Dan Harmon (the creator of Community) hosts a weekly podcast at Nerdmelt Comics in Los Angeles. Harmontown is ostensibly about Dan Harmon taking his podcast on tour after he was fired from Community but the real story is that of the shows dungeon master Spencer. He is simultaneously the voice of the audience and the voice from the stage. A misfit who wanted nothing more than to play D&D with one of his heroes.
Harmon is one of the most honest performers I've seen. His material seems to come from a place of both self hatred and adulation, an insecure ego maniac who is self aware enough to realize his greatest struggle is to come to terms with the fact that he got everything he wanted. He is a brilliant writer who is known for his anger and public outbursts but if you look at the people he surrounds himself with and the shows he has created you get a much fuller picture of the man. A sensitive man whose feels the pain of the world around him while trying to find a place that he can call his own.
We've seen the story of the tortured genius in many different forms over the years but I'm not sure we've had this painful and honest a look at one of them. The Harmontown podcast is "comptrolled" by Jeff Davis and features Erin McGathy and Spencer Crittenden. Jeff Davis and Erin McGathy both have prior television and stage experience but Spencer had never done anything like this tour. Sure he he DM's weekly for the podcast but the Nerdmelt theater holds around 50 people and it seems like a comfortable and safe environment. The idea that he would end up on a tour bus because he picked up some 20 sided dice had never occurred to him. It just doesn't happen that way.
The focus of the film shifts from Dan to Spencer in the third act because he is the one who is truly transformed by this experience. He is not the same person that stepped on the bus at the beginning of the film. You can see a young introverted man who lives with his parents dealing with a level of fame and veneration that he could have never predicted. Spencer is an incredibly gifted DM and through the Harmontown podcast he has had an impact on thousands of listeners. I just have a feeling he wasn't aware of his impact til the tour.
I had a feeling that this film might only work for fans of Community or the podcast but the film completely stands on its own. Unlike Tusk this is not a film exclusively for fans. Harmontown is available on VOD and playing in limited release.