I’m not necessarily recommending that you go and listen to Dan Harmon’s “Harmontown” podcast, because it can be a little profane, and there’s a lot about Harmon’s humor that some people might take the wrong way. But I thought one segment of it was interesting this week.
Harmon, for those who aren’t familiar, is the creator of, among other things, the TV show “Community,” which he ran until the end of last season. He was fired by the producers after various situations including a public feud with one of his stars, Chevy Chase. Chevy eventually left the show this season, even without Harmon around to feud with. That’s not to exonerate Harmon completely; even the description for the podcast describes him as “self-destructive.”
Harmon is not, by his own admission, a religious man. But one theme of “Community” under his watch was tolerance and co-existence among those of different beliefs. The show features a Christian character, a Jewish character, and so on, and there were some episodes that specifically dealt with how they could be friends while holding different beliefs about the world. The Christian character, Shirley, is sometimes portrayed a little stereotypically, but she’s also portrayed with a lot of sympathy.
But Harmon and his podcast co-host, Jeff Davis (whom some of you may remember as an occasional cast member on “Whose Line Is It Anyway”) have no particular love for outspoken atheists like Bill Maher, whom they consider just as dogmatic, unthinking and harmful as some of the worst believers. They have an interesting conversation (joined by comic Kumail Nanjiani) about some of what offends them on both sides – the anti-scientific bent of some fundamentalists, but also the arrogance of some scientists towards others, including other scientists, who choose to believe that some aspects of life are beyond science. Many of the Richard Dawkins class of militant atheists point to various holy wars, inquisitions and so on as proof that religion is harmful, but Harmon says that they’re more about humanity than about religion – and if religion disappeared, those same abuses would go in in the name of some other cause. (“South Park” made much the same point, in an episode set in the future where Dawkins has managed to eliminate religion but where two different atheist organizations are fighting a holy war for supremacy over some arcane point.)
By the way, Harmon responds to the rumor floated last week that he might return to the show now that it’s been picked up for a fifth season and now that Chevy is gone. There’s apparently no such plan in the works. At one point, weeks ago, when the show’s fate was still in question, someone from the studio made a very informal inquiry to Harmon’s agent about whether Harmon would be willing to come back. At the time, Harmon suspects, the studio might have been brainstorming tactics to get the network to renew the show. But nothing ever came of it, and now that the show has already been renewed without Harmon he doesn’t expect there to be any real offer.
Anyway, I’ve warned you that there are aspects of the podcast you might find offensive. But if you want to listen, here’s the web site.