He was a guess actor on the comedy hit series ‘Bang! Bang!” Born in Oklahoma City on April 20, 1984, he had one older sister; he attended High School for the Performing and Visual Arts in Houston.
On Feb. 19, 2015, Harris Wittels — executive producer of NBC’s hit comedy Parks and Recreation — was found dead at age 30 of a drug overdose in his Los Angeles home.
Here, his older sister, Stephanie, recalls the first moments her worst-case scenario became reality and describes the daunting task of navigating life after her beloved brother’s death.
Last November, he appeared on the comedian Pete Holmes’ show You Made It Weird and frankly essayed the addiction to oxycodone he developed following a tough breakup, how that morphed into heroin use, and his trips to two rehabilitation clinics.
By all accounts, he continued to battle with addiction, asking for help from fellow comics for an upcoming stint in New York.
The circumstances of Wittels’ death might make him sound like the kind of tortured comedian of legend, like a Sam Kinison or a Lenny Bruce. But he wasn’t like that at all.
Even discussing the darkest moments of his life with Holmes, the pair constantly burst into peals of agreeable laughter, like they couldn’t believe the absurd sadness that he was describing.
On Parks & Recreation, Wittels would occasionally appear as a cheerfully stoned animal control worker with a passion for the band Phish, a loving parody of his actual persona.
The apex was the sporadic podcast series Analyze Phish, in which Wittels tried to talk the derisive Aukerman into becoming a fan of the Vermont jam band.
Strange as it sounds, their work together transcended that cute premise and became one of the more pivotal works of comedy in this Internet generation.
An episode where Aukerman and Wittels attend a Phish show together is about much more than just their feelings for the band-it’s about the nostalgia that comes with age, how people hold on to the things they loved as teenagers, and the fading appeal of recreational drug use.
His work on Parks, one of the decade’s cornerstone sitcoms, cannot be overstated-he helped create the Ron Swanson’s “Duke Silver” persona, wrote “94 Meetings,” among many more, and rose to the position of co-executive producer by its final year.
His “Chapter 15” of Eastbound and Down needs to be seen to be believed-it’s one of the most brilliant half-hours of comedy TV in the HBO era.
Every one of Wittels’ “Harris’ Phone Corner” segments is searchable on YouTube and will be passed around by comedy fans for decades to come.
This all came by the age of 30, in a life hampered in its final years by addiction.
A man who loved his job and family, Alex will always be remembered for the loving and kind individual that he was.