Jim Rash may occasionally act in his writing projects (see his hilarious performance in last year’s “The Way Way Back”), but his writing won’t infringe on his day job as an actor. Sure, he won the Oscar for Best Adapted Screenplay for 2011’s “The Descendants,” but he says that after writing an episode of “Community,” the half-hour sitcom on which he plays the dean of the most absurd community college in America, once was enough.
“I wrote one episode of the season that was sort of given the title of our gas leak year,” he says with a laugh, referencing the fact that the show’s creator, Dan Harmon was fired in 2012, and the “Community” he built ran without him for one season before his return.
“It was a very gratifying experience,” says Rash of being able to write an episode, even under such strange circumstances, “but the truth is I was already envious and sort of a fan of Dan’s brain … and our writers that he puts together each year, so they don’t need me. I’m happy to just play the dean. That works perfectly for me.”
And Rash playing the dean and reciting the lines Harmon and crew write for him works perfectly for viewers as well. In one highlight from this season, he tries to make it up to his staff for not being able to pay them by dressing up as a Payday candy bar and delivering a freestyle rap that gets so real that it, well, watch below...
“I think part of the difficulty with the fourth season was that you’re kind of satisfying a checklist of who these people are, based on how they were created, but you don’t really get to move it forward as you could with a creative mind that wants these people to continue to evolve,” he says.
As for the rap itself, Rash says he had to make sure he could get it down within 10 takes.
"I started to lose my voice," he says, "so I knew I had a limited shelf life."
Rash himself has a decidedly less limited shelf life, as after the season finale of “Community” airs Thursday, viewers will be able to see him hosting the Sundance show, “The Writer’s Room,” the second season of which premieres Friday. Each week Rash welcomes the writers behind some of the biggest shows on TV, such as “Scandal,” “House of Cards,” “The Good Wife,” “Pretty Little Liars” and “Sons of Anarchy,” but isn’t there a certain half-hour sitcom on NBC that would make for a riveting discussion?
“I fought hard, trying to get ‘Community’ in there for the second season, and it’s not like they were fighting me, but they had already booked everything,” says Rash. “I do want to do that someday though.”
These are celebrities in their own right, because there is an exposure to the creative minds that people didn’t have in the past. The wall is down. Dan Harmon is a great example of someone that is very vocal and utilizes social media in a way that allows fans to tap into him, and make it feel more personal. ... It’s a great time for TV — there are lots of avenues — but at the same time it makes it competitive, so that outreach to fans is pivotal to allowing shows to withstand the battle to stay on the air.
Rash, on how social media has helped television writers get their due.