Dan Harmon on Writing and the Point of Life

Credit: Photo by Robby Klein/Getty Images
Dan Harmon wants you to taste life. 

In the opening minute of this interview with MSNBC, writer/showrunner Dan Harmon says the point of life is to taste yourself, because we're all just giant taste buds on God's tongue.

That's a fun way to lead off an interview that covers everything from Kanye West to how he actually tackles the writing of his projects. 

The interview aired on MSNBC and takes us through Harmon's most recent ventures and some of the philosophies he's stuck to over the years. He chats with anchor Ari Melber in a conversation recorded during the coronavirus pandemic, trading stories and some fun cracks.

Check it out below, and let's talk after. 

Dan Harmon on Writing and the Point of Life 

Harmon tries to take his weird and expansive philosophy seen in his work, to the way he works. His general idea is to make sure he's not writing TV in the way we see TV. The feedback loop is kind of crazy, from execs to audiences, but he and his team try to stay true to their deconstruction of the norm. 

Of course, you can't talk to Harmon without talking about the story circle.

That covers the “eight steps” that he feels like most stories want to follow. He believes that all information has shapes, and when those shapes take on something digestible to us, we can feel the click and lean into the story. 

All of Harmon's work is trying to put Joseph Campbell's Hero's Journey into layman's terms. He wants to demystify the process of storytelling and just sit and do the work until the best ideas flow forth from you. 

Harmon learned from these situations the hard way. He didn't love being the primetime showrunner of a network series, like Community. He couldn't keep breaking stories about credit cards or haircuts when he wanted to tackle grandiose topics like "loneliness." 

These shifts in his mentality caused him to leave the network and thrive in animated series, as he did with Rick and Morty. He says his job is to take shows, no matter how crazy, as seriously as possible. He works to challenge the way we absorb that show and the way he writes the show. That means he's not staying until 3 a.m. anymore, he's going home at 5 p.m. and putting more effort into deconstructing his own circle to subvert audience expectations. 

A lot of time is spent developing characters. Both Rick and Morty had to be people deeper than just the surface level. He made sure that these people changed with society. They feel complex emotions and deal with things like legacy and ego, stuff that Harmon himself has to navigate while working in Hollywood. 

This kind of stuff separates him from other creators. He's willing to self-assess and deal with his issues by writing them into characters and confronting them. Sort of like his life advice of tasting himself. This all comes from an honest place, one where he knows he has issues and flaws he has to overcome as a person as well. 

I thought the interview was a really interesting look at Harmon and what makes him tick. What did you think? 

Let us know in the comments.      

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2 Comments

I also write and I will try his methods to see if it works.

June 11, 2021 at 4:51AM

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Lola Harper
Marketing manager
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Good to read this article. Thanks for sharing it.

June 11, 2021 at 5:11AM

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Allen Thompson
Academic Researcher | Writer
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