Saying goodbye to Harris Wittels, a man who made us laugh even more than we knew
Yesterday, we lost Harris Wittels, a comedian, writer, producer, actor, and musician who shaped comedy and culture in enormous and important ways over the last several years. He was just 30 years old.
Wittels began his writing career staffing on The Sarah Silverman Show in 2007. When the show ended in 2010, Wittels moved over to Park and Recreation as a staff writer and executive story editor during the show’s second season, moving up the ranks and becoming an executive producer by the show’s fourth season. Wittels also played “Harris,” the slow-as-molasses animal control employee who quickly became a fan favorite on the series. This was all while he was still in his 20s.
In his brief life, he also developed and wrote the show “Secret Girlfriend,” and wrote on “Eastbound and Down” in 2012. A testament to his naturally pitch-perfect humor, he managed to pinpoint a cultural trend emerging on social media and invent new word. We all know the term “humblebrag,” one of the best words to emerge in the modern era, but what many of us didn’t know was that it was Wittels who coined the term in 2010, writing for Grantland about the increasing popularity of the supposedly modest form of boasting on social media (he also published a book on the “humblebrag” in 2012). Here’s how he defined it: “A Humblebrag is basically a specific type of bragging which masks the brag in a faux-humble guise. The false humility allows the offender to boast their ‘achievements’ without any sense of shame or guilt.”
As a comedian, Wittels toured with comedy luminaries such as Sarah Silverman, Louis C.K,, and Aziz Ansari, as well as appearing on Jimmy Kimmel Live. Wittels was also a regular on beloved podcast days of Comedy Bang! Bang!, where he had a recurring segment “Harris’ Foam Corner” where he delivered jokes he had recorded on his phone that he had decided weren’t worthy of his actual stand-up comedy act.
It was in the world of podcasts that Wittels revealed his struggle with substance abuse. In a November 19th, 2014 interview with the podcast You Made It Weird, Wittels explained that drugs had been a part of his life since the age of 12. During the same podcast, he revealed that he had just completed his second round of rehab as a heroin addict the month before. “Sobriety is still fresh,” he admitted. “I haven’t figured it all out,” It is sadly believed, though not officially confirmed that Wittels, at age 30, passed yesterday from a possible overdose.
The outpouring of love in the wake of Wittels’ passing is a gorgeous thing to behold.
“You should know that Harris was brilliant beyond compare,” Sarah Silverman wrote on Twitter. “That his imagination was without limit. That he loved comedy more than anything.”
“Such heartbreaking news about Harris,” Seth Meyers wrote. “A really funny guy.”
“…Goodbye Harris Wittels. You were so funny and sweet. It’s a pleasure to have known you,” came from Rob Lowe.
“HARRIS: No BS, straight-up honest guy, type you’d want to gravitate to at a party; amazing how open he was w/ us about his pain,” said Matt Besser.
And last night, Amy Poehler paid homage to her friend while accepting the unity award at a Unite4:Humanity event:
“…Today, I lost a friend. I lost a dear, young man in my life who was struggling with addiction and died. Just a few hours before we came… I’m sharing [this] with you because life and death live so close together and we walk that fine line every day and at the end of the day when things happen in our lives, we turn to people that we love, and we look to our family and our community for support, and we lean on people in a hope that they will ease our pain.”
We’re heartbroken over this loss, and our thoughts are with Wittels’ friends and family.