Harris Wittels, 'Parks and Rec' producer, dies at 30

Harris Wittels obituary: Young comedian found niche on 'Parks and Recreation'

Comedian and writer Harris Wittels came up through small, alternative clubs in L.A. Though his humor was offbeat and sometimes raw, he didn't want to get stuck in those venues, at least not exclusively.

"No alternative comedian wants to remain obscure," Wittels told The Times in 2009. "Any great comedian can play both."

Wittels, 30, who was a producer, writer and occasional actor on the hit series "Parks and Recreation" while also doing podcasts aimed at niche audiences, was found dead at his home in Los Angeles on Thursday, according to the Los Angeles Police Department.

The cause has not been determined, and an autopsy is planned. He had long struggled with drug addiction and spoke frankly about it, saying it was especially bad around the time he wrote his 2012 book "Humblebrag."

"There is a lot of work stress, and like I had signed a deal and I was working on these pilots and I had to write that 'Humblebrag' book," Wittels said on the "You Make It Weird" podcast last year. "There was just a lot going on and it was easier to take drugs."

He got his big break when Sarah Silverman — no stranger to raw humor — saw him perform at the Upright Citizens Brigade in Hollywood and offered him a job as a writer on her Comedy Central show, "The Sarah Silverman Program," that debuted in 2007.

Wittels started work in 2009 on "Parks and Recreation." He had a recurring role as a woefully ineffective animal control officer. It showed off his offbeat side, though toned down for TV.

"Welcome to Animal Control, those are some chairs," he said, giving a tour of his workplace in an episode. He pointed to a cage holding a possum. "That's a cat."

The last episode of the NBC series is scheduled to air Tuesday.

Wittels worked mostly behind the scenes, but his tweets about false modesty while boasting — what he called humblebragging — grew in popularity. In his book, he cited, as an example, an actual tweet: "So um what does one wear to a party in which john hamm is present," to which Wittels answered, "I would say wear whatever's comfortable. He will not care one way or the other."

He was born April 20, 1984, and grew up in Houston, where he started doing stand-up while in junior high. Wittels earned a bachelor's degree in television/video production from Emerson College in Boston in 2006.

A complete list of survivors was unavailable.

david.colker@latimes.com
Twitter: @davidcolker

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