In the late 2000s, NBC had a longing look in their eye as they gazed backwards into the 90s at the faded success that once was, the heyday of Must-See-TV. First branded as such in 1982, this scheduling block went on to include shows like Cheers, Fame, The Cosby Show, Hill Street Blues, Frasier, Taxi, Friends, Mad About You, Will and Grace and, of course, Seinfeld. Having reached their nadir in 2008, now a last place network, their programming wasn’t bringing in the viewers like CBS’ various NCIS and CSI properties or ABC’s LOST and Desperate Housewives. Fox even saw better returns on Glee than most average NBC shows, shakily propped up by its ownership of the rights to Sunday Night Football.
We know now that these fans never left, they were simply watching their shows differently with the advent of DVR and streaming services. Low rated at the time, NBC’s second era of the Thursday Night “Must See” lineup included some of the most critically-acclaimed comedies of the last decade, producing comedy superstars across the entertainment landscape. This was highlighted by its “golden era” when the block from 8:00 PM to 10:00 PM included 30 Rock, Parks and Recreation, The Office and Community.
Community, the story of six mismatched misfits in a study group at a Colorado community college, was the most ambitious of the four properties. With no bankable headline star attached, unless you count a John Oliver cameo in the pilot, the show was difficult for critics to handicap. What followed was one of the zaniest, oddball, risk-taking comedies of the past 25 years. Though perpetually low-rated, Community maintained a large, vocal cult following (#SIXSEASONSANDAMOVIE),inspiring several renewal campaigns while surviving three changes in show-runner and a switch in networks.
It was named IGN’s top comedy in 2010 and 2011 and made AV Club’s top 25. Entertainment Weekly once said, “The series’ affinity for ambitious, high-concept story lines (e.g. few shows are willing to turn over an entire episode to stop-motion animation), meta humor, and constant pop culture allusions has helped it earn the kind of fervent fan following some of its higher-rated comedic competitors must envy.”
The series had high-concept parodies of crime procedurals, space epics, mafia movies, stop-motion Christmas specials, action thrillers, Westerns, courtroom dramas and even long-standing TV tropes like unresolved sexual tension (URST), flanderization and bottle episodes. Community was one of the first shows to enter that rare space where it could comment on itself in the moment, increasingly self-referential without being aggressively laudatory. It took the concept of being meta and managed to shove it up its own a**, creating some kind of meta singularity I can’t begin to comprehend or explain.
The series’ affinity for ambitious, high-concept story lines (e.g. few shows are willing to turn over an entire episode to stop-motion animation), meta humor, and constant pop culture allusions has helped it earn the kind of fervent fan following some of its higher-rated comedic competitors must envy.
– Entertainment Weekly
It’s been almost three years since the show wrapped its run on the now-defunct YahooScreen, but its cast, creators and writing staff are still influencing the comedy landscape in a major way, proving the show’s longevity was no fluke at all.
Dan Harmon, Creator, Head Writer, Executive Producer
Harmon, the show’s visionary creator, was on more than one occasion its most fervent vocal critic. Erratic and unpredictable, Harmon toyed with several ideas other traditional sitcoms would not, including having a character whose function was to provide a running commentary and point out all of the flaws in his own work. No stranger to work in television, Harmon co-created The Sarah Silverman Program for Comedy Central, and co-wrote the Academy Award nominated animated film Monster House.
Based in part on his community college experiences, Harmon oversaw every aspect of Community, including re-writing every script into his voice, so as to maintain tone throughout the episodes despite different staff writers. Harmon makes use of his own Story Circle theory for most of the episodes structure, something he developed while working for comedy collective Channel 101 in the late 1990s. It’s basic tenets are as follows:
1. A character is in a zone of comfort or familiarity.
2. They desire something.
3. They enter an unfamiliar situation
4. They adapt to that situation.
5. They get that which they wanted.
6. They pay a heavy price for it.
7. They return to their familiar situation.
8. They have changed as a result of the journey.
The system is widespread, and even Graham Linehan, creator of BBC’s IT Crowd and Father Ted, has confessed to using it when writing scripts. Harmon’s rigid adherence to his own ideals resulted in a tense relationship with producers, however, and precipitated his firing from the show before its fourth season. After mixed reviews and ratings, he was reinstated for the fifth and sixth seasons before the show ended in 2015.
