Until now, “Community” creator Dan Harmon has been keeping silent about his apparent feud with Chevy Chase, who on his show plays the racially insensitive moist-towelette empire heir Pierce Hawthorne. The pair’s tense relationship became the talk of the tabloids a few days ago, when an angry voicemail from Chase — which finds him calling Harmon fat and an alcoholic and insisting “your writing is getting worse and worse” — was leaked to outlets like TMZ.
The giggles in the background of the audio are from an audience, since Harmon played the voicemail during an installment of his monthly Los Angeles live show Harmontown, essentially if not intentionally offering it up to the entire internet in this mobile device-happy era. There’s been more back and forth between the star and the show creator — the AV Club has done a nice job of piecing it all together.
Yesterday, Harmon finally piped up about the situation by way of his Tumblr, offering an apologetic, rueful reckoning of his actions while never mentioning Chase by name, and admitting that “as a guy who blogs or tweets every time he wipes his butt, hugs his cat or hurts his girlfriend, it’s conspicuously weird of me to say nothing at all about the giant fart with my name on it that you’ve been inhaling.” He notes the difference between the network show he creates and the very personal and informal one he engages in before 150 people at the NerdMelt Theater:
It was in that venue, months ago, that I made the horrible, childish, self-obsessed, unaware, naive and unprofessional decision to play someone’s voicemail to me. He didn’t intend for 150 people to listen and giggle at it, and I didn’t intend for millions of people to read angry reports about it. I was doing what I always do, and always get in trouble for doing, and always pay a steep price for doing. I was thinking about myself and I was thinking about making people laugh. I was airing my dirty laundry for a chuckle. I ask people at those shows repeatedly to please think twice about youtubing clips of it because it doesn’t play well outside the back of a comic book store. I always accept the risk that a well-intending fan will upload clips and something scandalous will break wide, but the giant mistake I made was involving someone else in that game of russian roulette, someone that didn’t have an opportunity to say “yeah, hilarious, let’s do this.” That was a dumb, unclassy, inconsiderate move on my part. I’m very sorry it’s reflecting poorly on the show.
As podcast-era confessional comedy comes of age and makes its way to larger commercial outlets — like Marc Maron heading to IFC — growing pains like this seem inevitable. Part of what makes comic voices like Harmon’s so appealing are their self-lacerating honesty and lack of filter, their treating of fans like people to be engaged and not commodities to be managed, made easier by the accessibility and immediacy of blogs and Twitter. But that also means there’s no backstage in which these anecdotes will stay — there can’t be any expectation of professional courtesy, because you’re not among colleagues; you’re in front of an audience of people with their own social media outlets.
Harmon’s not apologizing or even delving into anything to do with his relationship with Chase, wisely — he’s admitting to his mistake in making it all public. It is, in these days of aggressively publicist-managed images, a refreshingly honest admission, even if the lesson learned is about what to keep to oneself.
Or, as Harmon himself suggested on Twitter, “Before embroiling yourself in Hollywood scandal, always spend ten seconds looking at your fattest photo.”