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Unlike most panels at Comic-Con International in San Diego, the Community presentation began with an onscreen countdown, numbers flashing backward from 20 on the ballroom’s many projector screens. The crowd laughed and began counting along with it, breaking into cheers as clips from the NBC comedy suddenly began interspersing the numbers. Rejoining the countdown, the fans in unison counted down to one and cheered again the display went straight into an auto-tuned song made from clips of the show. It ended with a plug for the Community Season 2 DVD, out Sept. 6, before the lights came up and moderator Mike Schneider walked onstage and asked the audience, “Can I get a pop-pop?”
“Pop-pop!” the audience roared back, bursting into wild applause at the Community reference.
Schneider then introduced the cast of the sitcom: Donald Glover (Troy), Danny Pudi (Abed), Gillian Jacobs (Brita), Ken Jeong (Ben Chang), Yvette Nicole Brown (Shirley), Joel McHale (Jeff Winger), Jim Rash (Dean Pelton) and Chevy Chase (Pierce), as well as series creator Dan Harmon. Harmon asked audience members to tweet questions for the cast with the #anniesboobs hash tag, saying that the best would be asked at the end of the panel. Harmon also plugged the upcoming Season 2 DVD before screening one of the DVD’s blooper reels.
“We’d like to incentivize you by offering a cool gift, a Comic-Con exclusive,” he added as assistants handed out exclusive DVD covers to the audience. Harmon, however, was given a copy of the DVD by a very special guest — Troy’s pet monkey on the show, also named Annie’s Boobs.
“He’s not leaving until he’s guaranteed a spot in Season 3,” Harmon joked. He laughed as the monkey stood on its hind legs and waved to the audience. “You were so great in Raiders of the Lost Ark,” Harmon told the animal.
Annie’s Boobs left, and Schneider began the panel discussion by asking Chase and Harmon whether they thought Pierce went too far in alienating the other characters last season. “People had said that Pierce’s character got so dark they wondered why they would hang out with him — so while I like his backbone and his tooth, I wanted to address that story,” said Harmon, adding that by the end of Season 3, “You’ll know why you would hang out with Pierce.”
Chase, who didn’t hear the question at first, cracked the audience up as he played around with his microphone, pretending to use it as an earpiece before answering.
“I thought he did, yes,” Chase said, smiling as the crowd laughed.
McHale then touched on his character, the sarcastic and callous Jeff Winger, and Jeff’s personal crises through the season. “I think he is not just a cocky guy who is awesome at everything — which he is,” McHale joked. “I think we’ll see more of his undoing, and eventually he’ll barricade himself in a tower with a rifle.”
Moving onto this season’s paintball two-parter, Pudi squashed notions of an ongoing Abed/Annie romance, saying that Abed was playing the role of Han Solo when he kissed Annie. With a laugh, Pudi and Glover then revealed that the paint the cast was drenched in for the episode might have been toxic.
“I asked what type of paint it was, and they said this was the stuff kids paint with,” Glover recalled. “We said, ‘Oh, so it’s not toxic?’ and they said, ‘We didn’t say that.'”
“Yeah, it’s no big deal, we all had it on our bodies for eight hours straight,” Pudi added.
When asked whether fans will see more of Malcolm-Jamal Warner as Shirley’s husband, Brown smiled. “Malcolm Warner is someone I love very much. … What was the question?” she joked before seriously answering that she hopes Warner return. Brown said she also wanted to delve more into Shirley next season.
“I hope we get to find out more about Shirley as a student,” she said. “We know she does not open her books, she does not study, and I think she wants to graduate at some point, as does everyone else, so I hope we find out she’s moving in that direction.”
As for Chang not being the father of Shirley’s baby, Jeong laughed and said that he was thrilled Warner’s character was the biological father: “Being a father in real life, I’m so glad Ben Chang is not a father!”
Harmon then hinted that next season might see Chang returning to a position of authority. “I always wanted to see what would happen if Gollum did get the ring and just kept it,” Harmon said, comparing Chang to the Lord of the Rings character. “An empowered Chang is a funnier canvas.”
Other big changes are on their way for Season 3 as Rash, who plays the strangely effeminate Dean, joins the cast as a series regular. “I threatened to show up anyway and make entrances in scenes I wasn’t in,” Rash joked, “so they said, ‘Just pretend like he’s supposed to be here.’”
Michael Kenneth Williams, who played Omar on The Wire, will also guest-star as a biology teacher in an upcoming episode. “I wanted to add a layer of intensity to Community because if the show’s too weird to attract new viewers, you have two choices,” Harmon began. “You can add water to give it less flavor and hope that threatens less people, or you can threaten the hell out of everyone.” The audience wildly cheered.
