TV presenter, sitcom star and movie actor-man. Joel McHale has had a career as varied as it is hilarious, and so as massive Community and The Soup fans, we jumped at the opportunity to chat to the star.
So read on for a frank, funny and at times very weird discussion in which we chat all things Community, The Soup, Paris Hilton, The Vicar of Dibley, Wonder Woman and much more.
So. The Soup. While it’s massive in the US, it’s maybe not as known overseas - how would you pitch it to someone who’s never seen it before?
I would say, ‘have you seen Game Of Thrones?’ [laughs] It’s pretty depressing if you’ve never seen The Soup - we’ve been trying to get people to see it for ten years! [laughs]. Do you have many late night shows like Johnny Carson or David Letterman? I guess Jonathan Ross…
We have a few…
Right, and do they have jokes at the top?
So it would be like that. But for 21 minutes. And we show clips from reality shows and we make fun of them – because reality shows are ridiculous. We actually make fun of all television shows if it’s ridiculous. And then if there’s any celebrity news, if there’s something going on, we’ll make fun of that. We don’t break stories, we’re not provocative, we don’t go ‘did you hear the latest?’, we just go, er, ‘hey, Justin Bieber peed into a bucket at a nightclub, so we’re now going to make fun of that’. We just make fun of everything. It’s like The Kardashians. Just with less make-up.
Kardashians meets Game Of Thrones…
It’s like Kardashians meets Game Of Thrones meets The Vicar Of Dibley.
Well… boy, we love shooting skits with The Walking Dead people. Not because they’re better people than, say, Tony Hale or Jim Rash from Community, but because there’s a lot of gun play. But I love them all. Each one of them has its unique fun-ness. I got to drive that 1958 Ford Skyliner in the cocaine one. And then in the True Detective… I mean if you had said, ‘oh you and your friend Jim are going to mumble through an entire piece and they’re gonna give you an Emmy nomination’. That seems like it’s pretty far-fetched. But I’ll take it! Believe me, I can’t believe I get to do this stuff for a living. It’s crazy. I feel like I’ve tricked everyone.
Have you ever had an idea that’s just too risqué or rude that the network has bailed at?
We had one idea that they did not let us do. It’s a pretty disgusting idea. It was at the height of the Paris Hilton craze and we were going to have a character called ‘Dumpster’. Now, I don’t know what you call your big rubbish bins here…
Erm, big bins?
Okay, so this wouldn’t make any sense to you, but, because every week there was some news story about Paris Hilton, so were going to have a dumpster full of letters. But to get to the dumpster to come on – cause it’s a person wearing a dumpster costume – we’d shout, “cum dumpster, cum dumpster!”, like it was a dog. But obviously we just wanted to shout ‘cum dumpster’ over and over again. We thought it was justified, but the network was like ‘are you insane? You can’t say that!’
Would the bin have been dressed as Paris Hilton?
No it was dressed as a dumpster! It all made logical sense, but the network said that we couldn’t say it. That’s what so great about British television though – you can say all that, after 10pm right?
You can say cum dumpster as much as you want.
In American we’re all still, ‘ooooooo’. We’re titillated by being able to say racy things. But you guys are like, ‘yeah, just do it at 10pm, no one cares’. That’s what we should do. I don’t understand it.
It’s weird, we have a reputation for being a bit uptight…
It’s the opposite. You’re not uptight. You guys are letting it fly! I wish our broadcast laws were as liberal. That’s why we have things like HBO and Showtime and obviously Netflix and Crackle and all that stuff have really taken off – you can really do whatever you want. And it’s not like people are just showing mixed martial arts and pornography – they’re showing great programming that's unrestrained.
That segues nicely into Community…
So Community Season 6 is now confirmed and going to be airing on Yahoo! Do you have any ideas what Dan Harmon is planning for Season 6?
No. I don’t. I never have known what Dan is going to plan to write about, and I would never pretend to guess. I don’t know… a flaming rollercoaster? [laughs] I don’t know, but I know that an unrestrained, unencumbered Dan Harmon… we have commercial breaks in America – it shows true capitalism in that we have to interrupt our programs at all times… that’s why football has never caught on in America the way other sports have, because there’s no commercial breaks and advertisers can’t figure out how to sell it – but now with Dan Harmon unencumbered I think it’ll be just probably one of our best seasons ever. I’m truly, like, giddy, as far as looking forward to it.
No season has ever been the same. Season 4 was kind of a disaster when Dan wasn’t there, but every other season… this sounds arrogant – but I’m awesome [laughs] – no, this sounds arrogant but I’ve always been wildly proud and grateful for how good the writing is and I think it’s some of the best on television. So now with no restraints, I think its going to be incredible. And Yahoo is really behind it. Having a platform or network like this, if they believe in you – they’ve got the money to promote it, which is pretty awesome. They’ve got billions, so that really will be great for us.
I’m a massive Community fan… but even I was like… Yahoo?!
Right. Everyone thinks of Yahoo being a platform like Netflix, but five years ago, if you had said ‘Netflix, in five years, will have more Emmy nominations than any television network…’ you’d be like, ‘the service that I use to mail DVDs?’ So I think Yahoo will be a similar platform and I think it will be as powerful, I think they’ll be just as competitive as the others.
If you had unlimited budget, what would you want to see in a Community movie?
The eighth Harry Potter book. With more special effects. [laughs] If we do a movie… I can’t speak for Dan because it’s in his brain… but I think the movie should be epic on a scale that no one has ever seen. It should make Avatar look like an independent film.
Moving on to movies, you had a small part in Spider Man 2.
A very long time ago… that’s ten years ago.
Would you be interested in doing another superhero movie?
Yes! I would love to play Wonder Woman. That would be great.
You’d look good.
Thank you. I’m working on it.
But if someone says they want me to play a superhero… unless it’s, I don’t know, Diarrhoea Man… but maybe that’d be a good movie too! But heck yeah. Those movies, those Marvel movies are incredibly well done. Captain America 2 was great. As long as they’re coming out like that, I am on board, of course. But it’s incredibly hard, and rare, to get those jobs. If you know anyone handing them out that doesn’t want them, let me know. It’s like becoming the Pope in a weird way. You don’t know who’s going to get it, and there’s only a very small number of people who are even being considered… and most of them are wearing very tall hats. That completes the Pope analogy.
I can imagine white smoke coming out of Marvel HQ when they announce a new superhero…
Yeah, there’s a college of cardinals or, what would you call them, nerd-inals…
Moving onto Deliver Us From Evil, which is about to be released in the UK. It's more of a serious role – did you enjoy that?
Oh yeah. People are always like, ‘you’re a comedian, I don’t understand, could you do that?’. It’s like, I can do other things! People get very set in their ways. It would be like having fish every night for a year and then saying ‘let’s eat chicken’ [fakes a panicked voice] ‘But we’ve never seen you eat chicken! How does it work?!’
But yeah, I loved doing it. I got to play a really deranged cop who likes to fight with knives. He chooses a knife over a gun or a taser or a baton. He likes to stab people. It’s a family film. It’s a lot like Frozen.
Eric Bana is in it and he’s amazing. It’s a really good cast. It did okay in the States when it came out, but it’s a very intense movie. But I’d recommend it. If you love being scared, you’re gonna love it. If you like terrifying your children you’re gonna love it too. My brother went to see it at a 10pm – or as you would say here ’22 hours’ – and there was a three-year-old sitting next to him, with the parents. Terrified. It is not a nice movie. This makes Predator look like Toy Story.
Watch The Soup every Friday at 10:30pm on E!
Deliver Us From Evil hits UK cinemas 20 August 2014.