‘The Good Place’ Creator Michael Schur Said Driving Around Watching People Be ‘Annoying’ Inspired the Show

The final season of the American fantasy comedy The Good Place came to a close in January 2020.

By the time its fourth and last season wrapped up, NBC’s hit TV show had become a pop culture phenomenon and received 14 Primetime Emmy Award nominations, including a nod from the Emmy Awards’ critics for “outstanding comedy series.”

And while the show was a ratings success, the sitcom’s creator recently revealed that the entire series was inspired by observing just how annoying real-life humans can be.

‘The Good Place’ was created by director Michael Schur

Michael Schur, Ted Danson, and Kristen Bell of 'The Good Place'
Michael Schur, Ted Danson, and Kristen Bell of ‘The Good Place’ | Amy Sussman/Getty Images

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Schur began his career in TV comedy as a writer on NBC’s late-night sketch comedy show Saturday Night Live. Before that, he tells the Hollywood Reporter that he’d just done “little dribs and drabs” in Hollywood, including a time when comedian John Stewart “hired me to pitch some ideas for a book he was writing.” 

“[Stewart] probably used one-fourth of one of the ideas that I pitched him,” recalls Schur, “but very kindly paid me actual American money, which was a miracle to me at the time because it meant that I could stay in New York and pay my rent. I was 21, right out of college and then I got hired at SNL about six months later.”

At SNL, Schur won his first Emmy Award. He then moved on to write episodes for NBC’s The Office, which led him to co-create Parks and Recreation. More recently, Schur co-created Brooklyn Nine-Nine before creating and directing The Good Place

The show premiered in 2016

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The Good Place takes a comedic spin on a relatively morbid subject. The lead character, Eleanor Shellstrop (played by actress Kristen Bell), dies a tragic death in a parking lot. She wakes up in the afterlife, surrounded by other people who have recently passed away.

The supporting cast included Chidi (William Jackson Harper), a moral philosopher; the socialite Tahani (Jameela Jamil); a simple-minded criminal named Jason (Manny Jacinto); an artificial intelligence entity named Janet (D’Arcy Carden); and the head of the heaven-like hellscape, a demon called Michael (Ted Danson).

The first season revolves around Bell’s character navigating what appears to be heaven, only to realize in the first season’s finale that they’re actually in hell. Subsequent seasons deal with moral relativism, philosophy, and whether human nature is inherently good or bad. 

“Who’d have thought that ratings gold would be found in a sitcom about the afterlife, with regular references to Immanuel Kant, David Hume and Aristotle?,” asks The Guardian. “The writing is reliably hilarious and the ensemble cast have an exceptional chemistry. […] But moral philosophy is the beating heart of the program, and it has some of the best jokes that this one-time postgraduate in moral philosophy has ever heard.”

Schur says that annoying people inspired him to create the show 

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Much of The Good Place centers around philosophy, including historical figures like the aforementioned Kant and Hume. Originally, Schur planned on tackling religion but he quickly changed his mind.

“I stopped doing research because I realized [the show was] about versions of ethical behavior, not religious salvation,” he says in an interview with the Hollywood Reporter. “The show isn’t taking a side, the people who are there are from every country and religion.”

Beyond being inspired by philosophy, Schur also recently revealed he was inspired by the  bad behaviors of people around him.

“Schur said after Parks and Recreation finished, he found himself driving around L.A. and observing ‘a lot of annoying behavior,'” reports Mental Floss. “He saw people rudely cutting others off in traffic and people littering. Disgusted, he created a game he’d play with himself, based on points.”

Viewers of The Good Place will remember that the entire afterlife that Schur created for the sitcom was also based around earning enough points to go to heaven or get sent down to hell. Schur attributes the annoying, bad behavior of Los Angeles’ residents as the original inspiration for his hit show.