Glover and Pudi also revealed that Troy and Abed move in together. “It takes a lot when you move in, in a relationship,” Glover joked as Pudi lovingly placed a hand on his shoulder. Glover and Pudi didn’t know what would happen when they moved in, but they wanted “to do more episodes like the fort,” said Glover, citing the episode where Troy and Abed make a pillow fort that spans the campus.
Harmon promised another Halloween episode, and possibly another paintball episode. “I have a feeling that there are people in this room who might be mad at us if we didn’t do another paintball episode, but at the same time … I have to think about a good reason to have one.”
The show’s creator also joked about Community being passed over for the Emmy nomination for Best Comedy Series, which went to Fox’s Glee.
“The Emmy nomination will finally give them the boost they need to keep Glee on the air!” Harmon said to audience laughter.
The cast members then shared their favorite moments on the show, most naming Jeff beating up Pierce in the hospital-set documentary episode as their fondest memory.
“My favorite joke you pull is when Chevy is calling [McHale] as his dad, and he obviously knows it’s not him — he just pulls him out [of the car] and starts beating him,” Glover laughed.
“That was very satisfying for me,” McHale added.
Other favorite moments included the Dungeons & Dragons episode, the fake clip-show episode, the animated Dean Pelton episode tag, the Troy-turns-21 episode, and when Brita dated the Eastern European mass murderer. Fans then demanded that Jacobs sing her rendition of “Genie in a Bottle” from that episode.
“Hit me with your genie bottle!” sang Jacobs as the audience laughed.
Chase added that his favorite moment was the recurring tiny man in the helicopter whom Pierce sees after ingesting multiple painkillers. “The other one is, quite frankly, pretending to be Joel’s dad and knowing perfectly well, because I know the script, that Joel is about to come and beat the shit out of me,” Chase said.
“They are all great fun to do, everybody in this cast is now fully equipped and ready to go…and I missed them all very much this summer,” he added as the audience applauded.
The panel then opened the floor to audience questions, the first from a fan who wanted to know whether there will be more episodes set outside the school.
“I think that as the show progresses, we need to know more about the characters and have more opportunity to get to know them,” Harmon said, adding that Season 1 was set mainly on campus as no one knew the characters yet, and they needed the space to define them. Promising that viewers will see cast family members in Season 3, Harmon then shocked the audience by telling them that by the end of Season 4 Jeff may graduate.
“All I know is that there is a four-year story happening that we promised in the pilot — Joel McHale is there to get his bachelor’s degree, and he has to get that or not get it,” Harmon said. “So it would be unfair and gross in the fourth season to go, ‘What? These credits don’t count!'” He also mentioned that next season may include a multiple-timelines episode, prompting the audience to burst into excited applause.
To wrap up the audience Q&A, the moderator turned to the best Twitter questions, starting with an audience Twitter user who wanted to know which Dean outfit was Rash’s favorite.
“I definitely enjoyed the little Tina Turner that was in this — oh, and my sister’s clothing!” Rash said, adding that outfit was the only one he had to face a bunch of background actors in, “So I got self-conscious standing there in between shots, and you inevitably would see people whispering and/or pointing.”
Another fan wanted to know about Glover’s new comedy/rap album Camp, created under the persona of Childish Gambino. In response, Glover threw down a special Comic-Con beat for the audience.
“Yeah, these rappers are afraid of him/’cause I’m a beast, bitch, Gir — Invader Zim!” sang Glover as the audience cheered. He also said parts of the Community score and songs will show up in his album mixed in with the beats.
The final question was a Twitter query posed to the entire cast: If the characters went to Comic-Con, who would they dress as and why? Glover immediately knew what answer fans wanted to hear. “I would dress up as Spider-Man,” he said to much applause.
Continuing down the line, Pudi thought Troy and Abed would dress as Mario and Luigi or Ren and Stimpy, although he would like to be The Flash. The audience cheered again as Jacobs picked Daria and Brown chose Yoda, while McHale said Jeff Winger would be “a really crappy-looking Ghostbuster.” Rash thought the Dean would bring a variety of costumes, most of them more appropriate for a furry convention. Chang named Beavis or Butt-Head.
Of course, Chase got the last laugh. After stalling for time and playing around with the microphone again, he ended the panel saying that he thought Pierce would “show up to Comic-Con with a woman in his pants!” Not surprisingly, the audience once again cheered.
Community returns to NBC on Sept. 22.