Outside of the show, his Harmontown podcast has taken on a life of its own, buoyed by Community‘s success in its earliest days. One recurring segment has even being spun off into its own show, Harmonquest, where Harmon and other comedian friends play a live game of Dungeons and Dragons, their adventure later animated. In addition, Harmon co-created – with Justin Roiland – the wildly successful, critically-acclaimed animated series Rick and Morty, the story of a mean-spirited genius scientist, Rick Sanchez, and his nihilistic, reality-bending adventures with his grandson, Morty. Appearing on Adult Swim, several Community cast members have made voices cameos on the show – which just finished its third season – including Jim Rash, Joel McHale, Keith David, John Oliver and Gillian Jacobs. The entire study group also makes a “blink and you’ll miss it” animated cameo in the season 2 episode, “Auto-Erotic Assimilation”.
Joel McHale as Jeff Winger
In a perfect casting move, sarcastic comedian Joel McHale a.k.a. “Taller and More Handsome Ryan Seacrest”, was chosen to play Jeff Winger, the disgraced lawyer and de-facto leader of the study group. After lying about receiving a bachelor’s degree (“I thought you had one from Columbia?””And now I need to get one from America.”) and being disbarred, Jeff is forced to enroll at Greendale Community College to get his life back on track. It’s here that he enrolls in a Spanish class to satisfy a language credit and meets a hot blonde – Gillian Jacob’s Britta Perry. In an effort to get closer to her, he lies about being a “board certified Spanish tutor” and unwittingly creates the study group.
McHale was pitch-perfect as the acerbic Winger, the classic archetype of the narcissistic asshole with a heart of gold. The character was based on series creator Dan Harmon and his real life experiences in a community college Spanish class who freely admits that he did originally take the class in a desperate attempt to win back an ex-girlfriend. For his part, McHale appealed to Harmon because he could maintain unsympathetic, selfish traits without losing any likability. The emotional lynchpin of the group, the axle on which their wheel turns, Winger would often be tasked with giving the wrap-up speech to resolve a week’s episode, ostensibly speaking in Harmon’s voice. Appearing in all six seasons, McHale pulled double duty, continuing to host his weekly clip show and predecessor to Tosh.0, The Soup, on the E! Network.
Since the show ended in 2015, he’s kept busy, appearing in films like Ted and Adult Beginners. He recently starred in the CBS sitcom The Great Indoors with Christopher Mintz-Plasse (aka McLovin), but the show was cancelled after one season. McHale hosted the White House Correspondents’ Dinner in 2014, and the ESPYs the following year. He is currently slated to join Elizabeth Banks and Melissa McCarthy in the upcoming Happytime Murders, a crime comedy that somehow combines serial killers and puppets. He also recently finished filming David Wain’s A Futile and Stupid Gesture, a film about the rise and fall of the National Lampoon, in which he plays a younger version of former co-star Chevy Chase.
Three-time Emmy Winner Donald Glover as Troy “Buttsoup” Barnes
Perhaps most famous among 18-21 year old frat boys when the show began, Donald Glover has been a comedy wunderkind for over a decade. After moving from Stone Mountain, GA to New York, he co-founded the hyper-popular online troupe, Derrick Comedy. Glover was the breakout star of several early incarnations of the viral video including the infamous “Bro Rape” which garnered 10 million hits (and also features a young Bobby Moynihan of SNL fame). Their YouTube channel has over 100 million individual views as of 2016, and the group even produced a full-length feature film, Mystery Team.
While enrolled as a freshman at NYU, Glover wrote several “speculative” scripts for shows like The Simpsons and The Daily Show, a common practice for aspiring comedy writers. In 2006, one such script made it across the desk of producer David Miner, who passed it along to his colleague, Tina Fey. Impressed with Glover’s work, the two offered him a position on the writing staff for their new show, 30 Rock, where he stayed for the next three years, writing mostly for Tracy Morgan (Glover is credited with writing and singing “Werewolf Bat Mitzvah”) and Jack McBrayer’s Kenneth Parcell (with whom Glover shares a hometown – Stone Mountain).
After seeing a screening of Mystery Team in Los Angeles, Dan Harmon cast Glover as disgraced former jock, Troy Barnes. Although he originally imagined the character as a white guy, Harmon liked Glover’s improvisational and overly emotional style. The character of Troy was a huge hit and Glover earned widespread praise for his work in the role, including the Rising Comedy Star award at the Just for Laughs Festival in Toronto.
After leaving the show in its fifth season, he pursued other passions, releasing two gold albums (Camp, Because the Internet) and three mixtapes (EP, Royalty, STN MTN/Kauai) under the moniker Childish Gambino, a stage name he got from an online Wu-Tang Clan name generator in college. Glover also appeared in several films, including The Martian, Magic Mike XXL, and The Muppets. Only recently, he got back into television as co-creator, head writer, director and star of the show ATLANTA, which premiered on the FX Network last September to widespread critical acclaim and ratings success.
