Community Interview: Joel McHale (Jeff Winger)

Joel McHale speaks to What Culture about the launch of Community season two tomorrow night in the UK, his hopes for a fourth season and working on Seth MacFarlane’s debut film.

WC: So, I€™m here to talk about season two, which finally begins airing in the UK April 10th. How does it feel to finally get season two over here? Joel: I feel like it€™s the 1920s and we€™re on a slow steam ship. Where we left Los Angeles, and we sailed€ I guess we could go through the Panama Canal at that point, and it just took a while. But if the Panama Canal was closed we€™d have to go through South America. But believe me I€™m thrilled it€™s back on in the UK. When we first promoted the show in the first season, all the British reporters would go €˜Why are you on this €˜Viva?€™€™ And I€™d be like? €˜I don€™t know, what the hell is this €˜Viva?€™€™ and they said €˜Well it€™s a music channel€™, which seems very appropriate. WC: It was a strange channel to put a show like Community on. Joel: It€™s just great to be back on. And I€™ve no idea, well I know it was on €˜Viva€™ for a bit before being taken off, which I assume was because no one was watching. But with season two I hope people don€™t mind that the fashions have changed a little bit. But from your sense, do you think there€™s any awareness of the show over there? WC: There does seem to be a pretty big cult following right now. That€™s mainly word-of-mouth and people with good internet connections though, they torrent the hell out of it. It€™s hard for me to say because it€™s seemed to of spread like a virus amongst me and my friends though, it€™s all we seem to talk about sometimes. Joel: God bless you and your friends. So hopefully a lot of the fans over there, who would have seen it online, will tell their friends and want to watch it again. Maybe we€™ll be on after reruns of The Vicar of Dibley.WC: Hahah. So where season one left off in the UK, you were involved in a love triangle, or square, between Britta, Annie and Professor Slater. Can you tease the fans with a conscience and do not torrent how this will be resolved? Joel: Well in our first episode back, that is, directly dealt with, and there is even a wedding. There is physical violence, including my nose getting broken, and the great American actress Betty White tries to murder me, that€™s all in the first episode. But the second seasons deals with that love triangle then moves on to deal with the interpersonal relationships within the group and their feelings towards Chevy Chase€™s character Pierce, and it becomes the study group vs. Pierce, and how they are able to rectify that. It€™s really Jeff vs. Pierce. So that doesn€™t sound necessarily hilarious, but that€™s how it works itself out. There€™s even a Dungeons & Dragons themed episode that deals with suicide, which was received as one of our best episodes. WC: That€™s definitely one of my favorites as well. Joel: It was so much fun to make, and to deal with a topic so heavy and to be able to dance over those lasers and have it not be a downer or to make fun of it, just shows the incredible skill of Dan Harmon and the writers. WC: I love €˜Advanced Dungeons and Dragons€™ because it just goes to prove that all you need for a great episode of Community are those seven characters in a room together. Joel: The cast is just so damn talented. WC: Too talented. Joel: I€™m just tooting my own horn now, but I include Jim Rash in that, who just won a freaking Oscar for co-writing The Descendents. WC: Excellent film. Joel: It€™s just incredible. But I think you€™re right in that whenever Dan is told something that he can€™t do on TV, like €˜Oh you can€™t have a baby on TV, that just kills the show€™, and Dan€™s attitude is €˜Really? Because people have babies in real life all the time and their lives still go on.€™ He€™s much more interested to see what comes after. And his €˜will they €“ won€™t they€™ at the end of season one which is often used in TV, he takes that and says €˜Oh they will, they will a lot.€™ He can take those things and turn them inside out. And true to the character of Abed, who is brilliantly portrayed by Danny Pudi, I think Dan€™s created a character that has never existed on television before. The closest I€™d say would be Data in The Next Generation, or maybe even Rimmer from Red Dwarf. Dan tells his stories through Abed, who will often go €˜Here€™s what television usually does, we know how it works, and this is what we€™re gona€™ do to it.€™ A good example of that is €˜Intermediate Documentary Filmmaking€™ where Pierce pretends that he€™s dying in hospital, and we basically film the whole episode in the documentary format like many of the shows on TV today that were born out of Ricky Gervais€™s brilliant The Office. And through Abed, who acts as the documentarian, we comment on it and show you exactly how that medium works, which dominates so much comedy nowadays. And, y€™know, our show is not handheld, and looks like a movie every week. WOW, did I just talk for a long time€ WC: Haha. Don€™t worry, I€™m still here. Joel: My answers go all over the place. I just tend to keep talking and talking. WC: No it€™s good, makes my questions look better and not vague. Joel: Can you imagine if I was a professional athlete and just gave one-word answers? WC: Hahaha. Joel: I love that when a sports reporter would be like €˜You had a really good game today, you got around the ball, and boy you drove it down there and you had a lot of support, how did it feel?€™€ €˜Yeah it was a good game.