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Q&A with Joel McHale

Observer Scene | Monday, September 21, 2009

Question: How similar is your character to yourself?

Joel McHale: Well, you know, with any – with any acting role you have to kind of go, “how do I relate to this person” and how do I make this and how do I not and how do I – how do I communicate, who this person is on screen. And so I – boy, how is he similar to me? I guess he – this guy – I mean similar to me in that I did everything I could not to, you know, work hard in school because I was much more interested in acting and trying to do that. And I always felt like I was kind of putting in – you know, just kind of clocking time at school until I could get out and do something, you know, and perform. But that’s not the greatest parallel. I mean my – this guy is – he starts off very selfish. I hopefully am not that way. And he cheats and he lies to get what he wants. And I don’t really – I have not done a lot of that. But I’ve – I have – I have cheated in a math class or two. But … Right. I was so bad. I literally had to take a math class in college that was for no credit. It was literally just to get into college while I was already in college. And they were like just – they basically were like look, you’re going to pass. You just don’t ever take math again, you moron. So, you know, it’s fun to play a guy who has kind of – he’s kind of – he’s kind of reckless in how he approached life in that he just kind of did what he wanted to do. And people kind of let him get by with it. And this is the first time that he actually has to do work. And it’s a change in his world completely.

Q: How do you think people who are actually in community college are going to view the “Community” depiction of their schools? JM: I personally think this show will show, that is that this I hope, and in it’s success will do what, you know, “The Office” has done for people who, you know, in the workplace that this will do for what, you know, the six million people that go to community college. And so I kind of see that the backdrop of school is the same way like a bar is a backdrop for “Cheers” and the Korean War was a backdrop for “MASH.” So, you know, in no way is this show going to, you know – it’s not like going to be a show about making fun of community college in any way. But my character will definitely lash out about it because he doesn’t want to be there and this group of misfits, this study group that he’s in, slowly kind of shows him that, you know, you can be a human being.

Q: How do you see “Community” fitting into the line up of the other NBC Thursday night shows?

JM: I mean from the nature of, you know, what it is is it’s a character-driven show that, you know, takes place at the community college which obviously is in setup is different from the other shows. But as far as – as far as, you know, the format, it’s strong characters in a situation that would be similar to those shows, which, you know, if people will compare us to those, I would be honored … I feel like, you know, hopefully it has the same sort of vibe for Thursday night comedy on NBC and I cannot believe I’m even on that night. I mean it’s so strange to think about it. So let’s hope – let’s hope that it’s different enough that it separates itself and that it’s similar enough that people will tune to it.

Q: What does it feel like to have this great cast and crew behind you right out of the gate?

JM: Oh it’s crazy. It’s, you know, it’s a dream come true. It’s something I never imagined. It’s – you know, I feel like, you know, I can really phone in my performances because everyone else is amazing. And no, but, you know, it’s really is ideal because Dan Harmon is such an incredible writer. The Russo brothers who did “Arrested Development” and they’re directing most of the episodes. And then you’ve got this cast of, you know, from Chevy Chase to John Oliver to Ken Jeong to Jim Rash to everyone in, you know, everybody. I mean it’s really ideal. And I can’t, you know, it’s one of those things where it’s like yeah, it’s awesome and I’m so excited. That’s kind of like I can’t believe it.