In 2017, Glover released his third studio album, Awaken, My Love!. Its lead track, “Redbone”, was the theme song in Get Out, Jordan Peele’s smash hit horror thriller. Glover has appeared in Spider-Man: Homecoming, will be playing Lando Calrissian in the SOLO, the Star Wars Han Solo prequel and is voicing Simba in Jon Favreau’s live-action The Lion King remake. Most recently, he won two Emmy awards as lead actor and director for his work on ATLANTA, bringing his career total to three (Won in 2006 as a writer; Best Comedy, 30 Rock).
Golden Globe Nominee Alison Brie as Annie Edison
A relative unknown before being cast as the nerdy, over-achieving type-A Annie Edison, Brie’s first credited role was as a hairdresser on Disney Channel’s Hannah Montana in 2006. The following year, she was cast as recurring character Trudy Campbell, dutiful, doting wife to the brown-nosing, duplicitous Pete Campbell on AMC’s Mad Men.
Although she was brought to Greendale by an addiction to off-brand Adderrall and a stint in Narcotics Anonymous, Annie is the study group’s moral center and its youngest, most studious member. Naive to many of the darker parts of the world at large (“Annie’s pretty young. We try not to sexualize her”), she gains a multitude of worldliness from her interactions with the group. The role was described by series creator Dan Harmon as “a version of Tracy Flick”, Reese Witherspoon’s character from the 1999 film Election. In fact, Annie was originally imagined as an Asian student before Brie was cast (leading to Irene Choi’s meta-guest appearance as Annie Kim aka “Asian Annie” in season 3).
Since Community’s debut in 2009, Brie has appeared in several films including The Five Year Engagement, The Lego Movie, Get Hard, and Sleeping with Other People, in which she co-starred with SNL alum Jason Sudeikis. This year, she pulled double duty for Netflix original programming. She starred in her own live action series, G.L.O.W., based on a 1980s women’s wrestling revue. In addition, she continues to voice writer Diane Nguyen, among others, in all four seasons of the critically acclaimed animated series, Bojack Horseman. Brie is currently appearing alongside her husband, Dave Franco, in his brother James’ The Disaster Artist and is filming the second season of G.L.O.W., for which she received a Golden Globe nomination for best lead actress in a comedy/musical.
Yvette Nicole Brown as Shirley Bennett
A veteran comedy actress, Brown had appeared in several small roles on shows like Curb Your Enthusiasm, Two and a Half Men, and That 70s Show before winning the role of the matronly Shirley. Up to that point, she was perhaps most famous among tweens, having played Helen, the manager of a movie theater on Nickelodeon’s tween super-smash, Drake and Josh.
Brown shone as Shirley, the over-protective, hyper-religious, doting mother figure of the study group. Able to walk the line between being overbearing and helpful, self-righteous and helpful, Shirley was a complicated character to whom Brown provided substantial emotional nuance. Her religion was never explicitly played for jokes, but only informed the parts of her personality that clashed with the rest of her classmates. And even then, there was an unspoken edge to her, especially when tested.
With Community constantly in renewal limbo, Brown only appeared in the show’s sixth season on a recurring basis, having joined the CBS sitcom The Odd Couple to accommodate the additional time she needed to care for her ailing father. She appeared in all 38 episodes until the show’s cancellation in March 2017. She currently stars as Dina Rose, mother to the title character in ABC’s new hit sitcom, The Mayor.
Gillian Jacobs as Britta Perry
Before Community, Gillian Jacobs had appeared in no major film or television roles, receiving most of her acclaim for appearances in off-Broadway plays. A Julliard trained actress, her IMDB page up to 2009 is less-than-stellar, featuring film roles like “tall girl” and a stripper named “Cherry Daiquiri”. Her TV work was a little more impressive, with guest spots on Fringe, Royal Pains, and as is every actor’s birthright, an episode of Law and Order.
In 2009, she was cast as the anarchic, if slightly misguided, high school drop-out Britta Perry. Britta was the fire-starter of the group, its resident protestor, and a social justice warrior before the term became en vogue. Britta was resolute in her views, even if she wasn’t always so sure WHY they were her views in the first place (“I know what an analogy is, Jeff! It’s a thought..with another thought’s hat on.”). Sometimes derogatorily referred to as “The AT&T of people”, Britta’s bouts of perceived intelligence and faux activism often left her as the butt of the study group’s jokes. She took it in stride, however. Because at the end of the day, her heart was always in the right place.
Jacobs appeared in all 110 episodes of the show’s run and since it ended, she has had guest roles on several others including HBO’s Girls, Comedy Bang! Bang!, Adventure Time and The Venture Bros. In 2015, she was cast as Mickey Dobbs, a struggling sex addict on the Netflix original series LOVE, co-created by Judd Apatow. She stars with series co-creater Paul Rust as they explore the ins-and-outs of modern relationships. The second season was released in March of this year, having already been renewed for a third and final run, to be released in March 2017.
