It’s harder to be funny without cruelty or snark, to be good-hearted without sentimentality. Harris Wittels helped create a charming, innovative show full of unique characters. His humblebrag concept was a popular twitter feed and book. Parks and Recreation in print was smarter and funnier than such tie in products generally are. He made some amusing cameo appearances in P & R, played in a band and he was consistently entertaining and inventive in podcasts, particularly this one
where he discusses his heroin use at length, coming over as a wise, enlightened soul.
Was his first extremely expensive rehab much more than a very fine hotel? Twelve steppers prefer a harsher regime for new recruits and, highly intelligent though he was, he was ultimately too laid back about a serious threat to anyone’s survival. It feels wrong criticizing someone who died far too young but too many good people have succumbed recently.
I dabbled a few years ago but the experience of meeting vile, odiferous thieves soon palled. His memories of street junkies awakened mine. Clean clothes, good trainers, all your own teeth? You must be a cop! Although I had some longstanding serious problems I was still a tourist who didn’t need to be there. Harris Wittels had even less reason to be plumbing the depths: much younger, a deserved critical and commercial success, he was an in demand party animal in the world capital of show business. New creative opportunities were opening up, he had a good relationship with his family. However, young men are often reckless, risking their lives in fast cars, dangerous sports or even enlisting as mercenaries. He may just have succumbed to curiosity. There has to be something better than what you know.
I hope this isn’t ‘karoake grief’ (coined by Rory Bremner for the mass emoting after the death of Diana Spencer and other tragedies). It may be inappropriate to write about someone I first heard of the day they died. Well, it probably can’t be said often enough: however experienced you are with drugs, you can’t control heroin.
I’ve been fortunate relapsing after long periods of drug and alcohol abstinence, there were injuries and arrests but an intravenous heroin user loses tolerance. (Just snorting heroin can be fatal, two visitors to Amsterdam recently died from a much purer form of the drug than their usual dose.)
Despite some mystical musing about reckless behaviour – roughly ‘what’s an extra fifty years compared to eternity’ he didn’t want to upset his family by dying young and had worked hard in recovery. He was on stage the night before he died, in a good place. Then a final snap decision…
So very sad but his work will live on, as will the love and affection he inspired in many people.
Harris Wittels 1984 -2015