Network Execs Thought Adding A Monkey Would Somehow Save Community

"Community" is well-known for its tumultuous production history and showrunner Dan Harmon's rocky relationship with network executives. Behind the scenes drama was nothing new to the cast and crew, who had come to adapt to the hectic production. But despite the turbulent methods with which it was made, "Community" is still considered one of the most inventive and comedic sitcoms in history. The show's six-season run garnered a cult following, with fans still clamoring for a long-awaited "Community" movie to bring one of the character's mantras, #sixseasonsandamovie, to fruition. 

Part of the show's charm is its use of long-running gags. Even some of the most minor jokes in the show could carry over into later seasons as a humorous callback for loyal viewers. More often than not, those running jokes served the overarching story, helping to give us a better understanding of the characters of "Community" in organic ways. However, one such joke didn't come up as organically as others. "Annie's Boobs," a pet monkey gifted to Troy (Donald Glover) in the season 2 episode "Contemporary American Poultry," turned into a sort of saving grace of the show — at least in the eyes of those in charge of marketing. 

The monkey only played an integral role in one season 3 episode before being a minor running gag in the background for the next season. During an anniversary panel, the cast of "Community" spoke about the monkey and how the show's publicity team was obsessed with the need to put it at the center of the series' promotion.

When a gag becomes forced

In a panel with Vulture called "In Conversation with the Cast of Community," the cast members reminisced about the monkey's introduction in the show. Apparently, the marketing department went to great lengths to put the monkey at the focus of a photoshoot. Someone involved in "Community" seemed convinced that this monkey would be the show's saving grace:

Gillian Jacobs: "At one point people became convinced that the monkey was going to save our show, and we had to do a syndication photoshoot -–"

Ken Jeong: "With the monkey! Season 4!"

Jacobs: "They tried to work the monkey into every shot, and at one point it was all of us pressed up against the study room windows, and the publicist was like, "And remember to look down, because they're gonna add the monkey swinging on the door handle!" And Joel [McHale] went, 'No more monkey!' And since then I have called the show Co-monk-ity. But yeah, that monkey was supposed to save us all."

While this behind-the-scenes story is funny, it also speaks to the larger issue of network interference in the creative process of a show. The cast members of "Community" are looking back at this moment both in humor and frustration, seeing the absurdity of attempting to use a monkey to drive viewers to the show.

Doing a running joke right

It's hilarious to think that someone would see a show as inventive and original as "Community" and believe a monkey was needed to sell the show. Putting a monkey in the marketing speaks to a lack of understanding of what made "Community" work. Many hilarious moments throughout the series featured bits or gags like this, but they're not what made the show unique — it was how the writers used those jokes to build character and strengthen relationships that really made the show sing. 

Look at the "Ass-Crack Bandit," first mentioned in season 2 as a throwaway joke and then brought back as a full-fledged character in season 5. The name taps into the same kind of crass humor as "Annie's Boobs," but its usage in the show is entirely different.

The season 5 episode dedicated entirely to the Ass Crack Bandit is both a clever callback and a compelling story. The episode plays like a David Fincher crime film, using the bandit as an analogue to a serial killer. Having each character react and respond to the bandit differently displays the group dynamics that make "Community" great, all while relishing in the aesthetics and tropes that viewers know so well. Most importantly, it shows that "Community" knew how not to force a joke. 

As cute as the monkey was, it unfortunately didn't exactly save the show like those involved thought it would. After moving to the now-defunct Yahoo Screen for its final season, "Community" sputtered to an end. But Dan Harmon is still working on the script for a movie continuation, so maybe that #sixseasonsandamovie mantra will finally come true.