During the first season of Community, Dan Harmon was doing research for Abed Nadir’s character, who he INTENTIONALLY created as Autistic. This is what happened:
Most Community fans assume Abed has Asperger’s syndrome. Many of the signs are there: His inability to pick up on others’ feelings, his tendency to relate more to film and TV than to actual people, his obsessive analyzing and categorizing of events. From the beginning, Harmon didn’t want to specify the character’s pathology, but out of curiosity he eventually started looking into Asperger’s.
“So, in a very naive way—and I’ve never told anybody this before—I started researching the disorder,” Harmon says. “I started looking up these symptoms, just to know what they are. And the more I looked them up, the more familiar they started to seem. Then I started taking these Internet tests.” The tests came up positive.
When he began writing Community, Harmon thought the character he related to most was Winger, who had “all the defense mechanisms that I acquired,” Harmon says. But the more online tests for Asperger’s he took, the more he began to wonder if he was just as similar to Abed. It had never occurred to him before, he says, because he has always been so oversensitive.
Eventually, Harmon met with a doctor and came to understand that symptoms of the disorder lie on a spectrum, and that in fact there is a place on it for people with inappropriate emotional reactions and deep empathy. Harmon now sees that he may fit somewhere on that spectrum, though figuring out exactly where could take years.
When he created a TV character who relates to the world through television, Harmon didn’t realize that he was, in a sense, inserting himself into his show. Ever since he recognized this, writing in Abed’s voice has gotten much easier; all Harmon has to do, he says, is “open up my memory.” And he has learned to understand himself a bit better, including why—like Abed—he sometimes unintentionally hurts those around him.
Dan Harmon created a character like himself and ended up diagnosed with Autism.
He writes Abed by “opening up his memory”.
Dan Harmon was fired from Community.
Now Abed smiles like Danny Pudi instead of Abed.