Comic-Con, Day 3: For the love of Community

Comic-Con, Day 3: For the love of Community

The NBC sitcom's Comic-Con panel draws a fervent, fannish crowd

Community creator Dan Harmon sits at the table in the green room for the Hilton's Indigo Ballroom, playing through worst case scenarios. Someone could ask just why Community, the show he created, is at Comic-Con, suggests a publicist. He tries to convince himself that if the room is half full or completely full, it's good both ways, since the former means that everybody who wanted to see the show got in and the latter means that lots of people wanted to see the show. Unless it means that the room is full of people waiting for something else.

Honestly, he shouldn't have worried.

I can't give you a full accounting of just what happened at the Community panel because I could only hear about every fifth word (the echo-y microphones complained about by James Urbaniak during the Venture Bros. panel really were that bad). But in aiming to capture the whole of the Comic-Con experience, I guess it might be helpful to capture what it's like to be up there on stage. (And, no, I'm not going to give you any backstage scoop about the Community cast, mostly because I don't have any. They all were very nice people when I spoke with them.)

The first nice thing about being a moderator, honestly, is getting to have lunch. I generally don't eat lunch at events like this and rely on whatever I can find at the hotel's continental breakfast. But as moderator, I get to eat a sandwich! This may not seem like a big deal to you, but it was, honestly, the highlight of my day up until that point. From there, it's all boring procedural stuff, involving making sure everybody has the same schedule, getting a hold of note cards, then just waiting for everything to get started while spying on celebrities from the other panels. (Including the cast of The Guild, since Felicia Day has apparently decided to listen to my complaint about not having seen her last night and start stalking me, since I've seen her three times since then.)

From there, we're led to the backstage area, where we can see the main room filling in. And it's here that we first get a sense of just how massive this thing is going to be. The hall is just massively packed. One of the producers walks over to another and says, gleam in their eye, that the line is so long not everyone's going to get in. Suddenly, the whole question of long lines and being stuck in them is flipped on its head. In this case, a line so long that some people are denied is DESIRABLE. We WANT those people foaming at the mouth to get in. I mean, even I do, and my stake in this whole ordeal is, ultimately, rather low.

And then, the clip reel starts, and the hall explodes.

I don't really know if the level of excitement for the Community cast is comparable toward the enthusiasm tossed toward other casts. Friends in the audience say it was just as loud out there as it was on stage. And on stage, where we've crept out in the semi-dark, the whole thing feels like a massive wave of sound, bearing us along on it and immediately removing any nerves. These people are here to see the cast of Community. I could just stand there and lob them things like, "So what's your favorite color?" and it would be met with loud cheers. Nobody's here for another show. Nobody's here grudgingly. They love these people, and they want to hear them talk.

Again, I can't tell you exactly what was said during the panel. I can remember some of the answers, but the sound problems are pretty terrible. But I do catch Harmon teasing an Apollo 13-inspired episode involving one of the characters going into space (but not really, apparently), while Donald Glover and Danny Pudi tease a Troy and Abed love triangle (and I do hope this wasn't just a joke). The rest of the questions are mostly just excuses to get the cast going and doing amusing things so the audience will continue to be entertained, but, honestly, it doesn't take much. These guys are wonderfully funny and fun to watch, and eventually, I'm able to just step outside of myself and enjoy what's going on. A friend later calls it the most purely entertaining panel he attended, and I'm 100 percent certain this has nothing to do with me.

The audience question and answer section lasts about ten minutes, and I'm surprised that the vast majority of questions are directed at Pudi and Glover. Well, I'm not surprised, exactly, since those actors play characters who have become fan favorites, but it's still amazing to see just how thoroughly Comic-Con reveals just how devoted a show's fans are to that show. Most of the media attention around the show focused on Chevy Chase and Joel McHale when it launched, and much of it still does. It's not as though the crowd doesn't like either actor - indeed, they give both hearty ovations - but when it comes down to it, what everybody wants to see most is the Spanish rap or Pudi and Glover dueting on "Somewhere Out There," both of which the duo perform during the panel.

By the time the panel is over, everybody's ebullient. Community is an embattled show, renewed for a full second season, but largely because it's on a struggling network. Its ratings, sadly, are pretty bad, and there's a very real fear that we might be launching a "Save Community!" campaign come next spring. But events like this give the people working on the show a better sense of just how passionate their fans are. It's one thing to read the comments section here and realize that, yeah, a lot of people are really digging the show. It's quite another to step out onto a stage and be blitzed by hardcore love. We're walking offstage. We're happy. I mean, honestly, I have no real reason to be so, but just being in the general vicinity of that much love has given me a contact high. For all my bitching, there's something wonderful about the love expressed in pure fandom, and we all ride that feeling straight off the stage.

(As I write this piece, I'm watching the rebroadcast of the Comic-Con Masquerade ball. Honestly, I try to at least understand what's going on in most panels, but I have no friggin' clue what this - a Comic-Con tradition - is supposed to be about. I guess it's a way to show off costumes? That makes the most sense, at least.)

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