Danny Pudi as Abed Nadir
Pudi, the son of a Polish woman and an Indian man, was born on the south side of Chicago. Like his character, he grew up speaking Polish with his mother and grandmother, before attending Marquette University. It was there that he won the first Chris Farley scholarship, which fostered his love of and first foray into improv comedy.
After performing with the famed Second City in Chicago, Pudi moved to Los Angeles in 2005 where he took a job as a recruiter to pay the bills while auditioning for TV pilots. He had recurring guest spots on The Gilmore Girls and Greek before landing the role of possibly/probably autistic TV and film aficionado, Abed Nadir.
Abed was a meta, fourth-wall breaking character, someone who would point out narrative flaws and character absences, as if completely and totally aware he were a character on a TV show. He referred to their time together as seasons, and would often let how a situation played out on TV dictate his actions. His encyclopedic pop culture knowledge is often how he finds a way to relate to people or communicate, but he is also a keen observer of behavior, and often the wisest member of the group.
Undeniably quirky, but still eminently lovable, Pudi’s Abed and Glover’s Troy formed the show’s most popular twosome. Troy helps Abed relate to the world better, and Abed helps Troy embrace his nerdy and carefree side. Though not originally planned as a duo, Dan Harmon credits Glover and Pudi’s off-screen chemistry for informing the direction of the relationship from their first Spanish rap end-tag.
Pudi appeared in all 110 episodes, and has since done mostly cameo and voice work. He starred as Teddy in the recently cancelled Powerless, a DC Comics series on NBC about regular humans living in a world full of superheroes. He also directed a 30 for 30 short about how Marquette’s basketball team was able to revolutionize uniforms in the 1970s. He currently lends his voice to Huey in the Disney Channel reboot of Ducktales.
Chevy Chase as Pierce Hawthorne
By far the most controversial member of the study group, both on and off screen, Chevy Chase lived up to his reputation while playing the racist, sexist, homophobic, oft confused Pierce Hawthorne. His resumé up to that point is well-known and unassailable, easily the most famous cast member upon the show’s debut. An inaugural member of the Saturday Night Live cast and a legendary film actor, Chase was a comedy god.
Often criticized for how he chose his roles, Chase explained that he was attracted to Community mostly due to Dan Harmon’s writing. The feeling was mutual as Harmon had listed Chase as a dream casting in the role of Pierce. The heir to a moist towelette fortune, Pierce was a lifelong student at Greendale, looking for companionship more than knowledge. He tried his best to fit in with the group, often desperately, but his age and old-fashioned views would always find him out. Trump before Trump, Pierce’s views engendered both harsh feelings and pity. Chase’s adept improvisation was a big part of the show’s early seasons, with Harmon stating “[he] tends to come up with lines that you can actually end scenes with sometimes.”
However, like Pierce, Chase also had a reputation as a bit of a jerk with a temper and an ego. And this came to pass in his feud with series creator Dan Harmon. After Chase didn’t show up to film an episode’s end tag in season 3, Harmon jokingly started a chant of “F*ck Chevy” at the season’s wrap party, with Chase and his family in attendance. Though the two would often text each other jokes, and Harmon believed this a continuation of that, Chase was not amused. He left Harmon a scathing voicemail, which Harmon then used to make things worse, playing for a live audience a week later at a live taping of his podcast, ostensibly leaking it to the press. Their feud played out in a public spectacle now, embarrassing both themselves, NBC, and its production partner, Sony Television.
After Harmon was relieved of his duties as show-runner before the 4th season for this and unrelated reasons, all seemed well. That is, until Chase caused another on-set incident during the filming of the episode “Advanced Documentary Filmmaking”. Upset with the racist direction he believed his character to be taking, Chase used the n-word to make a hyperbolic point on set, much to the chagrin of his cast mates. He walked off set, and subsequently left the show, refusing to film the season’s final two episodes. In season 5, for which Harmon returned as show-runner, Chase only appears in a cameo in the season premiere, his character having died off-screen.
He has not done much work since leaving the show, only appearing in Hot Tub Time Machine 2 and the Vacation reboot in cameo roles.
Dr. Ken Jeong as Senor Ben Chang
At this point, most everyone knows the unorthodox story of how Ken Jeong got his start as an actor. After receiving his undergraduate degree from Duke University, and his medical degree from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Jeong was first discovered by then-NBC president Brandon Tartikoff while performing at The Big Easy Lay-Off in New Orleans, a break from his internal medicine residency. After splitting time between small acting roles on The Office and Curb Your Enthusiasm with his day job as an attending physician at Kaiser Permanente, Jeong broke out playing acerbic Dr. Kuni in Judd Apatow’s Knocked Up. Though his license is still active in the state of California, Jeong has not actively practiced medicine since.
