based on yourself, but we’re pretty happy with Pudi’s take on Abed.
8. Take it in a New Direction
The character of Annie was originally meant to either be Latina or Asian. Alison Brie was ultimately cast, however, while she was also working on Mad Men around the same time—and yes, they reference that fact several times in the show. Harmon, meanwhile, created the character of Annie Kim in the third season as a throwback to his original ideas, with the two Annies becoming rivals for the rest of the series.
9. A Series of Cinematic Events
According to Dan Harmon, he wrote each episode of Community like he was writing an individual film. This was how he handled the character arcs, storylines, and the comedy within each episode.
10. What Might Have Been
One of the original casting ideas for Pierce Hawthorne, the elderly eccentric millionaire character, was none other than Patrick Stewart. To be honest, we’re not sure how we’d feel about Captain Picard making offensive comments every second line, or Professor X faking his own death to teach his friends a lesson.
11. “…and I Drink Lots of Tea!”
One of the many comedians who made their mark on the show was John Oliver, a contributor to Jon Stewart’s Daily Show before becoming the host of his own show. Oliver appeared in the first two seasons as Professor Duncan, Greendale’s psychology professor. He didn’t appear in the third or fourth seasons, and returned for the fifth.
The explanation given on the show was that Duncan went back to England to look after his ailing mother, which is a surprisingly compassionate thing for Duncan to do, if we’re honest.
12. Cue the Applause Sign
One thing which Community has become well-known for is the amount of famous film and tv stars who appeared in supporting roles or cameos. These include such actors as Tony Hale (Arrested Development), Jonathan Banks (Breaking Bad and Better Call Saul), Michael K. Williams (The Wire), John Goodman (Roseanne), Kevin Corrigan (Grounded for Life and Public Morals), Lauren Stamile (Burn Notice and Grey’s Anatomy), and Paget Brewster (Criminal Minds).
In true Community style, many of these actors’ well-known roles were parodied or referenced during the show.
13. Paranormal Parent
In the first season of Community, there is a moment where Pierce’s mother tells her son that she saw his father’s ghost again. However, Pierce’s father appears as a supporting character in the third season, leading to Pierce having to clarify that his mother only pretended that his father was dead. This inconsistency was referenced in the fourth season, when Pierce claims that his now-dead father really is back as a ghost.
14. Second Language
In keeping with art imitating life, Danny Pudi shares an interesting trait with his character, Abed. Both of them are half-Polish and can speak it fluently.
15. Come on Back!
In the show’s third season, one episode is structured to parody Ken Burns’ famous Civil War docudrama series, except the subject matter is a school-wide pillow fight with factions led by Troy and Abed. The episode is narrated by Keith David, who would later be brought back to the show in the recurring role of Elroy in the sixth season.
16. Stop Monkeying Around
One of the more unique supporting characters of Community was played by animal actor Crystal the monkey. Introduced in the first season as Troy’s pet, the monkey is named after Anne’s chest—much to Annie’s frustration. The monkey would go on to appear in several episodes while also living in the college’s ventilation system.
17. We Love Our Dean
One of the most beloved characters of Community is Craig Pelton, the Dean of Greendale Community College. Played by Jim Rash, the Dean is an eccentric man of a very diverse and transitory orientation, known for his love for wearing costumes. He frequently visits the main characters while in drag. Perhaps the most consistent character trait he has on the show is his passionate crush on Jeff Winger, which sadly never awakened anything in Jeff.
In a parody of the trope, Community featured clip compilation episodes in both season 2 and season 3 which ironically featured entirely original clips never before seen by the audiences.
19. Beating the Odds
One of the most highly rated and remembered episodes of Community was the season 3 episode “Remedial Chaos Theory.” The study group gets together at Troy and Abed’s apartment for dinner. When the pizza guy comes to the building, Jeff suggests that he’ll roll a die to see which person will go downstairs to pick up the pizza.
The episode follows each possible outcome of the die, revealing not just wacky scenarios, but also establishing a great deal of character dynamics between them all.
20. A New Meme
One special element that the “Remedial Chaos Theory” episode added to Community was the concept of the darkest timeline. Of the different timelines created by the rolling of Jeff’s die, the darkest one became self-aware, with the characters of that timeline seeking to invade the regular timeline and take it over.
