Since his “Community” days, “Rick and Morty” creator Dan Harmon has cycled through reputations as quickly as a his characters bust through holes in the spacetime continuum. He has been called notoriously difficult, a tortured comedic genius, emblematic of Adult Swim’s white boys’ club, and a reformed sexist who has made earnest efforts at righting his past wrongs. (He even has a podcast called “Whiting Wongs.”) But there is one person who has a special nickname for Harmon, “Rick and Morty” co-creator Justin Roiland.
“Since season two, I’ve accidentally started calling Dan ‘Rick,’” Roiland recently told GQ. “There’s definitely a world of difference between them. But Dan does—maybe subconsciously, maybe purposefully—tap into some of the darkness he’s got in him.” Harmon and Roiland’s partnership has birthed one of the greatest comedic cartoons on TV, one with an almost maniacal fan following that ingeniously blends the cerebral with the juvenile.
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“My partnership with Justin gives me this license to go, yeah let’s take this really dumb thing incredibly seriously. It’s a really freeing thing,” Harmon told GQ, in a video breaking down the show’s most discussed moments. One of those is a season 3 episode titled “Pickle Rick,” in which Rick turns into a pickle.
“I remember kind of immediately leaping on it and saying, ‘Well, because that sounds like such a dumb innocuous thing, why would Rick do that?’ And the answer has to be the most complex thing,” said Harmon. “It was the like RV breaking down in the desert episode of ‘Breaking Bad.’ This idea where you take an icon and you say, ‘Well what makes them tick on the inside?’ And you do that by depriving them of everything, and then you learn so much more about them.”
Though the episode is clearly about Rick’s relationship to alcohol and the idea of being “pickled,” Harmon points out that there is no direct mention of booze: “I noticed that right at the end and pulled the one reference to him being an alcoholic out, so it’s like this pure metaphor.”
“Rick and Morty” fans can often be a thorn in Harmon’s side, as with the great McDonald’s Szechuan Sauce debacle. Fan theories can be equally intense, but Harmon pays them no mind.
“We have fan theories of our own in the writer’s room, they’re called ideas that go in a shoe box,” he said. “I don’t consume ‘Rick and Morty’ fan theories because that would be a bad idea. What if I saw a theory that was real? It would eliminate me being able to do something that I was cooking up. ‘Cause I’d go, well that person guessed it And even worse, do you want me to steal your fan theory and use it as an idea?”
Watch Harmon break down of the show’s most talked about moments below.