Harris Wittels was an actor, comedian, writer, producer and musician. He is best known for having been a writer for The Sarah Silverman Program, a writer and executive producer for Parks and Recreation and a recurring guest on Comedy Bang Bang. After performing stand-up comedy in Los Angeles, Wittels met Sarah Silverman and became a writer on The Sarah Silverman Program in 2007. He also wrote for the 2007 and 2008 MTV Movie Awards. When The Sarah Silverman Program ended in 2010, Wittels became a staff writer and executive story editor for Parks and Recreation during the show’s second season, then later co-producer during the third season and executive producer during the fourth. He also appeared on the show as Harris, a dim-witted animal control employee. Wittels also wrote for the programs Secret Girlfriend and Eastbound and Down.
In 2012, Wittels was cast as a co-star in Sarah Silverman’s NBC pilot Susan 313 along with June Diane Raphael and Tig Notaro, which was not picked up. Wittels was a frequent guest on the Earwolf podcast Comedy Bang Bang and was known for the recurring segment “Harris’ Foam Corner”, during which he read jokes and observations saved on his phone that were deemed to be not good enough for his act. The jokes were typically lambasted by host Scott Aukerman. Wittels also hosted the Analyze Phish podcast, where he attempted to convince friends to enjoy the band Phish. Wittels was a member of the band Don’t Stop or We’ll Die along with comedians Paul Rust and Michael Cassady. He was the band’s drummer and provided backing vocals. In 2010, Wittels coined the phrase “humblebrag” on Twitter. He wrote for Grantland on the subject of notable “humblebrags”, the act of boasting about your life and then downplaying it. The popularity of the feed led to a book, Humblebrag: The Art of False Modesty, published in 2012.
Here’s his friend Amy Poehler’s statement about Harris.
“So today, I lost a friend,” she continued. “I lost a dear, young man in my life who was struggling with addiction and who died just a few hours before we came. Jane [Aronson] and I sat and talked about it, and I’m sharing it with you because life and death live so closely together and we walk that fine line every day. At the end of the day, when things happen in our lives and we turn to people that we love and we turn to family and community for support, we lean on people and hope that they will ease our pain.”
On that note, the normally bubbly comedienne shared that she was in no mood to lighten the mood.
“I don’t really feel like telling any jokes. I’m kind of sad,” Poehler confessed. “And it’s been really great to be here tonight and to be listening to all of you and inspired by the great work that you do and to be reminded why you live in this bizarre planet called ‘Hollywood.’ It’s very strange. I feel like talking about [Worldwide Orphans Foundation], I feel like talking about the good work that they do, I feel like focusing on trauma and loss, how they encourage children through play and sport and creative arts… I feel not like telling jokes but celebrating with all of you tonight – everyone that works at WWO keeps reminding me of a very basic thing which is, I think we are all connected.”
She then pleaded with the room to make a difference by taking it one step at a time. “What you have all done for me tonight is when something feels really big, too big to handle, just go very small,” she said. “Just go real small, just look at the person next to you and look in their eyes and meet the person next to you, find out their name, change one person’s life and make one call, write one letter, give one dollar. Whatever small thing feels like what you can do — it changes the course of the ship and that is all it is.”