Perhaps rivaling Chase in terms of star power, Jeong had already garnered rave reviews for scene stealing performances in The Hangover and Role Models before being cast as Senor Ben Chang, a main antagonist, sometimes friend of the study group. Chang is an unpredictable, unstable, borderline lunatic with a key-tar obsession who is somehow allowed to teach Spanish at Greendale despite having no teaching degree and mostly “relying on phrases from Sesame Street”. He went from teacher to student to homeless man occupying the ceiling vents with a monkey roommate to head of security and back. He faked a disease called Chang-nesia and uses his name as a replacement for any noun, adjective or verb, much to Jeff Winger’s displeasure. Chang was a character that divided some fans, but no one ever questioned Jeong’s commitment to him.
Despite regularly stealing scenes in feature films, Jeong continued to play Chang through the series’ sixth season, appearing in 83 of the show’s 110 episodes. After Community ended, he went on to create, write, executive produce and star in his own four camera sitcom, Dr. Ken, based on his real life experiences as a doctor. Though it featured guest appearances from several Community co-stars, the series was cancelled in May 2017. Most recently, he appeared in the live version of A Christmas Story on Fox. He is next scheduled to appear in the Warner Brothers film Crazy Rich Asians based on the Kevin Kwan novel of the same name.
Oscar Winner Jim Rash as Dean Craig Pelton
Unusually well-adapted to play the unnervingly weird and effete, Jim Rash was called upon for these kinds of roles early in his acting career. Before Community, he was best known for recurring guest appearances as Fenton, the jewelry store employee, on That 70’s Show and Andrew, the “whore house guy”, on Reno 911!
Originally a side character, the dean just wanted Greendale, perhaps desperately at times, to be recognized as on par with other accredited universities. That dream is, of course, thwarted at every turn by his misguided attempts to make all of his events both politically correct and fun. Some examples:
- In an attempt to make the school’s mascot both racially and culturally sensitive, he creates the Greendale Human Being, a terrifying, non-descript white colored body suit with a crudely drawn on face.
- To avoid religious discrimination, he rides through the cafeteria in a bright blue robe and fake beard, shouting “MERRY HAPPY!” to celebrate the “Winter Spectacle”.
- When holding a design contest for the campus’ new flag, he unwittingly chooses the study group’s submitted design, which they have purposely made to look like an anus.
- To the detriment of the budget, he has a bronze statue commissioned of the school’s most famous alumnus – Luis Guzman.
The dean was such a vivid, imagined character, even in the short scenes he was given, that Rash was soon a series regular. The more screen time he got, the more we learned about the dean: his affinity for costumes and crossdressing, his glaringly obvious crush on Jeff Winger, and his reputation as a “pansexual imp” who had a brief flirtation with “dalmatian men”.
Rash, not surprisingly, is much more competent than his Greendale counterpart. With his writing partner, actor Nat Faxon (Married, Friends from College), they penned a screenplay for The Descendants, based on the novel of the same name. The film starred George Clooney, and after its release in 2011, won an Academy Award for best adapted screenplay. Faxon and Rash then went on to write and produce The Way, Way Back which received a standing ovation at the 2013 Sundance Film Festival. Rash also directed a season 4 episode of Community.
He currently provides the voice of Marquess of Queensberry on Adult Swim’s Mike Tyson Mysteries, and joins Pudi, voicing Gyro Gearloose on the Ducktales reboot.
Emmy Winner John Oliver as Professor Ian Duncan
John Oliver first came to American shores and screens in 2006 when he was interviewed, hired and first appeared on The Daily Show within a two week span. He spent the next seven years there as a correspondent and writer, winning Emmy awards in 2009, 2011 & 2012. This also included a very successful eight-week run as guest host in 2013, while Jon Stewart filmed his directorial debut Rosewater.
Oliver starred in Community as the recovering alcoholic/psychology professor, Ian Duncan. An associate of Jeff Winger’s – Jeff used a dubious connection to 9/11 to get Duncan off for a DUI scot-free – Duncan is as lazy and uncommitted to his job as Jeff. This is made all the worse by his “tenure” status, meaning he can’t be fired for his incompetence, which grows by the day. Though he was offered a starring role, Oliver turned it down in favor of remaining flexible enough to continue appearing on The Daily Show. He appeared in Community‘s first and second seasons, but was absent for the next two before returning for a final seven episodes in season 5.
Oliver is now the host of his own Emmy winning satirical news program, Last Week Tonight with John Oliver, and his segments are so popular they have been credited with influencing US policy and legislation now known as “the John Oliver effect”.
