The two TV shows Dan Harmon is most famously linked to are Community and Rick and Morty — projects that have clear philosophies about how the world works. In recent interviews Harmon has given regarding the fifth season of Rick and Morty, he’s spoken about the universes he’s built, as well as “the point of life.”
Dan Harmon’s job is to put his ‘feelings on stuff’ into his work
“I grew up watching TV,” he told Decider on June 15. “My perception of TV was always that that was part of the job. There’s a format to the medium the way there is to a sonnet or a limerick, which provides you with challenges but also a comfort. But actually your job is to fill that sonnet with your feelings on stuff. For me, remembering that it’s comedy and adding a bunch of jokes tends to come last. I’m first and foremost asking myself, ‘Why is this a story? And why is it an important one to one of these characters? What’s going on here?’ A lot of conversations that would sound absolutely nothing like maybe what you’d expect in a comedy room because you’re finding a story and you’re trying to make it personal.”
Both Community and Rick and Morty have distinct life philosophies — or, religions — that dictate how the characters experience their universes.
“Community’s religion is: Anything that is human is more valuable than anything that is inhuman,” Harmon told Ari Melber of MSNBC on May 14. “Any system, any rule, if it does not have a beating heart, it is wrong compared to anything with a beating heart.”
“Rick and Morty’s religion is: Nobody exists on purpose,” he said. “If you are terrified by that, the best we can say is you’re not alone.”
If Harmon feels his job is to imbue his own feelings on stuff into the work he puts out, what parts of his shows’ philosophies are his own?
The point of life, according to Dan Harmon
More explicitly than Community, Rick and Morty grapples with the point of it all. With a nihilistic main character and a doe-eyed innocent who’s still attempting to piece together how things work at the tender age of 14, it’s hard to watch an episode of the Adult Swim show and not ponder the meaning of life.
In Harmon’s interview with Melber, he was asked: “What is the point of life?”
“I think it is to taste yourself because you are a tastebud on God’s tongue,” he replied.
“The truth is, in any objectively measurable sense, we have become creatures that believe in humanity and systems,” Harmon continued. “And we struggle between those things. We can’t blame our problems on boogiemen that live in the clouds. We have to either blame ourselves or we have to stare into a void.”
You know who knows his way around the void? Rick Sanchez.
Rick’s philosophy and fears can be identified in his private poop haven
While Rick is arguably the smartest character in the show, and maybe the coolest, Harmon says he’s actually “right about half the time and wrong about half the time.” Still, his opinions about how the universe works are certainly the loudest. We know that Rick is a lonely nihilist, but a closer look at his personal philosophies and fears can be found in “The Old Man And The Seat.”
“I think that Rick is very averse to having a normal spiritual connection with the unknown,” said Harmon about the episode. “I think that he is out of control of so many things in the universe. To hand the universe the reins over that one moment where you are making your stuff, it’s a deal-breaker for him. This is how you measure the value of a man’s life, is whether or not he is the king on his throne.”
One thing is certain — despite Rick’s creeping feelings of loneliness and vulnerability, the man knows how to taste himself.