Thanks For The Laughs

Dec 27, 2020 by Tyler Henry

I remember when I first discovered Harris Wittels. The year was 2016 and I was 23 years old working as an assistant equipment manager at a college in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania (USA). I'd developed a social anxiety disorder in college that I had unsuccessfully managed for years which was getting worse and leaving me feeling hopeless. Naturally, comedy was a great remedy. I'd been listening to Comedy Bang Bang thinking it was interesting but possibly a waste of time because the guests were so absurd and I'd never heard of know most of them. If not for Scott Aukerman being so damn funny and a great host I probably would have stopped listening after the first episode. I went to Reddit for recommendations and went down the CBB rabbit hole of Paul F. Tompkins, Jason Mantzoukas, Lauren Lapkus, James Adomian, etc. I never truly connected to them on the level I was looking for. They were funny, for sure, but at that point in my life I was looking for something specific without knowing exactly what that would be. Somehow, it turns out that I was looking for Harris Wittels. I think Harris's Phone/Foam Corner was how I was introduced to him. I really couldn't believe how funny and original these jokes were. And there seemed to be something else there that I could connect with on a human level. After going through a bunch of his appearances on Comedy Bang Bang I landed on the two episodes he did with comedian Pete Holmes on Pete's podcast You Made It Weird. Woah. That was it. That was the thing I needed. The extent that I knew Harris prior to that was solely as a performer, not as a human with a life of his own. But on YMIW, I got to know him as this guy who was really struggling with life and found solace in comedy. As an example, Harris told a story on YMIW (Harris Wittels Returns) about someone in the Parks and Recreation writers' room who had witnessed a family get hit by a car while she was on her way to work. She said the bodies "flew up in the air like bowling pins" and was understandably in shock. Later that day, someone knocked a cup of pens off of a table and Harris made the joke that the pens "flew up in the air like bowling pins." Not everyone in the writers' room was onboard with this, especially the person who witnessed the accident (Harris would later say that their relationship was probably forever tarnished), but I think it encapsulates Harris's way of seeing the world which resonated with me on a deep level. Being 23, constantly anxious and sinking into depression, my mind wasn't exactly a bright place. Death was a subject that was constantly on my mind. I couldn't figure out how any of us could do anything with the knowledge that it all ends in death. Harris seemed to be grappling with these issues too and his conclusion was that nothing is sacred, death and life are inextricably tied, and there might not be any knowable salvation but at least there is comedy to help us enjoy life while we're here. And that is enough. I'm now 28 and haven't forgotten how Harris helped bring joy to my life when I needed it most. His foam corners, the Farts and Procreation series, You Made It Weird episodes, and Analyze Phish are bright spots that I return to often when I need that classic Harris perspective. I probably would have turned out ok if I hadn't discovered Harris but I know that he made a positive impact on my life and I am forever grateful for that. RIP Harris, thanks for the laughs.