This storyline was used throughout the third and fourth seasons of the show.
21. Can’t Stay, Marvel’s Calling
Before she became the Oscar-winning actor cast as Captain Marvel, Brie Larson had a small role in Community as a love interest for Abed. One reason for her brief appearances on the show was her rising star in the entertainment industry. This led to a moment in the sixth season where Abed once again breaks the fourth wall by wondering whatever happened to that girl he was in a relationship with.
22. They’re in the Same Universe!
In a crazy example of the show’s meta humor, Abed has a monologue in the second season where he talks about being an extra on the set of Cougartown and having an embarrassing incident happen to him while there. Fans of Cougartown might notice that in one episode, Danny Pudi appears in the background of a scene, only to abruptly get up and run off-camera!
23. Farewell, Chevy
Chevy Chase left Community while the fourth season was being filmed. This accounts for his very diminished role in the season, along with his complete absence from a few episodes. He did, however, make a cameo appearance in the fifth season’s premiere in a crucial scene.
24. The Show isn’t Enough!
In addition to the regular episodes, Community produced several short webisodes around specific characters. These include study breaks which the group takes in between preparing for Spanish class, as well as Abed making student films about his friends.
25. That’s Not My Story
Contrary to what people have assumed, Donald Glover did not leave Community in the fifth season to pursue his rap career—he’s now better known as Childish Gambino. Glover maintains that he was seeking other pursuits beyond Community on his own. One might say it was him splitting from the band to go solo, but again, it was apparently not motivated by music.
26. Keep it in the Bathroom
The character of Pierce Hawthorne is the son and heir to Hawthorne Wipes, a moist towelette product that is wildly successful. Surprisingly (or intentionally?) Chevy Chase is also descended from sanitary royalty. His ancestor Cornelius Vanderbilt Crane was himself the heir to Crane Plumbing—some of you might recall seeing a toilet with the name “Crane” on it at least once in your lives.
27. Going to Regionals!
Community famously offered many pastiches and satires of various films, TV shows, and whole genres. But one show which earned its outright hostility was its rival show Glee. Community frequently found ways to mock Glee, to the point where one episode even implied that their college’s glee club teacher was an outright psychopath!
28. What About Walt and Jesse?
Interestingly, Community features several people who have also acted in the series Breaking Bad. Jonathan Banks (Professor Buzz Hickey) played Mike, Giancarlo Esposito (Gilbert) played Gus Fring, and Matt Jones (Stoner Friend) played Badger. Not only that, Breaking Bad creator Vince Gilligan made a cameo in Community as an actor.
29. Leave of Absence
Yvette Nicole Brown, who played Shirley on Community, did not return for the show’s sixth season, except for a cameo in the first and last episodes—all for a tragic reason. She was busy looking after her father, who was very sick. As a result, she asked to be let go from the series, which took too much of her time.
Sony allowed her to leave, and they also provided her with a supporting role on the multi-cam show The Odd Couple. This gave her a new source of income that didn’t have such a demanding schedule.
30. Where’s the Movie?
In one episode of Community, Abed and Jeff argue over the fate of another NBC show The Cape. Jeff is adamant that “the show’s gonna last three weeks!” Abed, meanwhile, insists that the show’s run will include “six seasons and a movie.” The line was so good that Community’s fans adopted it as a “rallying cry” and a hashtag on social media. Six seasons of Community have so far been completed, but we have yet to receive the movie adaptation.
31. In Denial
Speaking of Community’s love of The Cape, it’s referenced in the same episode where Keith David narrates the docudrama pastiche episode “Pillows and Blankets.” At the end of that episode, Jeff breaks the fourth wall and asks the narrator (David) whether he was in The Cape. David denies this angrily, belying the fact that David was actually a main actor on the short-lived series.
As anyone who has seen Community can testify, the character of Chang (Ken Jeong) frequently has spells of insanity. In a rather dark turn, the character also referenced the fact that he apparently ate his twin sister while they were still in the womb. Surprisingly, according to the show’s writers, those two facts are directly connected. Chang’s psychosis stemmed from “his sister’s ghost telling him to be evil.”
33. Terrific Tune
One of the most signature sounds from Community is the instrumental song “Daybreak” by Michael Haggins. The song is played in various episodes of the show, and several characters (including Abed, Troy, and Annie) hum the tune in episodes where it doesn’t appear.
