The next two episodes of NBC’s “Community” — which concern another paintball competition at Greendale — have more going for them than just guest-star Josh Holloway. The two-part season finale, which begins Thursday at 8 p.m., also marks the return of Magnitude, the one-man party whose catchphrase “Pop! Pop!” is threatening to take over the Internet. To celebrate one of our favorite members of the Greendale universe, TheWrap spoke to “Community” creator Dan Harmon, staff writer Adam Countee, and Luke Youngblood, the actor behind the minor character who has given voice to party professionals everywhere.
Dan Harmon [creator]: Sometimes I’m not in the writers’ room when something happens, so I can’t quite be sure, but I want to say the idea for Magnitude came from Adam Countee, one of our new staff writers this season. Yes, I believe the source of the Magnitude river is somewhere around Adam Countee.
Adam Countee [staff writer]: We were talking about the Valentine’s Day episode, where Chang hosts a party at Jeff’s apartment and this colorful cast of characters just shoehorns its way into Jeff’s life. We were talking about what those guests were going to look like, and I just threw out this bit about a guy who comes in and goes, “Yo-yo-yo-yo-yo-yo-yo-yo!”
Harmon: It was just a throw-away joke. Like, it was Valentine’s Day at Jeff Winger’s apartment and somebody needs to come in the door. Jeff’s like, “We’re not having a party.” And someone says, “Don’t tell that to so-and-so!” And the guy runs in and just does this stupid catchphrase.
Countee: We were trying to think of what the character’s line was after “Yo-yo-yo-yo-yo-yo-yo-yo!” We were thinking it should be something fun and nonsensical — something that would fire people up. I think what we had originally put in there was something you had heard before, a “True dat!” or something like that. But we wanted to spice it up a bit. And then I threw out “Pop! Pop!”
Harmon: The weird thing is that, in the beginning, the character’s name was Poochie. Which is really funny.
Countee: I think it was after the table read that we realized that this very famous “Simpsons” character is named Poochie and we wanted to distance ourselves from that. We thought we could come up with something a little more original.
Harmon: There was a division among the writing staff about the name, because those of us who are relatively older know that Poochie is that dog from “The Simpsons” that they created for “Ichy and Scratchy.” The joke was that it’s just this stupid character who’s all sizzle and no steak; he’s just a manufactured catchphrase-driven character. So not only was there another character named Poochie, but their comedic territories overlapped. So the old-timers on the staff had to insist that we had to give him a new name.
Countee: One of the most fun creative exercises of the entire season was presenting Dan with a list of what had to have been 20 alternative names for Poochie. We had things like Quasar and Ray-Ray and Chronos. God, I wish I could remember more of them. But we culled that list down to four or five, and then Dan added Event Horizon and Magnitude.
Harmon: I couldn’t be sure which one I liked the most. Event Horizon, I remember, was one of the finalists. It’s like, “Don’t tell that to Event Horizon! Pop! Pop!” And Magnitude was one of them. In the end, I really liked Magnitude because I realized that the reason he calls himself Magnitude is because it stands for Magnetic Attitude.
Countee: This guy has a nickname within a nickname. The layering of the character, I thought, was so funny and so brilliant. That little nuance spoke volumes about who this kid is and who this kid is trying to be.
Also read: Dan Harmon Talks ‘Community’ Renewal, Season Three
Luke Youngblood (Magnitude): I was having a normal day in Los Angeles, as you do. And then my manager sent me through the one-sheet for this character, which at the time was called Poochie. All it said was that Poochie enters and says, “Yo-yo-yo-yo-yo-yo-yo-yo! Pop! Pop!” And then everyone laughs and the party continues. So I’m thinking to myself, “How am I going to portray that?” Because, literally, that could have taken me two seconds to do. So I was going over it in my head and I just thought, “I have to stretch it out.”
Harmon: Luke was one of several young men that had to audition. I watched his audition, and I enjoyed the way he said, “Pop! Pop!”
Countee: We got the sense that this character was going to be one that we were going to want to keep around after we cast Luke. We watched his audition tape in the writers’ room — and watched it again and again and again, because it was just cracking us up. We knew that, because we’d found the right guy and because he was nailing it, this was going to be a fun character that we were going to want to see again.
Youngblood: I don’t consider myself to be a funny person at all, so I was quite surprised by how funny they found me to be. But I did something right because I booked the job. And I was so surprised when they called me back to be on the show again.
Countee: I was thrilled that I would get to have him around again for the election episode, which is one that I wrote — you know, he’s a one-man party, the ultimate populist candidate that everybody just loves and is easy to get behind.
Youngblood: The second episode that I did was so funny. It was quite interesting, too, because when I arrived on set on that day and saw what I was going to be doing, I was like, “Oh great, Magnitude gets to speak.” Even though it was mostly — and is, and I’m sure is always going to be — centered around the “Pop! Pop!” thing. But it was great to be able to take his character a bit further in the series.
Harmon: At some point, we had to give Magnitude a birthdate. And someone decided that he was 16 years old. We were like, “That’s hilarious.” He’s, like, some kind of weird prodigy. There is also a deleted couplet from the election episode. Magnitude is up there talking, and the dean applauds his bold urban flavor. And in response to that, Shirley, in the audience, says, “Bold urban flavor? Please. That boy’s from Barbados. His father’s a cardiologist.” So, there’s some biographical information to add to the canon.
Countee: It was really Dan who gave the character shape and figured out what his role would be in the Greendale universe. Which is ironic to say about a character that only says one thing.
Youngblood: “Pop! Pop!” is kind of epic. It’s great that people respond so well to the character and that one catch phrase.
Countee: I’d like to say “Pop! Pop!” is our commentary on our catchphrase culture. But really, it’s just fun to say.
Harmon: Magnitude is in the finale. He does his bit.
Youngblood: All I’m going to say about the final episode is that there might be some “Pop! Pop!” action. [Pause] It’s insane to me. I just thought Magnitude was just going to be a one-episode thing, but it’s taken on a whole life of its own.
Harmon: We’ve become tickled with the mystery of the character. I hate to overanalyze Magnitude, because he’s all in the name of fun. I actually see fans online having arguments about it, and it seems like the argument has to do with the assumption that either this character is a result of the show making fun of the viewer, or it’s a result of a show being stupid. And there’s absolutely no way for it to ever be anything in between. It’s kind of a silly, dumb thing. There’s no thesis that comes with Magnitude.