Emmy Nominee Jonathan Banks as Professor Buzz Hickey
Jonathan Banks is the second Community cast member whose work outside the series is inarguably more famous than anything he could or would do on the irreverent sitcom. Banks is the second Breaking Bad alum to be featured on the show, following Giancarlo Esposito’s turn as Pierce’s half-brother in season 3. Known to most as the irascible assassin for hire Mike Ehrmantraut, Banks had a long film and TV career before first appearing the critically-acclaimed show’s second season. With roles in Beverly Hills Cop, 48 Hours, Airplane!, he had long been typecast as a police officer. His big break in television came with the role of Frank McPike in Wiseguy, for which he received his first Emmy nomination.
Banks joined Community in its fifth season as the surly Buzz Hickey, a professor of history at the community college. He eventually joins the group’s “Save Greendale” committee after a heart-to-heart with Jeff and recurs for 11 episodes. Ostensibly a replacement for Chevy Chase within the study group, Banks could not have been more different. Often playing the straight man to the study group’s craziness, he brought back some of the more grounded character moments that defined the show’s first three seasons and were somewhat abandoned in the fourth. However, he was still more than up for the show’s zany moments, fully committing to the more out-there plots Community is known for.
He left the show after the fourth season, returning to the world of Breaking Bad to reprise his role as Mike Ehrmantraut in the spin-off series Better Call Saul. He has since received three more Emmy nominations, bringing his total to five and also starred in Oscar hopeful Mudbound, as Pappy McAllan.
Keith David as Elroy Patashnik
The epitome of a “that guy” actor, Keith David has more than 200 individual credits to his name, in some of the most popular films, video games and shows of the past three decades. Almost too numerous to mention, a list of some of his most notable credits includes The Thing with John Carpenter, Platoon, Men at Work, There’s Something About Mary, Mr. and Mrs. Smith, Volcano, Armageddon, Requiem for a Dream, Crash, Cloud Atlas, and ATL. As a voice actor, he has portrayed Goliath (in the animated series Gargoyles), and Spawn (in HBO’s Spawn).
Perhaps most important to fans of Community, David was the star of NBC’s short-lived superhero drama, The Cape, a show that inspired Abed’s singular dedication and inspired the phrase “SIX SEASONS AND A MOVIE!” David later went on to narrate the season 3 episode, Pillows and Blankets, a mock-umentary style re-telling of an epic pillow fight at Greendale instigated by Troy and Abed.
David finally joined the cast in the show’s sixth and final season as Elroy Patashnik, a scientist/invetor who sells a lawnmower simulator to Greendale. After being accosted for a refund, Elroy realizes his inventions are terrible and enrolls at the school to find a new purpose, joining the Save Greendale committee in the process.
After the sixth season concluded, David continued his prolific voice work, and will be providing the voice of Frederick Douglass in 2018’s The Gettysburg Address. In addition to his work as the President on Rick and Morty, David has provided his voice to Regular Show, The Flash, BoJack Horseman, Future Man, Black Jesus, Archer, and Mr. Robot. His video game credits include Fallout, Mass Effect 1, 2, & 3, Halo 1 through 5, and Saints Row IV.
Paget Brewster as Frankie Dart
Paget Brewster was first introduced to most Gen-Xer’s as Kathy, the girlfriend who cheated on Joey with Chandler (then went on to cheat on Chandler, too, because that’s exactly how that works). She later appeared in several quickly cancelled TV shows (Andy Richter Controls the Universe, Huff) and had small parts in some indepdendent movies (The Specials, The Big Bad Swim).
Prior to Community, she was probably best known for her role as Special Agent Emily Prentiss on the CBS crime procedural Criminal Minds. She remained on the show for it’s first six seasons, and was almost fired from the seventh in a cost-cutting maneuver that was reversed after fan-backlash. She did end up leaving the role after the seventh season to pursue more comedic roles. The stars began to align and she was cast as Frankie Dart for the sixth season of Community.
Frankie was a consultant hired to lead the group’s “Save Greendale” beautification committee after a cafeteria roof collapsed under their watch. She is the clear straight man to the group’s established insanity, filling the void left by the departed Jonathan Banks. Her “business-first” approach, of course, rubs the group the wrong way. Throughout the season, however, she endears herself to them – mostly through Abed, with who she shares a similar disconnected-ness.
Dan Harmon wanted to introduce a character that didn’t end up at Greendale because of idiocy or tragedy. “We decided that Frankie would be an unprecedentedly professional and qualified person — given Greendale’s environment — and that she had to have a reason to be there. We didn’t want it to be because she had fallen from grace or screwed up her life somehow.”
