Dan Harmon, the hit sitcom's creator, talks to Salon about comedy, agony, paintball, The Simpsons and Glee

By Matt Zoller Seitz
Press Play Contributor

NBC's Community (Thursdays, 8 p.m./7 Central) is one of the most deceptively light shows on network television -- a seeming spoof of pop culture and pop obsessives that's as densely imagined as the world of The Simpsons, and that has a lot more on its mind than movie and TV quotes and self-referential devices.

Last week I interviewed the show's creator, Dan Harmon. Our wide-ranging conversation covered many of the expected areas: his sense of humor, his influences, behind-the-scenes production anecdotes, and hints of episodes to come. But it also delved into more elusive and heady issues: the role of pain and humiliation in comedy; the question of how self-referential a show can get without destroying our ability to sympathize with its characters; and the influence of The Simpsons and -- yes, really -- Gilligan's Island on Community. It's also the only interview I've ever done with a TV showrunner who casually dropped the word "vestigial."

Now that we've waded into the show's third season, I wanted to ask you what sort of reaction Season 2 got from the show's fans. This series is closely watched and obsessively scrutinized.

I guess my perspective on fan reaction is distorted because I don't scour the Internet for objective appraisals of the show. I pretty much sit on Twitter, which is about 99 percent positive emotional energy slung at you by fans in 140-character bursts. That's why it feels secure to me, because it balances my self-loathing and fear. I can kind of work in a vacuum. To me the reaction to the second season is about the same as [Season 1], which is people saying "It's great," mainly, and one guy per month going, "You're fat!" and "Your show is stupid!"

If you were asked, "How much of a spoof is this show, or how serious is it?" would you even have an answer?

You can read the rest of Matt's interview with Dan Harmon here at Salon.

A critic, journalist and filmmaker, Matt Zoller Seitz is the staff TV columnist for Salon.com and the founder of Press Play.