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TCA press tour: We're not mocking community college, say NBC's 'Community' producers

August 5, 2009 | 12:28 pm

Community “The Breakfast Club” set in a community college might be the quickest way to describe NBC‘s upcoming Thursday-night comedy “Community.”

But panelists say the laughs won't come at the expense of two-year institutions. The setting in and of itself isn’t funny, executive producer Dan Harmon said. “Rather, I think the funny thing is … farts.”

Harmon, who previously executive produced Comedy Central‘s “The Sarah Silverman Program,” himself attended community college at age 32 to stay in a relationship with his then girlfriend, a student. He already had a career writing for TV.

“While I was there, I took biology and psychology and ended up in study groups because I threw off the curve and everyone wanted to study with me,” he said. “I’m a stand-offish agoraphobe, so I was socially paralyzed into studying … but then we did become this family.”

The fictional Greendale Community College will be a character in and of itself. “I compare it to the Charlie Brown Christmas special in that its ambition exceeds its grasp,” Harmon said. “Community” revolves around the adult misfits who glom onto a lawyer (Joel McHale, host of E! Television‘s “The Soup“), who needs to earn the degree he faked earning so long ago or be disbarred.

Ken Jeong, who recently got naked in “The Hangover,” recently joined the cast. He’ll play Senor Chang, “a Spanish professor with a chop on his shoulder,” the actor said.

“He’s self-conscious about being an Asian teaching Spanish. He feels the need to have outbursts about why he’s justified to be there and entitled to speak Spanish,” Jeong said. “My Spanish is OK. I can go into any Baja Fresh and order a veggie burrito in Spanish. I do have that resource as an actor.”

Chevy Chase, who has had a run of guest appearances on “Brothers & Sisters” and more recently “Chuck,” said he feels good about working on television. “Films lately are not as good as the stuff on TV,” he said, adding that after reading the script for “Community” he was delighted “to go in and say please hire me.”

Asked about juggling both hosting duties on “The Soup” and playing the lead in a prime-time comedy, McHale joked “I take a lot of uppers and downers” but explained that “The Soup” shoots for one long night a week. If there are any sacrifices in his new schedule it will be missing VH1’s “Rock of Love.”

“I’m going to miss the Rock of Love bus, because what is Bret Michael’s going to do next?”

Harmon added that John Oliver ("The Daily Show with Jon Stewart"), who plays the college dean in the pilot, will be on for two episodes during the show's first 12-episode run but added he would love to have him come aboard full time.

-- Denise Martin

Photo credit: NBC Universal