€™ WC: Hahaha. It€™s the exact same here. Now since Community is starting up again in the UK, I was hoping to talk about some of the British influences in the show. You had worked previously with Richard Ayoade in the U.S pilot for The IT Crowd, so how was it working under him when he directed the episode €˜Critical Film Studies€™? Joel: He is, an ogre and an asshole. WC: Hahahaha. Joel: That€™d be great, I want him to read this now. No, he is amazing. He is a living genius, I really do think that. I want him to read this so he€™s sees me saying that, because he is modest to a point that nobody has ever reached. And when he directed our €˜My Dinner with Andre€™ episode it was the most well received of the season. He€™s just tremendous, I thought Submarine was the best movie of last year. My only regret from doing The IT Crowd pilot is that America weren€™t able to see the genius of Richard Ayoade. That€™ll all change now that he€™ll be in that new Ben Stiller movie. WC: Neighborhood Watch. Joel: Yeah. That€™s gona€™ be great. We also have John Oliver on the show and those guys were roommates in college. Isn€™t that crazy? WC: Haha. We are a tiny island. John Oliver€™s Professor Ian Duncan is quite prominent in the first and second seasons, will he ever return to the show or did his character drink himself to an early grave? Joel: Oh not yet! His character is not in season three and that wasn€™t by any sort of choice, but just out of scheduling. He is so busy in New York doing The Daily Show that to fly him to Los Angeles to dedicate a few weeks on the show was really hard. But with that said, I know that Dan Harmon would love to have him back for season four. My character and his character always have great conflicts so I would just love that. WC: So would I! And speaking of season four, the fandom and support seems stronger than ever right now. You guys recently got picked up by Comedy Central (U.S), so you must feel like the chances are pretty strong? Joel: Yeah, we€™ll see, you know. I€™m really really hoping we€™ll get a fourth season. But with the syndication deals from Comedy Central and Hulu, you guys don€™t get Hulu right? WC: Unfortunately not, we€™ve only recently got Netflix over here. Joel: Man, that€™s crazy. Canada doesn€™t get Hulu either, but we€™ve been syndicated on there too, so those are the good signs that we€™ll get picked up for a fourth season. We€™ve had pretty good ratings for the last 3 weeks that we€™ve been back. Our first rating back we beat American Idol in the demographic so that was really great for us. So that all said, we€™ll see how the ratings do tonight. WC: Pillows and Blankets, I can€™t wait! Joel: Wow, you do know the show, thank God. I was with Dan yesterday and they were mixing the sound and we were all really happy with it, the action in it looks really good. It€™s funny to see people in pajamas trying to kill each other with a million feathers in the air. WC: I can€™t wait to see the pillow man either. Joel: Yeah, half man, half pillow. It€™s amazing. There seems to be a really strong young audience for the show who do their best to help with ratings, but none of these people go €˜I need to get home, my show€™s on€™, they all watch it in different ways. It makes me feel better to talk about it. But I hope enough people begin watching it and re-watching it on their DVR so we slowly take over the world. WC: I recently saw the trailer to Ted, which looks fantastic, can you tell us anything about your role as €˜Rex€™ and working with first-time director Seth MacFarlane? Joel: That was so much fun to work on, and with Seth MacFarlane as the first time writer-director of a movie, it was like he was a veteran. He€™s incredibly collaborative and easy to work with. His great and positive attitude permeated everything on set, it made for a really fun time. The guy I got to play makes Jeff Winger look like a saint. Mark Wahlberg is in it, obviously, after seeing The Other Guys with Will Ferrell I just thought €˜Wow, this guy can do anything€™, he€™s great in the movie. Mila Kunis is also in it and I play her boss, who is trying to woo her away from Mark Wahlberg. But that should be coming out July 13th, not too sure about you guys€ WC: We€™ll probably get it sometime in 2016. Joel: Haha. Or they€™ll release it in four parts on €˜Viva€™. WC: Haha. In the middle of the night. This has been great Joel, thanks for talking to us. Joel: Thank you man, it€™s so crazy to talk about the show to people seven thousand miles away who know the show and love the show. I hope it becomes as big as Benny Hill over there. WC: Was that bigger here than in America? Joel: Yeah, it was Monty Python that was huge over here but the ratings were never as high as Benny Hill and that was always shocking to hear. But Benny Hill couldn€™t fill entire sports arenas though, the Pythons would come over and people would go nuts for them. WC: Dang, before you went I was hoping to squeeze the word €˜Chang€™ into a question. Joel: Oh let€™s see, I€™ll do one, I didn€™t mean to €˜Chang€™ the subject on you, how€™s that? WC: Perfect. Joel: Ken Jeong is a genius. Wait until you see his character in season three, he becomes Kim Jong Il basically. WC: Haha. Thanks again man, looking forward to the rest of the season, got my fingers crossed for a fourth. Joel: So do I, let€™s hope it happens then we can have this conversation again about the next season. Season two of Community begins in the UK Tuesday April 10th with €˜Anthropology 101€™ at 10.30pm on Sony Entertainment Television (Sky €˜Chang€™el 157, Virgin Media 193). Season three is currently airing in the U.S Thursday nights on NBC.

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