Arts & Culture

The Big Jewcy: Harris Wittels – “Parks & Recreation” Writer/Editor

We talk to Harris about Parks & Recreation, creating the Twitter account @Humblebrag, and pictures of his penis. Read More

By / June 2, 2011
Jewcy loves trees! Please don't print!

You might know Harris Wittels as one of the animal control guys on TV’s funniest show, Parks & Recreation, the one who asks if April was “down to clown” on her wedding day. Or, maybe you know him as the guy who will likely create your next favorite TV show or write a future breakout comedy of the summer. He’s had a great deal of success for a comedian of any age, but especially so for one who just turned 27.

He got his start on the Sarah Silverman Program as a 22-year old after being discovered when doing stand up by the woman herself. From there he became a Story Editor (now Executive Story Editor) for Parks & Recreation, at which he has written some of the show’s best episodes, including one of my all-time favorites “94 Meetings.”

In a very short time Harris has grown to be incredibly well regarded in the comedy community. He is a funny person that funny people find funny. Better learn his name now.

I was able to interview him about Parks & Recreation, creating the twitter account Humblebrag, and pictures of his penis.

Congrats on being named to the Big Jewcy. How does it feel?

I feel like a million…. shekels?

What is your background?

Right now, it’s a picture of a dog on a skateboard.

Frillz – I am from Houston TX. Went to Emerson College in Boston and then moved to LA.

When did you know you liked to make people laugh? When did you realize this is what you wanted to do professionally?

When I made that background dog picture joke.

A couple months back New York Magazine ran a piece called, “Parks & Recreation and the Comedy of Super Niceness”. If you haven’t read it, it argues that what makes the show so special is that it avoid the cynicism of most contemporary comedies. Would you say this is correct? Do you have an idea of how this tone started?

I do think this is correct, and I attribute it to Mike Schur, who is sickeningly positive all the time.  He just grins and eats ice cream cones and watermelon all day. I have never seen him be bothered by anything, no matter what I try.

I think a big change from season one to season two was more of people working WITH Leslie, instead of against her. It gave it a nice warm feeling.

Do you have a favorite character to write for?

There was an angry black gentleman in “94 Meetings” who had one scene in which he just yelled about how he needs a permit to post a sign for his missing bird. That is my favorite person I have ever/will ever get to write for.

You got your start writing on the Sarah Silverman Program. Did you work under Dan Harmon (creator of Community) at all? It seems like Community and Parks & Recreation are in a constant neck in neck race for best comedy on TV. Is there a rivalry?

I never got to work under him. Dan and I have a very complicated relationship, in that it is solely based on opaque Twitter exchanges. Most of them have to do with Humblebrag.

No rivalry. Community’s great. We are all on the same night of comedy, so… good for the goose, good for the gander. In fact, I think they’re our lead-in next year. So, everyone watch Community!

In preparing for this interview, it seemed impossible to avoid the fact that you are known as a guy who often takes his dick out. How did this reputation start? How did you feel when it was cemented in history in Sarah’s book?

What’s funny is Sarah asked if she could use a picture of my dick and I literally didn’t know which one she was talking about. Could have been one of dozens. That was a fun writer’s room. Good times. I felt great about it. My mom didn’t, but she’s fine now. My dad thought it was funny though.

You know that nightmare where you’re naked at school? Well, now that the whole world could potentially see my penis at any Barnes and Noble, that fear is gone from my life. It’s very liberating. I recommend everyone do it.

Have you had one a “wow, I can’t believe I get to do this” moment?

Sleeping with Scarlett Johansson was a big one for me. JK, but could you imagine though? She’s so hot. After reading this, she’ll probably NEVER sleep with me. Oh great.

I’ve had a few of those moments. It’s important to feel that way I think, so you don’t get jaded or something. It’s fun to do comedy and to get to do it everyday with the people I do it with. I feel very lucky, yes. God, I’m sorry if you’re reading this. I sound like such a jerkoff.

Beyond having almost 60,000 followers, the term has seemed to move beyond Twitter. It is a term that described a previously unnamed yet very common awful behavior. Did you ever think it would get this popular?

I did not. I love that people are responding to it. Sometimes people like it too hard and they’re mean to people I retweet on there, and I’m like “chill, yo!”

This answer was a humblebrag.

What makes a great Humblebrag?

The more veiled it is coupled with how extreme the brag is.

With Parks & Recreation done for the season, are you currently working on anything else? What’s next?

I got to write a couple of episodes for the third season of Eastbound and Down which was really fun and something of a dream come true since its my favorite show on TV.

I’m also working on a few feature scripts. Aziz, Jason Woliner, and I just pitched something together, so hopefully that ends up happening.