Joel McHale on 'The Soup's' 500th Episode and Dan Harmon's Return to 'Community': 'I'm Just Thrilled'
Who's his favorite reality TV target? What E! star complained about him? How are things at the cult-fave NBC sitcom? The multitalented funnyman tells all.
As host of E!'s consistently laugh-out-loud funny clip show The Soup since 2004, Joel McHale has taken much delight in skewering the supremely mockable world of reality TV. With the series rapidly approaching its 500th episode -- a milestone the network will celebrate tonight at 10:00 p.m. with live episodes airing on both coasts -- The Hollywood Reporter took a walk with McHale down memory lane. Read on to find out who some of his all-time favorite targets are, which fellow E! star complained about him to the network president (it's not Ryan Seacrest) and how the new season of Community is going with series creator Dan Harmon back at the helm.
The Hollywood Reporter: Congratulations on 500 episodes of The Soup!
Joel McHale: It takes most talk show hosts less than two years to get there, but it took us 10.
THR: How are you feeling? Exhilarated? Exhausted? Some combination of the two?
McHale: I'm usually in a state of exhaustion somehow but never nearly what Seacrest is going through. I've been very, very blessed that I've been able to work a lot, so I end up being tired a lot. But you know when the adrenaline kicks in and there's a really good clip from ABC's Whodunnit? I get excited.
THR: What were your easiest targets -- the lowest-hanging Soup fruit?
McHale: Easiest target ... That's hard to say. It's like seasons, because there's always something that's easy to make fun of. There's the things that put us on the map -- things like Spaghetti Cat, these clips that just kind of fall from heaven. Or all of Tila Tequila's show, things like that, we're like, "This is shootin' fish in a barrel!" And Paris Hilton for a while -- but now she really keeps to herself. God rest her soul, but Whitney Houston's show, Being Bobby Brown, that thing was giving us clips every minute. We've got 14 people watching TV and we can hardly cover it all. The home shopping networks, HSN and QVC, always deliver. For a while there was a Spanish telenovela called La Madrastra -- a lot of murderous clowns. Amazing. It's not an easy job, but digging ditches is much harder.
THR: Do you get any pushback from the network when you go after E!'s own reality series?
McHale: They have been fantastic with how we go after our network's own shows. It started with [former E! president] Ted Harbert and continues through [current president] Suzanne Kolb. If they didn't have that same attitude, I really don't think The Soup would work. There would be this weird, large elephant with an E and an exclamation point spray-painted on it in the room. It would be odd if we didn't make fun of the Kardashians. That said, there was a while where Kris [Jenner] was phoning Ted, much like a neighbor complaining about a baseball being thrown through the window: "He made fun of us again!" Ted was always so great -- it wasn't like, "You have to stop making fun of them." It was like, "Oh yeah, she called again, so can you guys not go as hard as you did last week?" So there was always a give-and-take on that. But other than that, no -- zero [pushback]. They just said, "Have at it." I would get producers going, "You gotta see the Ryan Lochte show -- you're going love it!"
THR: Have you had any awkward interactions with any of your targets?
McHale: Without exception, not one reality star ever has [complained]. Usually they come up to me and say, "Thank you for making fun of me. Can I please come on your show?" There was a time that Tyra Banks didn't want us doing it or showing clips, but that stopped. I met her last year and she was strangely very nice to me after all I had said. The whole thing with reality stars, they're famous for being famous -- so if you're talking about them, they're famous.
THR: Switching gears to your other series, how great is it to have Dan Harmon back at the helm of Community?
McHale: We had our first table read yesterday. The first script is dynamite. Dan created the show and it's his brain. Ken Jeong laughed for five minutes straight at one point, to the point where I was worried about him. The whole room was laughing 'cause the material is so good. That said, barring major injury, I cant wait to start shooting on Monday. I'm just thrilled. I'm as excited about this season as I was about the first. I have that anticipation.
THR: Donald Glover took a reduced role this season. Have you felt his absence yet?
McHale: He was at the table read and, obviously, Donald is a comic genius. His level of talent is pretty extraordinary and rare. His rap career is exploding, so I get why he wants [to focus more on it] -- he has an album coming out. I'd love him to come back in the sixth season if we get there.
THR: Harmon has said the "six seasons and a movie" mantra of Community believers everywhere is totally achievable. How are you feeling at this point?
McHale: I sure would like there to be but I don't have a crystal ball. If I did I would be looking up so many things, like will the Dodgers win the World Series and could a Millennium Falcon really exist one day. The thing that I do know is that Dan is really excited about this season and just judging on that first script, the writing is so dynamite that I'm skipping down to Paramount from my house. We're not picked up for a sixth season yet but by God I would love it. I will try to act the shit out of his jokes and honor them. First we need to get an air date.
THR: Community has been such a roller-coaster ride for fans, I can only image what it's been like from the inside. There must be a huge measure of relief to have things back to normal, somewhat.
McHale: If it were a normal situation, I think we would all be worried. The way the show has gone, all the trials and tribulations -- Chevy [Chase]'s departure last year, that was another source of drama. It wouldn't be Community without some stuff flying around. But now we're all back, the first script I'm thrilled about and I cant wait to go to work on Monday.