Last week, Rachael emailed to ask if I’d like to participate in a phone interview with Joel McHale. Um, yeah!
In case you don’t know who Joel McHale is, he’s a hilarious stand-up comic and actor, and he’s quite good looking in a guy-next-door way. He currently stars on NBC’s hit comedy ensemble Community (Thursdays at 8pm/9central) and is also the long-standing host of The Soup on E!.
As part of the interview, I got a sneak-peak of this week’s new episode of Community. They refer to it as a bottle episode and is one of the funnier “stuck in a room” TV shows I’ve seen. It doesn’t hurt that the characters Jeff, Troy and Abed are pretty fit specimens of humanity when they strip down to their undies.
But seriously, all 6 of these actors are superb and they deal with the nuances of a bottle episode in a fabulous way. My favorite line? Jeff (Joel McHale) starts to lose it and yells, “Tell your disappointment to suck it! I’m doing bottle episode.”
Synopsis: IT’S LOCKDOWN IN THE STUDY ROOM WHEN ANNIE’S FAVORITE PEN GOES MISSING AND SHE SUSPECTS A MEMBER OF THE STUDY GROUP — When Annie’s (Alison Brie) pen goes missing, she suspects a member of her own study group is the thief. On a mission to find the pen and solve the mystery, the group takes a self-imposed lockdown and Jeff (Joel McHale) takes the lead in conducting the search. Meanwhile, Troy (Donald Glover) and Abed (Danny Pudi) are itching to get out of the study room to make it to the Greendale Puppy Parade taking place in the quad. Chevy Chase and Gillian Jacobs also star.
Now for the interview…
The actual interview was over an hour long with about 10 people involved. It translated to many pages of dialogue, so I picked through for the juicy bits and tried to pinch it together into something cohesive. Hang in there with me. This is kind of long but worth the 3-minute read 🙂
Sony Pictures: The Community Call with Joel McHale
Vivian Manning-Schaffel, MomLogic: …writing for a mom publication, I have to ask because you’re a dad. You have two kids, right?
Joel McHale: Yes, I do. I am not a mom. I am a dad.
Vivian: Well, that makes you just as pertinent to the operation. How do your kids inspire your comedic time and/or your material. How do your kids provide fodder for your job?
Joel: Oh my gosh. They make me laugh out loud and in the most unexpected ways. It’s having two – I have two boys. One’s 5 and one’s 2 and it’s the greatest thing that’s ever happened to me on earth…I include a lot of what they say to me in my standup act.
Just like Eddie, my five year old – when he was four he just – he walked up and he goes Daddy, why are we connected to numbers. I was like why are we connected? Yeah and I was like, I don’t know. And he goes, do you know how high I can count? I was like, no. And he goes I can count until you’re dead. But then I was like how high is that? And he goes eleven hundred, without even pausing.
Linda Sellers, Blissfully Domestic: Hi Joel. I’m going to start with a question from Audrey McClellan from Mom Generations…Were you born funny? You know, some people are born with it. Some people acquire it later…When did you know you were funny?
Joel: Wow. Well, I had five concussions, including a skull fracture, and that’s when I figured out that I was funny. I don’t know. I mean being asked if you’re funny…that’s such a subjective thing and…a lot of the day I spend thinking boy, I am not funny and I feel like I’ve tricked everybody.
Here’s when I knew that I had [it]. I played college football badly but I really was great at practicing and making the defense look terrific because I crumpled really well and when I was a freshman…the incoming class had to perform skits. My skit was the most successful because I imitated our team doctor and that was the first time these seniors actually gave me respect and began talking to me. So I was like oh. Okay. That works. That was more for survival because the next day they weren’t trying to kill me as badly. The day after that, they went right back to it.
I’ll tell a little something about comedy…when Eddie was, I don’t know, one [year old]. He was running around the house naked and he farted and he burst out laughing and I feel like that is like the very…first element…It’s like the most basic building block of comedy where someone who has no sense of what jokes are can make a noise come out of themselves and find it amusing. Then I was like oh, Eddie’s got a sense of humor. He found that funny and I think that’s some sort of weird, very basic building block.
Linda: I think most of us would agree with that.
Danielle Smith, Extraordinary Mommy: What was it about Community that you said this is something that I really want to do – that I really want to commit myself to.
Joel: That’s a good question. For the last few years, as The Soup got more popular thank God, I began trying to get one of these pilots. And you read a ton of pilot scripts. I don’t know if you know the averages as far as how many scripts get bought, how many scripts are actually made and then how many are picked up.
Danielle: I do not.
Joel: It’s crazy. I think it’s something like 500 scripts get bought, maybe 100 get developed, 50 might get made and I think, I don’t know, 20 of them get on the air or 25 and then maybe 5 of those survive its first season.
I read Community and it was by far the funniest thing I had read in years and Dan Harmon, the creator, is a mad genius. I was on a plane reading it and I was laughing out loud sitting on this plane and there was a guy next to me watching [a] movie and he was getting mad at me because I was laughing so loud [and] interrupting his romantic comedy. So I thought that was probably a good sign.
