JOEL McHALE: STAR OF THE SITCOM COMMUNITY
Star of the hit sitcom Community, as well as host of The Soup, a satirical take on (most reality) television programs, chats about his life, career, and making people laugh.
SO, HAVE YOU ALWAYS BEEN FUNNY?
No, no, no. I started being funny in 1998. March 2nd. I don’t know; that’s such a subjective thing. I think I’ve been annoying. I don’t know. I was always interested in sports. I love sports.
I played football, baseball, tennis. I was a marathon runner for a while until my right knee said, “Stop it.” I was a rower, crew. I played a lot of different sports and I always thought hopefully, I can be a professional athlete, but I’m not good enough.
HOW DO YOU HANDLE THE TOME IT TAKES TO DO TWO TELEVISION SHOWS PLUS RAISE A FAMILY?
Well, the hours are really crazy, and at the same time, it’s an absolute joy to come to work every day. I can’t believe my good fortune to be able to be a series regular on a show that I really like. I love the writing and I love the cast. I love the characters and I count myself as incredibly fortunate that I get to work in a business I want to, but also get to work on something I really respect. So that’s where my life is. I would like to see my family more, but I think that’s probably a situation that a lot of people are in. And, to actually like my job, I hear, is a really huge thing. So, I can’t complain about that at all.
IN THE SOUP, YOU CRACK SOME MEAN JOKES AT TIMES…
Well, I don't think they're mean. I think that if you look at the people we’re making fun of, they are doing something that is egregious enough to be louder than the regular noisy din of Hollywood, and if they are doing something so egregious, then we’re going to make fun of it. If you think it’s mean, then we differ in opinion, but we see The Soup as like a long late-night monologue. We don't see it as us going after people.
People, almost without exception, every single reality show star we've ever met, wants to come on “The Soup” no matter what we've said about them. We try to go, “Why is this on television, why are we making fun of it?” And we point those things out.
COULD YOU GO BACK TO SCHOOL LIKE YOU DO IN COMMUNITY?
I have no time. I don't have time to change the oil in my car, so I don’t know when I would go to school but it would be great to. I rarely have time to get six hours of sleep, so if I were to go back, boy, I don't know what it would be in. I’d probably learn how to fly a plane, which would be really smart.
HOW DO YOU RELAX IF YOU DON'T HAVE TIME TO EVEN CHANGE THE OIL IN YOUR CAR?
The most relaxing moments in my life now are with my two boys. I got home just before they went to bed last night and I tickled them for a good 15 minutes, and Sarah, my wife, was really happy about that because then they were all riled up and screaming and yelling and jumping and breaking shit. So that was really fun. Yeah, that is basically my time.
WHAT MAKES YOU LAUGH IN REAL LIFE?
Ken Jeong from Community makes me laugh. My kids make me laugh a lot.
WHAT KIND OF STUDENT WERE YOU?
I was okay. I would get to school, be really bad at first and then I would kind of figure out the system and then be okay. I always approached school as something to get through and never to enjoy as far as the academic part went. The only thing I really liked was history, so I was a history major in college, but I wanted to get out of there as fast as I could to do other things. I always a “B” student, a “B”-minus student, so I was always okay enough, but I wasn’t one of those guys who was terrible and wouldn’t show up for class and things. I would show up, but I wouldn’t really be interested. I ended up going to graduate school for acting and that was great. That was just three solid years of acting and I got to do all sorts of crazy plays and crazy shows that I never would have, or probably will have the opportunity to do again. When was the last time you get to do a Genet play? I mean, it’s crazy. So that’s the kind of student I was. I was okay, not great.
HOW WOULD YOU FEEL IF YOUR KIDS END UP IN THE ENTERTAINMENT BUSIMESS AS WELL?
Sure. I mean, if they want to, I won’t encourage or discourage. I will encourage what they want to do.
WHAT IF IT'S A REALITY SHOW?
(laughs) It depends on the reality show because there are very good reality shows out there. I mean, like Dirty Jobs with Mike Rowe is a terrific show. Bizarre Foods is great, Anthony Bourdain’s show is great too. If they're going to go on Big Brother, I’d be, like, ‘Look, you just gave some more material for my standup act.’ So, yeah, if they think that being on reality shows is their career, I’m going to have a problem with that, because people now seem to want to be famous for the sake of being famous, which is a horrible, horrible, horrible development. But whatever they want to do career-wise, I probably will encourage, unless they want to be felons.
DID YOU WANT TO BE FAMOUS?
Well, I thought it would be neat to be famous, but I thought it would be neat to be a jet-fighter pilot too. I knew I always wanted to work in television and movies, but as far as, ‘Oh, who’s on the red carpet?’ No, never. I never thought about that.