Community's Dan Harmon Used Chang The Same Way Happy Days Used The Fonz

There are a lot of memorable characters who orbit the central study group on the NBC comedy series "Community," but few had the ability to send everything into chaos quite like Señor Ben Chang. The character starts out as the study group's Spanish teacher, but eventually ends up becoming one of the series' biggest antagonists. Played with bottomless energy by actor Ken Jeong, Chang is one of the most ridiculous characters in sitcom history. His arc over the six seasons (and upcoming movie) of the series is one of the most extreme of the entire cast, and that's pretty incredible considering Troy (Donald Glover) ends up sailing the globe with LeVar Burton.

In a Reddit Ask Me Anything, series creator Dan Harmon explained that while Chang was fantastic in the authority position of a professor, he was just too great to relegate to the realm of teaching forever. Instead, Harmon and the writers decided to use Chang like another famous sitcom character: Henry Winkler's The Fonz from "Happy Days"!

An agent of chaos

The AMA took place between the second and third seasons, when Chang had gone from being a Spanish teacher to a student at Greendale, taking Anthropology with the study group and wreaking general havoc. When Dan Harmon was asked about Chang's change in power, he replied:

"I think that Chang's craziness did function better in a position of authority. I didn't want to have everyone keep taking Spanish after year 1 so I thought I'd see what would happen if we took the lid off and just let him be like the Fonz, there when you need him."

Harmon then went on to explain that Chang would be in a place of authority over the study group at some point in season 3, which is a bit of an understatement given that Chang takes over the entire school near the end of the season. The idea of using Chang "like the Fonz" is an interesting one, however, because Chang operates as a wild card that appears whenever the story needs a true agent of chaos. The study group can be plenty chaotic, but they have distinct personalities and character rules that can't be broken without sacrificing who they are. Chang, on the other hand, can do anything.

No sharks to jump, just monkey gas

On "Happy Days," the Fonz was the ultimate wild card, showing up whenever things got a little too wholesome around 1950s Milwaukee. He started as a side character, but his popularity made him get more and more screen time as the show went on, much like Chang. One of the most (in)famous episodes of "Happy Days" featured Fonzie jumping over a shark on water skis, spawning the phrase "jumping the shark." (When a series "jumps the shark," the idea is that they've started to reach irrelevancy and are doing more extreme things to appease viewers.) Ben Chang never jumped a shark, but he did hold an entire community college hostage, live in the vents of the school, and end up being chased out of his home by poisonous "monkey gas." Honestly, Chang started out so totally wild that there really wasn't any way he could jump the shark, because it was jumped from the moment he appeared onscreen teaching Spanish.

It will be interesting to see where Chang has ended up after all of these years in the "Community" movie that's in the works ... but you can almost guarantee that it will be wonderfully bizarre.