Danielle: Well I imagine, you know, I mean with a lot of acting, it’s pretty easy to get yourself pigeon holed whether you’re a dramatic actor or a comedic answer and obviously comedy is a serious background for you. Did you find yourself really only looking at comedic roles or did you ever consider looking outside that?
Joel: Oh. I always considered looking outside that. And before I ever booked any jobs I was doing – or booked any jobs that anyone would really know about, a lot of the guest stars that I did were serious…I would love to do both as long as people will have me and so hopefully that will happen.
Erica Fehrman, TodaysMama: Thank you for talking with us! The zombie episode for Halloween was completely hilarious and I really enjoyed how different it was. So I just wanted to thank you for that.
Joel: Well thank you. I want to thank the band Aba for providing all that awesome music.
Erica: All of you in the cast do such a great job of making us believe that you’re best friends on Community. I was wondering what you do off camera to help build a sense of community, trust and fun when you arrive at work.
Joel: You mean do we hang out after work? We do hang out sometimes. I’m sadly not able to hang out the way they do. They…have a lot of free time whereas I have the two and the five year old who…I can’t spend enough time with them. I race home to go be with them and so…I’m not able to get together the way I would like to but, you know, I wouldn’t give it up for spending time with the boys and my wife.
What you see on screen is actually pretty true. We get along very well. I’m doing a standup show here in New York and (Donald Glover) who plays Troy is in the show with me. And we spend so many hours on set. I do not grow tired of them at all and hopefully they…won’t have grown too tired of me.
Erica: That’s cool. And I have another question that is a little spur off what you were just talking about with your football team and comedy. You played at the University of Washington, right?
Joel: I did. Not well but I did.
Erica: It sounds like you found your comedic root there but as far as being in theatre and on the football team, did you kind of co-mingle those two things? And then as far as with your kids–how would you encourage your own children in what can sometimes be a struggle between jocks and artists.
Joel: Well, it’s funny. I always did this. I played a lot of sports and I also did a lot of acting. And there were also two other friends of mine who were also in the exact same boat where they played sports and they acted. So this group of friends of mine, we all did it together so, I don’t know. For whatever reason, we never saw a conflict between the two. And then when I got to college, funny enough, there was a guy who went to the NFL. He was an amazing player. But he was like close to 400 pounds. He was about 6’8” and he was a drama major. I guess I did not experience the traditional jock versus artist thing…There wasn’t a lot of reconciling to do I guess is what I’m saying.
Erica: Well for your sake I’m glad for that.
Joel: Yeah. I had a very good experience in high school. I wasn’t very good at school but I loved sports and I loved acting.
Carmen Grant, 5 Minutes for Mom: My question to you is, what [is] your most humbling experience with your kids? I know for my husband he has this crazy insane job and takes, you know, bombs apart for a living but he comes home, after doing all these missions and then it’s my four year old going dad can you wipe my butt after he goes to the bathroom. So it’s a big shift from work to family life and that’s totally humbling for him. So what would be one of your most humbling experiences with your kids?
Joel: Oh. Wow. Yeah. I think it’s similar to your husband’s. My two year old doesn’t like having his diaper changed so you’re basically struggling with a small animal that’s covered in its own waste and that’s pretty humbling because, as you know, it gets everywhere and he doesn’t care and then he realizes you’re finding it annoying. Then he starts laughing. And so then you have this laughing hairless creature who’s just, you know, like mocking you while you’re trying to wipe up its feces. I mean I don’t mind changing diapers. It’s just when it’s not that solid is when it’s unpleasant. I have to make it really, really graphic.
Carmen: That’s funny.
Joel: Humbling moment. I’ve had hundreds of them. So boy. Well one time my kids walked through a store just screaming buy this, buy that. That’s not even that humbling but I thought it was pretty funny. I was like what did we raise? We’re raising a capitalist.
Joel: In an arm wrestle.
Joel: Well I think–I think I could beat him physically in an arm wrestle. Mentally he would compound fracture my arm and the bone would stick out and I would bleed to death.
Barbara Jones: I just have one last question for you. [This] week’s episode is sort of about stealing and trust and being innocent [until] proven guilty. And I’m just wondering if there’s any…inside information…in that episode.
Joel: It kind of came out…like Twelve Angry Men. And not that Dan and the writers went into it going let’s do a parity of Twelve Angry Men. I think as they began to write this bottle episode–because every single television show through the 80s and 90s and I guess the entire series of Lost was a bottle episode…But it kind of became that because there is a theft and different people are being accused of it. And it was – gosh, it was fun to shoot. It all took place in that one location and I will give you a little spoil[er]. There is a puppy parade during that episode where that is occurring outside and it’s driving everyone nuts that they can’t go see the darling puppies.
Barbara: All right. Great. Well thanks for that.
Joel: Thank you so much. Let’s do it again.
NBC’s Community is on Thursdays at 8pm EST. Don’t miss it!