The death of Harris Wittels, Parks and Recreation co-executive producer and stand-up comedian, shocked the comedy community on Thursday. Particularly his Parks family.
On Friday, a day after Wittels was found dead of an apparent overdose and shortly after Amy Poehler remembered her “dear, young friend” at a unite4humanity event, Parks and Rec star Aziz Ansari published a lengthy and emotional letter as a tribute to Wittels, remembering stories from years ago up until the day of his death, when he asked him to punch up a joke for a new project.
The comedian, who plays Tom Haverford on the NBC comedy, still seemed in shock, writing, “I’m still waiting for the other phone call to let me know that Harris is okay and this was all a horrible misunderstanding. I don’t know when my brain is going to be able to process the terrible feeling that fills my heart with dread and my eyes with tears every 20 seconds when I realize this very special person is really gone.”
In addition to their work together on Parks, the two worked collaborated on two films that were never completed: Olympic Sized Asshole and Big Time. In his letter, Ansari remembers the script Wittels wrote for Olympic Sized Asshole—which would have starred him and Danny McBride as two best friends whose girlfriends had a threesome with an Olympian—as the first script that actually made him laugh. Wittels also opened for Ansari on several of his standup tours.
Since then, Aziz says, “Any time I worked on anything.. He was the first name I asked for every time.”
On top of remembering him for his “weird, unexpected, often brilliantly dumb” jokes that were “in that ultra-exclusive club of ones that made comedy people laugh,” Ansari said, “besides being so unbelievably hilarious, Harris was truly a sweet guy.”
“He was so lovable even when saying the most disgusting things,” he wrote. “You just couldn’t help but love him. He had the most ridiculous opinions on everything from food to dating to music and he’d defend them to no end. He loved to make ridiculous boast that he insisted he could achieve.”
Ansari also included Wittels’ original scripts for their uncompleted film projects in the letter, which you can read in full here.