After the show wrapped, Brewster continued her work as Sadie Doyle in the weekly LA production of The Thrilling Adventure Hour with Paul F. Tompkins. She has been reprising her role on Criminal Minds since 2016, but has leaned more towards comedic work, starring in the short-lived Grandfathered on Fox, and becoming a recurring guest star on Key and Peele, Kroll Show, Moonbeam City and Another Period.
Oscar Nominee Dino Stamatopoulos as Alex “Starburns” Osborne
Much like his boss, Dan Harmon, Dino Stamatopoulos had been a writer in television for years before Community debuted. Originally a member of an improvisational comedy duo (with Andy Dick) through college, he submitted a spec script of The Simpsons at his friends’ insistence. From there, he has had credits on The Ben Stiller Show, Late Show with David Letterman, Saturday Night Live, Mr. Show, The Dana Carvey Show and Late Night with Conan O’Brien. It was on the latter where he worked with alongside a young Louis CK with whom he would co-create the sitcom Lucky Louie. Stamatopoulos also created Moral Orel, a stop-motion show parodying the Davey and Goliath religious shorts as well as 1950s sitcoms.
In 2009, he was hired to the writing staff of Community and appeared in the show’s second episode as Alex “Starburns” Osborne. Defined by his star-shaped sideburns, Starburns was a side character who gained more and more steam as the show wore on much like a Newman or Wilson, from Home Improvement. Trying to keep it fresh by adding a hat and lizard to his ensemble, Starburns eventually faked his death via car trunk meth lab explosion.
After the show ended, Stamatopoulos continued to work in stop-motion with projects like Mary Shelley’s Frankenhole and the Academy Award nominated Anomalisa. He also wrote for the Netflix original W/ Bob and David, The Jack and Triumph Show and Rick and Morty.
Luke Youngblood as Magnitude
Question to my real Community fans: Prior to reducing himself to one name and a catchphrase, Luke Youngblood starred in what major film franchise?
Answer: Harry Potter. Youngblood played Quidditch announcer Lee Jordan in the first two movies of the series before his character aged out of the books. From there, he starred as Ben Batambuze in The Story of Tracy Beaker on the BBC.
First appearing in a season 2 episode in which Jeff desperately tries to resist throwing a party, Magnitude was a character who always dressed in garish colors and came to get the party started. He did so with his one and only spoken phrase: POP-POP! Magnitude would use that phrase to run for student government, give class presentations, express pain, sadness, and surprise. Clearly a parody of the catchphrase-driven sitcom characters, like Steve Urkel, Youngblood was game for most anything, and appeared in a surprising 15 episodes.
Since Community, Youngblood starred in the ABC musical series Galavant, the CBS sitcom Superior Donuts, and made a guest appearance as himself on the aforementioned Dr. Ken
Richard Erdman as Leonard Rodriguez
Most Community fans know Richard Erdman as Leonard, the octogenarian troublemaker at Greendale. However, Erdman had a long career in stage and screen before blowing raspberries at Joel McHale and complaining about missing macaroni.
His career stretches back to 1944 and continues up through the end of Community in 2015. He’s appeared in such legendary shows as Hogan’s Heroes, The Twilight Zone, Perry Mason, Murder, She Wrote, The Six Million Dollar Man, and I Dream of Jeannie. His film credits are equally impressive, totaling over 45 in number. And on top of all that, he also directed two episodes of the Dick van Dyke Show.
He continued that great work as Leonard, a twelve year old troublemaker trapped in the body of an 85-year old man. He reviews snack foods on his YouTube page, plays pranks, and thumbs his nose at authority – or whatever it is that the Dean tries to enforce.
Erdman is all but retired now, with Community as his last listed credit at the age of 89.
Charley Koontz as “Fat” Neil
A sidelong, non-speaking background character, Neil first appeared in a season 2 episode where he traded Britta concert tickets for flashing her breasts (She is later disappointed to find the tickets are only in the mezzanine).
In season 3, Neil got his very own episode, one of the series’ best, “Advanced Dungeons and Dragons”. Believing him to be depressed and suicidal – possibly from being dubbed “Fat Neil” – the study group feigns an interest in his most avid hobby, Dungeons and Dragons. They arrange a session with Neil that is sidetracked when an upset Pierce, thinking he has been replaced, acts as the villain.
Charley Koontz played the introverted Neil, but was given more and more opportunities as the series wore on, even gaining a love interest. After the show ended in 2015, he joined the cast of CSI:Cyber on CBS, starring alongside James van der Beek and Shad “Bow Wow” Moss. The show was cancelled in 2016 after two seasons.
