Dan Harmon has described Community as being based on his own experiences, but that begs the question of exactly how much of the show is a true story. First airing in 2009 as an oddball sitcom, Community quickly became a cult success, running for 110 episodes over its six-season span. Its loyal following secured the show’s continued popularity and even saved it from cancellation during its original run. Community‘s unique brand of meta-humor and chemistry between its excellent comedic cast ensured it a lasting place in its fans’ hearts.

The show follows a group of mostly young adults attending Greendale Community College, an idea that creator and on-off-showrunner Dan Harmon claims stemmed from his own experiences at a community college. At the heart of Community is the study group, a gathering of incredibly different people thrust together by their attendance at Greendale. The general premise might be plausible, but the often wacky exploits of Community‘s cast of characters certainly isn’t.

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Surprisingly, Harmon actually describes the central premise of the show as an almost identical translation of real events. Much like in the show, Harmon attended a community college as an adult and found himself making friends with an unlikely group of people via a study group.  He described the group as “people [he] normally wouldn’t hang out with,” saying that he “had nothing to gain from them and nothing to offer them,” but that they struck up a friendship regardless.

From this, it’s clear that Harmon based Community‘s Jeff Winger, the show’s main character, on himself. However, in the show, Jeff attends Greendale after being disbarred and suspended from his law firm, but in real life, Harmon made the decision to enroll in community college in an attempt to repair a relationship. That might seem like a major difference, but there is one key similarity: Harmon attended community college to study Spanish, which is the subject the study group was formed for.

As Community went on, its stories became more and more outlandish. College-wide paintball games, animated episodes, and dictatorships were established within the school, but the show maintained its core focus on the study group. One other key factor that the show borrows from real life is what Jeff learns by the end of Community. It actually mirrors what Harmon himself says he learned from his time at community college: that making friends with his study group was “what normal people do all the time,” causing him to reflect on his own behaviors and learn more about himself as a person.

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While the unforgettable hijinks that Community depicts don’t seem to be specifically based on real events, the sentiment behind the show certainly is. Harmon seems to have captured the essence of his community college experience and distilled it into something both beautifully outlandish and hilariously relatable. While Community might not exactly follow real-life events, its core is certainly based on a very real experience.

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