Eye On Emmy: Joel McHale Reveals Why Community Is His 'Boyhood Fantasy Come True'

Joel McHale seems to be everywhere these days. Over the past year, he’s established himself as a respected comedian (touring the country with his standup gig); expanded his burgeoning movie career (he has three films slated for release in 2011 and spent May in Boston shooting the dark comedy Ted opposite Mark Wahlberg); and continued his run on two TV gigs, hosting E!’s weekly satirical clip-show The Soup, and starring on NBC’s buzzy sitcom Community as Jeff Winger, the acerbically charming womanizer with a proverbial heart of gold.

It is the latter that might finally garner some industry recognition for McHale in the form of a 2011 Emmy nomination for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series…

Emmys 2011: Sizing Up the Lead Comedy Actor Race — Including Our 6 Dream Nominees

TVLINE | Congratulations on another strong season of Community. With so many memorable episodes, is there any one you’re particularly proud of?
It’s hard not to just immediately say the paintball episode (“A Fistful of Paintballs”) because it’s like a boyhood fantasy come true — I got to shoot paintballs in a Western and get paid for it! [Laughs] But my favorite has to be one of our more obscure episodes; the My Dinner with Andre/Pulp Fiction episode (“Critical Film Studies”) was as fun and incredible as any episode yet. That it aired on television astounded [me]… Also, the hospital episode (“Intermediate Documentary Filmmaking”) where Pierce (Chevy Chase) claimed to be dying was really fun to make. In that episode everyone got to do something really cool, including [guest star] LeVar Burton, who killed it! Hell, we also hired the Seattle Symphony to do the theme for “Advanced Dungeons and Dragons” — and at that moment, I couldn’t believe I was a part of this cool thing.

TVLINE | A “cool thing” might be the perfect way to describe the genre-bending style of Community. Did you ever imagine that this is the series you’d be making when you shot the pilot?
I never would have thought that in a million years. I did have a realization at Comic-Con that our audience was different than others — in the best way possible. Their response was something I’d never before witnessed… It’s not just something they turn on to get ready for The Office; they adore it. In the movie 300, the Spartans meet that other army that has way more guys, but are still undeterred. The Spartans then all scream in unison their little Marine cry, and their leader says he thinks that they truly have more soldiers. And that’s how I see our audience. Yes, that was a really long explanation [Laughs].

Check Out TVLine’s Complete Coverage of This Year’s Emmy Awards

TVLINE | After experiencing something like Community, do you think you could ever be happy on a more mainstream series?
I adore the show I’m on, and would watch it if I wasn’t on it! What other show has an old man taking Ecstasy and building a furniture fort? And who’s got a Dean of Students with an uncertain sexual preference, but we do know that he likes men in Dalmatian costumes? There are just things that happen in this show that speak to my funny bone.

TVLINE | While Community has received ample critical praise, industry accolades just haven’t followed suit. How would you explain that?
We have actually not been recognized by any awards shows, and I think, at least partially, we have survived by certain publications saying we’re one of the top shows on television. And for that we are hugely grateful. Even though we’re holding our own on Thursdays at 8, it’s a really rough time slot, especially when you factor in things like NFL Football during the fall, American Idol in the spring, March Madness, NBA and hockey playoffs… [Editor’s Note: Since our chat with McHale, Community has received three nominations from the Critics’ Choice Television Awards.]

TVLINE | What are your thoughts on modern day Emmy campaigning? Is it something you and your castmates discuss?
I think Hollywood has always been a talent show, as well as a popularity contest — it’s like high school in that way. It’s not the worst thing, but you do have to be out there to be recognized for what you’re doing. It’s just how it is. You can’t think about things like awards nominations when you’re making a show. It’s an enormous effort and we do put in a lot of hours, but there’s never been a time where we’ve said, ‘Hey, we work so hard [we] should get recognized!’ [Laughs] That said, to get a nomination as a cast as a whole, I would build my own clip reel and walk it around Hollywood to show people.