Brie Larson as Rachel
After small roles in films like Sleepover and 13 Going on 30, Brie Larson was cast in the HBO series The United States of Tara about a suburban woman with dissociative identity disorder. Larson played Kate, the titular character’s troubled teenage daughter. She appeared in all 36 episodes before the show’s cancellation in 2011.
After this, Larson began to appear in feature films like 21 Jump Street, Don Jon and Short Term 12. In between that work, she starred as Rachel, Abed’s quirky girlfriend whom he meets while on a date with two other women at a Sadie Hawkins dance. She only appeared in three episodes, but was a fan favorite, serving to humanize the logical, calculating Abed, if only slightly.
If not for her burgeoning film career, the role might have become bigger, but Larson was destined for bigger things. In 2015, she starred in Room (not to be confused with Tommy Wiseau’s The Room), a psychological thriller about a woman and her son who have lived their lives as captives. She received an Oscar for her work in the role and recently released her directorial debut, The Unicorn Store. In the summer of 2016, it was announced she will be playing Carol Danvers, the titular character in Marvel Studios’ upcoming Captain Marvel.
Joe and Anthony Russo, Directors, Executive Producers
The Russo brothers began their careers as television directors. Their first directing project was a pilot for FX, a show called Lucky starring John Corbett as a professional poker player and gambling addict. Though the show only lasted one season, the pilot they directed won an Emmy and Ron Howard enjoyed their work so much he offered them a job directing the pilot for his new single-camera Fox sitcom – Arrested Development.
In all, the brothers directed 14 episodes of the tales of the Bluth family, but it was for the pilot, which they helmed together, that the duo won another Emmy award. This led to more work on network shows such as LAX, Carpoolers, and What About Brian?, but none that stuck.
In 2009, they were hired as both directors and executive producers of Community, again helming the pilot together. Between them, they would direct thirty-three episodes of the series in total, but received the most attention for the season 2 episode “A Fistful of Paintballs”. In it, Greendale is gripped by a campus wide paintball war, actually a sequel to a similar episode in the first season, “Modern Warfare”. While that episode satirized action movies, this one settled on a Western motif, which then morphed into a Star Wars parody in the following episode “A Few Paintballs More”.
Executives at Marvel Studios took note of the brothers deft ability to handle action sequences while maintaining a comedic tone, even on a scant television budget, and took the then-unthinkable chance of hiring the brothers to direct their next summer feature, Captain America: The Winter Soldier. This was especially jarring given that their only film experience to that point was directing the Owen Wilson/Kate Hudson rom-com, You, Me and Dupree.
To everyone’s surprise, except their own and perhaps Marvel’s, Winter Soldier was a smash hit. Marvel’s first critically acclaimed hit since Iron Man, CA: WS was lauded for its action sequences and tone, feeling more like a political spy thriller than a superhero movie. It established the Russos as bona-fide movie directors and stewards of the Marvel Cinematic Universe going forward. They have since directed the movie’s sequel, Captain America: Civil War, and are currently wrapping filming on the sequel to this spring’s Avengers: Infinity War, the trailer for which recently passed 100,000,000 views.
To date, each Marvel film helmed by the Russos has included a cameo from a Community cast member (Danny Pudi as a Helicarrier pilot in Winter Soldier, Jim Rash as the dean of MIT in Civil War). There have been rumors that Joel McHale may yet receive a heroic role in one of their films, but we’ll have to wait and see.
Crystal the Capuchin Monkey as Annie’s Boobs
Crystal is a twenty-three year old female capuchin monkey who has starred in several feature films including George of the Jungle, American Pie, Night at the Museum, The Hangover Part II, Dr. Doolittle and – surprisingly – 3:10 to Yuma.
She first appeared in the season 1 episode “Contemporary American Poultry”. The study group forms a mafia-style racket around the cafeteria’s chicken fingers, bringing them power and influence. Troy uses his newfound wealth to purchase a monkey that he names “Annie’s Boobs”, much to her dismay. By the end of the episode, Abed has released the animal from its cage – as one of many punishments for Troy and the group’s decadence.
Annie’s Boobs takes up residence in the vents of Greendale, with Chang as a roommate for a time, coming out to steal small items such as a paintbrush, and Annie’s special purple pen.
Fun fact time! In one 2012 episode, Troy misunderstands the meaning of “animal hospital” believing the animals to be the doctors, not the patients. This was a sly shot at another NBC sitcom at the time, Animal Practice, in which animals WERE the doctors, and Crystal was one of its erstwhile stars (the show was cancelled after six episodes)
Crystal was last seen on-screen in the made-for-TV Legends of the Hidden Temple movie and lives in California with her trainer, Tom Gunderson. She is said to “share a bed with Gunderson, his wife, another capuchin named Squirt, and a chihuahua.”