One of my favorite things about “Parks and Recreation” is the way they've filled out the corners of the city with some of the weirdest supporting characters on television.
It always made me happy when Harris and Brett would show up. The perpetually stoned friends were introduced running animal control for Pawnee, a position for which they were woefully underqualified, and every time they showed up, they seemed to be in stranger and stranger conditions.
Harris Wittels, who was a producer and writer on the show, played Harris, and what could have been a one-time joke became something worth revisiting, another wonderfully odd story unfolding in Pawnee. This is probably the thing he's best known for, his association with this amazing show, but he also made another cultural contribution that has become ubiquitous, even if many people have no idea where it began.
Wittels was the one who coined the term “humblebrag,” and his original Twitter account where he compiled beautiful examples of people humblebragging was one of those moments where we saw something genuinely new thanks to social media. The idea of curating all these examples of something, using people's own words, coining a term that explains an entire mind-set… that's something you can't do on purpose. It was one of those perfect ideas someone has, and once you've heard it, you can't believe it had to be invented. How was “humblebrag” not already a term?
I didn't know Wittels well. I knew him through social media and through a few introductions over the years through mutual friends. What I do know, though, is that he had a huge network of friends in the comedy community, and I have no doubt news of his death, apparently by drug overdose, is going to hit them all hard. I felt a sort of cold shock when I read it, and again… this is just someone who I had a casual acquaintance with. At 30 years old, he seemed to be revving up to doing the work that would really define him, something where he was in charge, where he got to really express his own comic sensibilities. He was a writer, a producer, and a performer, and he seemed to always be working and gigging. I have no doubt he had a ton more to offer, both professionally and personally.
My heart goes out to everyone who worked with him, who enjoyed his work, and who ever found themselves at the pointed end of his incredibly sharp wit.
F**k drugs. Harris Wittels will be missed.