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Is Community Based On A Real Story? (Dan Harmon Says Yes)

Watching episodes of "Community," you'll notice a common thread. Whether you're revisiting the one where a government bioweapon turns the school into gnashing, clawing undead, or the one where the school is saved by a wealthy maniac living in a secret underground bunker where he's been making love to a computer tower for decades, the stories just ring true, you know? That gritty, A24-esque commitment to reality makes you look at a scene where a guy with star-shaped sideburns tries to escape the law on a cat-powered wagon and forget that you're not watching real life.

The fact of the matter is that, even with all of its genuinely bonkers stories, shows don't tend to pick up a fan base like that of "Community" without staying rooted in relatable truth. For six seasons, the series kept audiences coming back by keeping one foot in real life — Sure, a character might get lost in an animated fantasy about joining "G.I. Joe," but it only happened because that character was having a nervous breakdown over their 40th birthday.

And to hear "Community" creator Dan Harmon tell it, the show's honesty comes from a very real place: He based it on his own college experience. Kind of. In broad strokes. There weren't any paintball stories.

Community: Based on a True Story

There's a lot that a person can learn at community college — a trade, a passion, the pythagorean theorem if they missed that day in high school. "The thing I learned at community college is that I had my head up my a**," Dan Harmon told The Independent in 2020 for a "Community" oral history. "And I think that was related to the fact I considered myself this unappreciated TV writer. I ended up in this cramped study room with these total strangers."  

If a guy who considers himself an unfairly out-of-work genius joining a community college study group sounds familiar, points for paying attention. "It was halfway through this study session that I was like, 'Oh my God, I really care if these people pass their biology test,'" he said. "I had this warm feeling come over me. The two thoughts I had were: I've been really distorted in my view of the universe, and this is the kind of pilot networks are always wishing I would write."

Harmon failed to mention which class inspired the scene where Betty White strangles Joel McHale with a tribal superweapon after illustrating the benefits of drinking your own urine, but hey. The results speak for themselves. The show was relatable. #andamovie