Harris Wittels: The Parks and Rec Writer Gets to "Analyze Phish"
Have you taken any of the other Parks and Rec staff to a Phish show?
No, I dragged my girlfriend to her first one which was Long Beach.
How did she respond?
She had a good time. We were dancing and stuff but by the time they go to the 25 minute “Rock and Roll” > “Ghost” segment she was like, “This is pretty boring” and went to get nachos. And even I was like, “I hope they do something with this jam.” People were like, “They jammed for 25 minutes!” But it doesn’t matter if you jam for 25 minutes if it doesn’t go anywhere. It was a lot of atmospheric stuff and for a first time fan it’s not gonna cut it. [Justin] Bieber was close to us, though. He was about ten feet over.
What do you think of the Dan Kanter’s Phish teases at Bieber shows?
I love that it’s just an inside joke between him and Kuroda. It seems like the biggest scale inside joke in the history of anything.
People seem to either hate it or love it.
It’s only great. Everyone else is wrong.
You are pretty vocal Phish fan. I am starting to think there are more Phish fans out there that aren’t all that vocal about it. Can you out some closet Phish fans?
Ha, it’s a lot like being gay at this point. I’m trying to think who I have seen at shows. Fred Savage, I am not sure if he is a closet Phish fan but I remember I interned at Comedy Central when I first moved to Los Angeles and I heard “Tweeprise” playing from my boss’s office. I went in there and it was his directing reel, the compilation you make to get directing jobs. You pick your own music and he chose “Tweezer Reprise.” That’s awesome.
Then Matt Besser who started Upright Citizens Brigade.
I didn’t know he was a Phish fan
Yeah, he’s a huge Phish fan and also a huge punk fan. When I first saw him he was wearing a Phish shirt and I was like, “Was that a joke?” And he said, “No I love Phish.” He’s a Phish fan so it comes from a good place with him. He went to college at Amherst and saw some pretty early crazy shows.
They are few and far between man. I think Conan likes them a little bit, Danny Devito…
What about your own your band Don’t Stop or We’ll Die, are we going to see any dates popping up in the future?
Our schedules are so crazy right now between the three of us, Paul [Rust] is writing on Arrested Development and I’m at Parks and [Michael] Cassady is doing a lot of acting stuff so it’s hard for us to actually tour. We always try to submit ourselves to SXSW each year but the questionnaire is always like, “How many shows have you played?” Ten, none outside of LA so they are like, “Alright you are not a real band.”
Well I put some on in the office and didn’t tell them anything before it started. We listened to “Once in Awhile,” “Getaway Grandmothers Club” and “Central Park.”
Did they dig it?
Yeah there was a moment when they realized that it wasn’t what they expected and it was great to watch them all perk up and get into it.
I appreciate that. The most fun ever is getting to play music with your friends. It’s much less pressure than doing stand-up, where you are onstage and have to talk non-stop and make people laugh. It’s fun to fucking sit back and hit some drums.
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