Midnight Snack: The Village Idiot with Adam Countee

If The Village Idiot put out a yearbook, Adam Countee would be voted "Most Likely to Know Everybody But Not Make a Big Deal About It." The unassuming, up-and-coming writer for NBC's cult comedy show "Community" is most at home along an outer wall of the big, open late night Melrose spot. He shakes hands with the bartender, slides quietly into a booth, and immediately starts talking shop. It's just that, for Countee, 'shop' is a beloved network television show, where he's helped to pen some of its most memorable moments.

Don't worry though, we also found time to talk about hamburgers.

Adam: I've only ever eaten two things here, I think.

Farley: Which are?

Adam: The burger and the steak pie.

Farley: How do you feel about the burger?

Adam: I love the burger. I feel like it's a pretty underrated burger, actually. Simple, not a whole lot of frills.

Farley: Are you a burger guy around town? Do you like trying burgers at other places?

Adam: I do, but I'm more of a creature of habit than an adventurer. I used to live around the corner, so I started coming here, and I've just been continuing to come ever since. I stick with what I know I like, and what I know works. I wish I would try a couple other things.

Farley: Is it the fear of disappointment if the thing you order doesn't end up being good?

Adam: Maybe in part. Really, it's just about routine and being comfortable with what's familiar.

Farley: So, let me say congratulations on your Giants winning the Super Bowl.

Adam: Thank you very much... It was as enjoyable, if not more so, than 2008.

Farley: I love how much sports affects people.

Adam: It really does. And it's disturbing sometimes. But, on the other hand, it's kind of nice to have that outlet, you know?

Farley: For most people, it's a wholly separate thing from their normal life that they can still be invested in and still have the opportunity to win or lose.

Adam: Absolutely. You experience the whole gamut of the human condition, from triumph to utter despair, over the course of three hours. And then you can just be done with it, and go back to your boring-ass life.

Farley: You mean your boring-ass life writing for NBC's "Community"?

Adam: Hey, I'm doing nothing right now. We wrapped in mid-February, and once you're done you just have an ocean of time in front of you, because you're expected to come back in early June, so it's at least three months where you're just on your own. But then you fuck around for a month, and once you finally sit down and open up your computer, you really don't have as much time as you thought you had.

Well, I am trying to write a movie. We'll see what happens with the show getting picked up, but I'm planning on going back to work in two months, which doesn't leave me a whole lot of time to write a 100-page script.

Farley: What's it about?

Adam: I'm still working it out. It's very much in its infant stages, but I'll say that it's inspired by a lot of "Goonies"-type movies that we grew up with. Adventure that's hopefully infused with a lot of comedy.

Farley: I love that sort of stuff. Have you seen "Community" star Donald Glover's indie film "Mystery Team"?

Adam: I have. It's incredible. You know, I need to pick his brain a little bit, actually, because those guys just got it done. I wouldn't necessarily want to write a script just to sell it and get the payday. I would want to write a script that could be made on the cheap with my friends. That seems like the most fun you could have in this business.

Don't get me wrong, I am a very lucky man. I'm in a good spot. But I haven't written anything non-"Community" in over two years, so it's very important to me to try to get something written on my own, instead of just riding the coattails of a very talented staff and cast. It's kind of scary, in that regard, because I don't have them to hide behind.

Farley: How do you feel the show is going overall?

Adam: I feel like it's going really well right now. It's great to be back, and our numbers are better than before we left. With the hiatus, I feel like we died a small death, and are experiencing this rebirth now, and we're stronger than when we left. It feels good. We'll see how we do in the coming weeks, you know? Hopefully the numbers will hold, and it's not just excitement about the show returning that gave us a boost. But we have eight more episodes left to air, and there's some really good stuff coming up. It'll be fun to watch the show having been away from it for so long.

Farley: You must have written or even shot most of that stuff before you found out you were going on hiatus, right?

Adam: Oh, yeah. We found out we were getting pulled off the schedule right around Thanksgiving, and that was before we had even shot the Christmas episode. We had so many episodes left to do that it was such a blow to morale, like, "We can't guarantee that these will ever see the light of day, but keep working your ass off making the show." So we did, and thankfully it was rewarded.

Farley: You worked through the entire hiatus?

Adam: Yeah, we never stopped. We kept essentially the same schedule as if we'd been on the air the entire time. Then, when we finished the episodes, they were just sitting on a shelf. It's actually kind of fun now, because now that they're running we just get to watch them as fans. I'm excited to see everything that's coming up.

Farley: Even though it's technically your day job?

Adam: I'm in love with the show. This is my first real job in television, and I can't even get over the good fortune of being hired on a show like "Community." It's one of the few shows I'd actually watched religiously before I started working there. And to work for a show that you had been a fan of is probably really rare in this business. The show certainly has its challenges, but a tremendous amount of rewards as well.

Farley: How do you like working with creator Dan Harmon?

Adam: Dan is brilliant. And I don't toss that word around lightly. Not like the British use the word brilliant. Oh, these fries are brilliant! He uses more of his brain than the rest of us have access to. It's amazing to watch. Working for him is incredibly challenging, because it's hard to keep up sometimes, and you want so badly to make him laugh. That's really the seal of approval.

Farley: If the numbers hold, do you think you guys will get your 'six seasons and a movie'?

Adam: There's no telling. It has limitless potential and passion amongst the fans to go that long. Who knows what the TV landscape will look like in two years, three years? I think the show deserves at least another year, to tell a complete four-chapter story. There's four years of college, and four chapters in the story circles that Dan bases his writing on. I want to say that I'm cautiously optimistic for future seasons, but we'll just take them one at a time for now.

Farley: Do you guys have the crazy all night writers sessions?

Adam: We pretty reliably start at 10am. Once we get into production, the hours get pretty crazy. We stay pretty late, on average. Generally, we've gotten to a schedule where you can count on one all-nighter an episode. Usually, the nights before a table read, we'll work all night long. I think every writer has a pillow and a blanket and a toothbrush somewhere in their office.

Farley: So what happens when this is over, whenever it happens to be over?

Adam: I don't know that writing for television will always be my path. As long as it's still incredibly challenging right now, then it feels like where I'm supposed to be, but I don't know. We'll see what happens with this feature. But I'll say this: in life, if you're not confused and you're not struggling, then maybe you're making it a little too easy on yourself.

Village Idiot
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[Photos by Hagop Kalaidjian]


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About the Author

Farley Elliott is a freelance food writer and comedian. He currently writes for KCET.org, SeriousEats.com, LAist.com, and L.A. Weekly. You can catch Farley doing comedy at the Upright Citizens Brigade Theater in Hollywood.
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