TVLINE | Here’s a challenge for you: How would you objectively assess Community’s Emmy worthiness?
As I look at the landscape of television, there are more really good shows then there have ever been, and people seem to think that we are at least somewhat kind of in that category — and I’ll take that any day of the week… I’ve been told our audience skews young, which is good, and also that older people don’t understand the show, which is something else… But I just try to illuminate [creator] Dan Harmon and the writers’ jokes. [If] we don’t get nominated again this year for anything, but we continue to get the critical acclaim, I’ll be very happy. As long as Jimmy Fallon will let me do another [Emmys] opening dance number with him, I’m feeling pretty good. [Laughs]

TVLINE | So, obviously you’re relaxed when it comes to performing at the Emmys, but how will the nerves be come the morning of nomination announcements?
I don’t think a lot about it because there’s nothing you can do. The category I have been mentioned in — Leading Male in a Comedy — is actually a tiny pool to choose from compared to co-stars or what people deem as co-stars [but] our show is not about [my character] Jeff Winger; Jeff Winger is a jumping off point, and the reason [in the story] why the group has come together. But I truly believe it’s an ensemble cast, and in a weird way I would say that everyone should be nominated for a lead because the storylines really flip around. If we get nominated, yay! I will definitely show up and hopefully get a free tuxedo out of it. But I truly am more happy that we’re just on and were picked up for a third season.

TVLINE | One thing you haven’t spoken much about was your decision to continue doing The Soup. I only mention it because it’s a bit unconventional for a man with a successful network sitcom to stick around as host of a basic-cable series too.
I want to take the George Clooney career model — and if I looked 10 percent as good as he does, maybe I’d be better in movies. [Laughs] But he stayed on ER until he was an established movie star, and then he left. I just love doing The Soup, so that really made my decision an easy one. Thanks to E! and [their former president] Ted Harbert, [they] made it possible to shoot both shows. Community accommodated it as well. So, A) I love it and B) they made it easy for me to do it.

TVLINE | Say the dream comes true and you get an Emmy nod — how do you see that playing out? Are you an acceptance speech-prepared kind of guy? Or will you just wing it?
Well, first there will definitely be a lot of manscaping. A ton of that. I don’t want there to be any errant hairs [Laughs]. And I would probably write down the people I should thank, because I’m sure I would end up forgetting someone otherwise… [But] my guess is that I would then forget that piece of paper, so I’d ask someone else for their piece of paper, and then I would read that aloud… Ultimately accepting Best Actress for Nurse Jackie

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  1. Frenchie says:

    I love Joel and his work on Community and The Soup. He’s one of the best comedians out there! His facial expressions are hilarious. I hope that he does get an Emmy nod… Juggling two consistently funny shows has got to be hard, and he should be recognized.

  2. Allie says:

    Yeah its amazing that he can manage to be on both shows, and its a good thing too since I love him on both. He definitely deserves to get a nod, he’s a great comedian.

  3. deneen says:

    j’adore Joel! and community! I used to watch him doing a live sketch tv show in Seattle every Saturday night “Almost Live” (aired before Sat. Night Live) and he KILLED it every week. he was just a young unknown then, and I love watching his career take off!! so talented.

  4. Dan says:

    I’m 57, and I get it. Funny as heck.

    • BK says:

      Yeah, I watch Community with my mom, and she loves it as much as I do. I don’t think getting the show is an age thing, necessarily. Though I *do* have a feeling intelligence might be a factor. ;)

    • Soup says:

      I think that some of the jokes actually skew a little older. I was actually screening the show at lunch in my office and there was a line about Jeff and Britta being like Sam and Diane and I asked a mid-20s guy if he even knew who they were and he didn’t until me (mid-30s) and an older coworker explained.

    • XK says:

      Late 30s (and thus not in the magical demo) and I do too. My favorite show on television, bar none.

  5. Amy says:

    I love Joel McHale and really admire his attitude about the show. Community really is an ensemble show and I hope to see it recognized come Emmy time.

  6. MJ says:

    I love Joel McHale, he has to be nominated for an Emmy.
    I’m also really glad he didn’t quit The Soup and I hope he won’t, that show is the only reason E! is worth watching.

  7. Sharada says:

    He comes off as humble, which is something I did not expect. But overall, great interview!

  8. DebbieLG says:

    Community is brilliant. I’ve been watching it from the beginning and I’m so glad it’s still on the air. The acting, the writing, etc…just brilliant!

  9. Sourabh says:

    The fact that he’s still doing The Soup makes me like him more.

  10. L says:

    Best comedy on TV – it’s not just a lead in for The Office. We actually watch Community and not The Office. Every week, it’s hysterical.

  11. ruby says:

    Joel Mchale is not just a pretty boy he has an unapologetic approach to comedy he is funny and delivers every time whether it’s on the soup or on community i can’t imagine anyone else being Jeff Winger. I see big things for this guy

  12. Wendy says:

    The Soup is the best show on Friday night…I DVR it and watch it first thing on Saturday…what a great way to start the day! Keep up the great work Joel…you are the funniest man on TV!

