10 ‘Parks and Rec’ Writers Who Have Played Characters on the Show
Parks and Recreation is airing its 100th episode tonight. Ever since the series started nearly five years ago, showrunner Mike Schur has made it a point to frequently use his writers in acting parts on the show as Pawnee residents, most of them with super silly names that aren’t even spoken on screen. In an interview with us last year, Schur explained the decision to feature the writers so frequently like this:
I think it really ultimately comes from SNL because on SNL, the line between writer and performer is very blurry and the performers write a lot of their own sketches. Sometimes, the writers appear on the show. In general, the collaboration is very intense between writers and performers. A lot of the writers are also performing at UCB every week and doing improv and stuff like that. That spirit was taken to The Office. That was an explicit idea that Greg Daniels had for The Office was that there would be crossover. That’s why he hired Mindy [Kaling] as a writer-performer; he hired BJ Novak that way; he basically held Paul Lieberstein down and forced him to be in the show against Paul’s will; and I played Mose. Pretty much every writer at some point appeared on the show in some way … It’s a fun aspect of the show that we cram writers into the cast whenever we can.
From Harris Wittels’s stoner animal control character to Joe Mande’s scene-stealing nerd Morris, here’s a look back at some of the Parks and Rec writers who have turned up in acting roles big and small on the show during its run:
Joe Mande as Morris Lerpiss
Standup Joe Mande joined Parks and Rec’s writing staff in Season 5 after writing for Delocated and Kroll Show. The other writers wasted no time in giving him a part on the show, casting him as Morris, a nerdy, technology-obsessed Pawnee resident. In Morris’s most recent appearance, he was revealed to work at the prize counter at a roller rink’s arcade and his boss is a wimpy teenager who he’s respectful and fearful of. Mande often tweets about his character, jokingly amping up how important he is on the show and trying to get the character’s name to be a popular hashtag.
[Season 5, Episode 5; Season 5, Episode 16; Season 6, Episode 6]
Alan Yang as Chang
One of Parks and Rec‘s original writers, Alan Yang started playing a character called Chang, the bass player in Andy Dwyer’s band MouseRat.
[Several episodes, Season 2 to present]
Mike Scully as Pearl
Veteran comedy writer Mike Scully, who served as The Simpsons showrunner from seasons 9 to 12, was a consulting producer and writer on Parks and Rec for its first four seasons. He turned up on the show a couple times as one of the weird Pawnee residents who speaks up at city council meetings.
[Season 3, Episode 12; Season 5, Episode 2]
Aisha Muharrar as Kerp Sulsse
Aisha Muharrar, who’s been writing on Parks since Season 2, made a small appearance this season as a woman who works at a baby store called Tots All, Folks that Ann shops at.
[Season 6, Episode 3]
Katie Dippold as Mindy Marfan
Katie Dippold spent three seasons writing for Parks and Rec before moving on to movies and writing last year’s highest-grossing comedy, The Heat. On Parks, she’s popped up a few times as a neurotic Pawneean who shares the same therapist as Chris Traeger and once applied for the city’s vacant animal control position despite not wanting the job.
[Season 2, Episode 9; Season 4, Episode 19; Season 5, Episode 18]
Chelsea Peretti as Zelda
Now a series regular on Parks and Rec higher-ups Mike Schur and Dan Goor’s other show Brooklyn Nine-Nine, standup Chelsea Peretti spent two seasons writing for Parks before landing that big role on Brooklyn. She made a brief appearance on Parks as part of a committee April has to speak to while filling in for Leslie during her City Council run.
[Season 4, Episode 19]
Megan Amram as Viv
Popular Twitterer Megan Amram was hired onto Parks and Rec as a writer for its fifth season. She made a short appearance in a recent episode as one-half of a hipster couple who April tries to trick into buying Ron’s cabin.
[Season 6, Episode 9]
Alexandra Rushfield as Rebecca Lindshade
Alexandra Rushfield (Undeclared, Help Me Help You) made a short appearance as a woman infatuated with Ron Swanson’s alter ego Duke Silver who is upset he has a girlfriend.
[Season 5, Episode 9]
Emily Spivey as Dr. Van Dyne
Up All Night creator and former Saturday Night Live writer Emily Spivey briefly worked on Parks and Rec during its third season, and she appeared in a couple of episodes years later as a doctor helping Chris and Ann have a child. Her character first appeared in the show’s Infinite Jest episode, with her name being a reference to a character from the novel.
[Season 5, Episode 17; Season 5, Episode 20]
Harris Wittels as Harris
The most frequently-featured writer-as-an-actor on the show, Harris Wittels has appeared multiple times as one-half of a pair of incompetent animal control workers/roommates who love getting stoned alongside Key & Peele writer Colton Dunn as Brett. Harris and Brett were fired by Chris Traeger in Season 5 for being horrible at their jobs but they’ve continued to pop up on the show since.
[Several episodes, Season 2 to present]