A Harmenian Remembers ‘Harmontown’

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CREDIT: Harmontown/YouTube Screenshot

(I really wish Rob Schrab could edit this essay, because otherwise I’ll have to self-Schrab* myself. And that’s just not good form.)

I wanted to write a remembrance about Harmontown when it released its final episode back in December, but you know what? I’m glad it’s taken me a few months to finally get around to it. It’s nice to have time to reflect.

After Dan Harmon was fired as Community showrunner post-season 3, he doubled down on the live show he was co-hosting with his good buddy Jeff Davis at the NerdMelt Showroom by turning it into a podcast. Apparently Harmontown began with Dan and Jeff brainstorming how to create a utopian lunar colony, a premise that occasionally poked its head back out in later episodes and made me go, “Huh. That’s funny.” I didn’t listen when it first came out; in fact, I was barely aware of it. My podcast listening was still in a novice stage at that point, as opposed to now when I’m pounding away about four hours of audio content per day. Anyway, in May 2013, some random website (that probably doesn’t exist anymore) reported that Dan had been rehired as Community showrunner after he announced it at Harmontown. So I listened to that episode just to confirm that report, and then I just felt compelled to keep listening, because it was plainly enjoyable to regularly check in with the brain behind my favorite show of all time.

Initially for me, there was a specific purpose behind listening to Harmontown, i.e., to discover some juicy behind-the-scenes info about Community. But eventually it just became a part of my regular schedule. “Oh, it’s the middle of the week? Time to listen to Harmontown,” my reflexes learned to say. After Community was cancelled, and then cancelled again, and Harmontown continued onward, it got to the point where I almost took it for granted. There are certain titans of podcasting that have been around for a while, and Harmontown felt like one of the ones that would truly last forever.

In many ways, Harmontown amounted to a public therapy session for its host, and like a lot of therapy, it went to some dark places and also had its moments of catharsis. Through the good times and the bad, I never once considered giving it up. A Harmontown listening session had the same emotional effect as regularly checking in with a close friend. When it was announced that it was ending, it didn’t quite feel like I was losing a friend, but it was like I was no longer going to have a weekly phone call with that buddy. So I wondered what recovering from that hole in my heart would be like. Sure, I would be able to spend my time listening to plenty of other podcasts, some of which I love just as much as Harmontown. But I didn’t have quite the same connection to any of them.

I generally have a resilient personality, so I was never too worried that I would totally despair over this loss. But I’m also happy to report that in the months since, the end of Harmontown has felt right. It ended on its own terms, with Dan able to let us know that he was departing in a good place. Meanwhile, The Darkest Timeline, the podcast co-hosted by Ken Jeong and Joel McHale, has arrived to help me scratch a similar itch. If by some chance you happen to be reading this, Dan Harmon, know that I’m doing well and I cherish my podcast friendship with your podcast self.

(“It’s called Schrabbing.” “And the kids love it.”)

Best Podcasts of the 2010s

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Any ranking of the best of the best must come with the caveat that the ranker hasn’t seen/heard everything, and that’s especially true in the case of podcasting, despite it being one of the youngest entertainment mediums around. Obviously I didn’t listen to every podcast released in the 2010s, but I did listen to my fair share. My feed mainly consisted of comedy, pop culture, and comedic pop culture shows. But even if I confine myself to those categories, I cannot claim that I was anywhere near comprehensive. So then, what you are about to read is the revelation of my podcast journey I went on in the past decade.

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Best Podcasts of 2019

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I continued my regimen of podcast listening as usual in 2019, so here’s a quick rundown of the audio shows that were tickling my ears and my brain the best the past year.

1. Conan O’Brien Needs a Friend
2. Black Check with Griffin and David
3. How Did This Get Made?
4. Harmontown
5. Judge John Hodgman
6. The Ron Burgundy Podcast
7. Pop Mom
8. Pop Culture Happy Hour
9. Unspooled
10. Good One: A Podcast About Jokes

Honorable Mentions
R U Talkin’ R.E.M. RE: ME (Always a transcendent pleasure, but only released four new episodes in 2019.)
Comedy Bang! Bang! (Released plenty of episodes, but I only listened to a few of them.)