  13. TV Gord says:

    Critical Film Studies is not an obscure episode where I am! I’ve shown that episode four times in my home to various family and friends, and have succeeded in my master plan of winning over more than a few converts to Community!

  14. Reznick says:

    Community is the single most anticipated show we watch. Funny, clever writing, amazing characters and memorable episodes. Troy and Abed are a institution on their own. Joel is foundational, though, and his evolution and emotional journey on the show proves his worthiness for an Emmy.

    54 years old here. I get the show, and can’t get enough of it.

  15. Raksha says:

    I love this show. And I love him. COmmunity SHOULD be nominated for Emmys.

  16. Elija says:

    He is so funny in real life!! I love Commuinty! Best comedy show I have seen in a while!!!!

  17. communityrocks says:

    Community most definitely deserves an Emmy nod. FOR SURE.

  18. Suppi says:


  19. Jen says:

    Joel McHale is so awesome! Love him, and love his show!

  20. Sel says:

    Community deserves SO much more appreciation. It is so UNDERRATED!!!!

  21. Cheryl says:

    When will more people realize HOW awesome this show is???

  22. Grace says:

    Community is the best show I have ever seen. I hope it runs for atleast six more seasons!!

  23. Claire says:

    Thew whole cast and crew of Community is so, so amazing!!!

  24. Linn says:

    Yay for Community!!!

  25. Alison says:

    How I love this show….(sigh)

  26. Christina says:

    its surprising that community wasnt nominated for emmy last year. i hope the emmy people rectify their mistake this year. And nominate community as much as they can.

  27. Dhingri says:

    Joel McHale is so talented!! He deserves an emmy nomination! HE IS THE BEST!!!

  28. Sofie says:


  29. Austin says:

    Not only is he hot, but talented as well.

  30. Mark says:


  31. Felicia says:

    He is so talented. The whole cast of Community is, as a matter of fact. They all gel together so well! And it truely is an ensemble show.

  32. Nimmi says:

    I think Community is the best show on television right now. Its funny and smart – and has a lot of heart. It totally deserves more appreciation and Emmy nomination.

  33. Rebecca says:

    I aboslutely adore this show.

  34. June says:

    I dont care much about the emmys…I just want this show to be on air for a REALLY, REALLY long time – and continue its streak of awesomeness.

  35. George says:

    I love him, and I love Community. The two arethe most terrific combination EVER!!!

  36. Donna says:

    I LOVE COMMUNITY!!!! I hope to God this show never goes off air!!

  37. Heather says:

    I was at the taping of The Soup the night the photo in this article was taken. Amazing to watch that all come together. McHale is as funny as they come and self-depricatingly adorable. Such a professional running through the takes and stayed until every fan had a photo and autograph. He’s a true class act.

  38. sashay says:

    So wonderful to find out that I’m not the only devout Community fan! I love the entire ensemble, but am especially blown away by Joel. I’ve always been a Soup fan, but I had no idea he was equally talented as an actor. I would love to see one of his comedy shows if he ever came up to Canada.
    And Heather, thanks for your mention of The Soup taping. I have long wondered whether that was a live taping (figured it was the writers sitting in the audience), so great to find out that they wrangle in a studio audience!

    • Heather says:

      It’s a tiny audience–maybe 40-50 folks. I won my tickets via a charity eBay auction. The writing staff sits off to the side (again, a very small staff), there’s a camera in the middle of the plastic chairs in the audience and they tape the material, Web soup, and promos in less than 2 hours. It’s a friendly, fun atmosphere just like you would expect with Joel riffing for the audience while they review takes and set up for scenes.

  39. Ann says:

    I love this show. I cant say it enough.

  40. Mary says:

    Looking forward to Community Season 3….4…5…6…and SEVEN!!!!!!

  41. Brittles says:

    This man is hilarious as anything, and Joel, I actually think you are far more attractive than George Clooney, actually once a few years ago (before Community) I was zapping through channels and I stopped it on E! while The Soup was on and I remember thinking wow, Joel is super hot! He and everyone; cast and writers deserve so many accolades. I want this show to be on forever.

  42. Amy says:

    his character Jeff Winger is a douche but i like him only becuz Joel is playing that character..if it were someone else, i wouldn’t have liked him at all