34. Extreme Patience Required
Community became known for working in subtle jokes which played out over the course of multiple seasons before we got the punchline. One of the best examples of this is the Beetlejuice joke. Once in each of the first three seasons, a character says the name “Beetlejuice.” A man dressed as Beetlejuice then walks by in the background after his name is spoken for the third time!
35. Shooting Disagreements
Behind the scenes, Chevy Chase and Dan Harmon infamously had several disagreements, and depending on what you read, it was either overblown, or it contributed to Harmon and Chase both leaving the show, willingly or not. One incident involved the final scene of an episode that needed to be filmed. The scene was to serve as an emotional payoff for that specific episode.
Chase didn’t cooperate for unconfirmed reasons, much to Harmon’s disappointment.
36. Ladies’ Man
The study group was rife with romantic tension and possible pair-ups during the show. Fans and critics frequently mocked and referenced this as an example of the show’s meta-humor. However, Jeff Winger holds the distinction of having kissed all the women in the study group! He maintained an on-and-off affair with Britta during the show, kissed Annie on several occasions, and even made out with Shirley while he was in the grips of a Hulk-like rage in the episode “Contemporary Impressionists.”
Just to confirm, this is the character who Dan Harmon based on himself?
37. Bring it Back!
Contrary to what you might think, Yahoo technically never canceled Community. Yahoo was interested in continuing the series beyond six seasons. However, all the actors’ contracts expired after the sixth season and they each took on different projects which made it hard to reassemble. Later, Yahoo shut down its Screen service after reporting a loss of millions of dollars, leaving the fans to simply ask when they’ll be getting their promised movie.
38. Crossover on the Horizon?
In the fifth season of Community, Harmon decided to take the meta-comedy of the show to a whole new level. In one scene, Rachel and Abed watch Rick and Morty, Harmon’s other big TV show, that had just begun that same year. Harmon also made an episode of Rick and Morty where the cast of Community appears.
39. More Feuding?
In addition to the strife between Dan Harmon and Chevy Chase, there was also further tension between Chase and his co-star, Donald Glover. Chase admired Glover’s talents as a performer, but he was also allegedly very envious of the younger man’s fame. Reportedly, he would make jabs against Glover in between takes which were predjudiced.
Harmon said that he checked with Glover to see if he was alright. Glover accepted that Chase was just jealous of him. Chase, however, has gone on to deny attacking Glover out of jealousy…but then again, of course he would.
40. Troy and Abed Forever
Troy and Abed’s antics frequently provided the best comedic moments of the show. Originally, the writers had planned to pair up Troy with Pierce Hawthorne! As things developed, and Donald Glover became increasingly close with Danny Pudi, their characters’ natural chemistry became part of the show.
41. Climb the Ladder
Joe and Anthony Russo directed many episodes of Community . In fact, it was their handling of the second season’s final two episodes that convinced a Marvel executive to give them one of their movies to direct! This led the Russo brothers to direct Captain America: Winter Soldier, which was just the first of several Marvel movies they would go on to helm.
Community would actually parody Captain America: Winter Soldier during the sixth season in honor of their recurring directors.
42. We’ll Do it in a Hot Second!
In 2018, both Danny Pudi and Joel McHale said that they want to make a movie adaptation of Community. They noted that to do it right, producers would have to reassemble the whole cast. This could be complicated with the crowded schedules of Donald Glover and Alison Brie, but we’re keeping our fingers crossed!
43. Is That the Gas Alarm?
During the fourth season of Community, fans expressed their displeasure over the quality drop following Dan Harmon’s departure. One popular term which emerged from this is “the gas leak.” In the fifth season, the characters blame the previous year’s strangeness on a gas leak, which went on to write off the entire fourth season, deserved or not.
In the sixth season finale, the writers reference the term once again in a joke where Abed says “cool” six times and Chang passes gas on the fourth expression of “cool.”
44. Dad? Is That You?
Dan Harmon named the character of Jeff Winger after Bill Murray’s character in Stripes. In fact, Dan Harmon held off casting Jeff’s father because he was adamant that only Bill Murray could play him. However, during the fourth season, the producers cast James Brolin as Jeff’s father.
We can only assume that Bill Murray was busy making a Wes Anderson movie at the time.