Harris Wittels had the kind of ubiquity, at the age of only 30, that most stand-up comedians can only fantasize about. His unique presence on stage—avuncular and easygoing, while engaging with the darkest topics in the strangest ways—got him noticed quickly and hired as a staff writer for The Sarah Silverman Show, and later Eastbound and Down and Parks and Recreation (he worked on every season but the first). As a stand-up, Wittels toured with Louis C.K.; he was a drummer in Don’t Stop Or We’ll Die, a rollicking band comprised of fellow comics; he coined the term (and Twitter account) “humblebrag,” which was later turned into a book. From the early days of podcasting, he was a star, one of the most memorable voices in the still-expanding scene that's become such a vital part of the comedy landscape.
Wittels died Thursday at his home from what's reported to be an apparent overdose. A huge part of his appeal as a comic was his naked honesty, and Wittels openly discussed his problems with drugs and his efforts to get sober on-stage and off. 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.