When NBC fired Dan Harmon in 2012 after three seasons running the sitcom he'd created — the innovatively funny, perennially low-rated meta-humor ensemble "Community" — he took to the road with the confessional, free-wheeling (and, in the case of voice mails from feuding star Chevy Chase, newsmaking) podcast he'd been recording at Meltdown Comics.
Director Neil Berkeley's documentary of the road show, called "Harmontown" (after the podcast), takes full advantage of the intimacy afforded a small-venues tour packed with adoring listeners who connect to his outcast-made-good vibe. (Harmon even made a podcast star out of fan-turned-regular Spencer Crittenden, a gentle giant introvert who's the podcast's Dungeons & Dragons dungeon master.) There's the unfettered access to Harmon's brilliant comic mind, of course, yet also a warts-and-all portraiture of a difficult personality, by turns boyish, self-involved, abusive and exhilaratingly self-analytical.
A history of success, failure and self-inflicted damage is touched on through interviews — "I'm his biggest fan, and I fired him," says Sarah Silverman, about his time on her Comedy Central show. But the emphasis is on Harmon's strange stab at therapy offered by the tour, and judging from snippets of first-season "Community" footage, living his dream aged him the way a U.S. presidency does. It gives "Harmontown" the feel of a field report from the frontlines of an all-access culture in which creativity fuels honesty and connection, and vice versa.
MPAA rating: None
Running time: 1 hour, 41 minutes.