I know everyone in Community. Not Joel McHale, Donald Glover, Alison Brie… I know these people. I’ve met them. I’ve befriended them. I’ve said cruel things being their backs. I’ve felt great love for them. And I’ve watched them disappear. Community ran for 110 episodes from 2009 to 2015, but to me it feels eternal and ever-expanding; it exists within my veins and in the deepest reaches of my heart. It’s not that I’m obsessed with it, or even that I choose to remain passionate about it years after its cancellation. To me, Community is as powerful an emotional presence as a friend. It’s the sort of show that does that to you.
Cut to summer 2013. I’ve just finished my Junior Cert and I’ve never felt more relieved, relaxed and free to just indulge in pop culture without the distraction of study. I devour Lost in two weeks. Get through Arrested Development in less. I see a mention in The Guardian of a popular American show that hasn’t gotten proper distribution in the UK and Ireland. Community. Let’s try it.
Now I don’t feel particularly ashamed in saying that I had no friends that summer, nor was that something that particularly bothered me. I genuinely didn’t hang out with a single person my own age that entire period. It was the last time in my life I was totally content with my own company. And Community became my best friend. Without sounding quite as tragic as Martin Starr in that Freaks and Geeks episode when he sits alone in front of the TV watching bad stand-up eating cheese, that wasn’t far off from what I was doing that summer. I have such intense sense memory of sitting in my living room in Galway watching the infamous, series-best multiple timelines episode “Remedial Chaos Theory” and eating a frozen pizza by myself, it almost makes me burst into tears at just the sheer momentum of the nostalgia.
I think I learned how to be extroverted from this show and from The West Wing, but this came first. Troy and Abed’s infantile pop culture obsessions are not ostracised within the study group, they’re seen as charming. Annie’s neurosis is part of a complex personality that ultimately makes her an asset in the learning environment. Britta’s somewhat shallow investment in political causes helps her to find people with similar concerns about the world. And Jeff Winger can always save the day with a good motivational speech.
These are all aspects of Community that built the character I would come to inhabit as an adult, and entering spaces that all too resemble the world of Community (particularly the year I spent in an actual community college from 2016–2017) I’ve tried to capture some of the spirit of these fabulously-drawn figures.