Joel McHale: from the Northwest to now
In the last year, Joel McHale has lost two high-profile jobs. His 12-year stint as host of “The Soup” on the E! Network came to an end in December, and his six-season run as Jeff Winger on the NBC/Yahoo! sitcom, “Community,” concluded in June.
But don’t feel badly for the 44-year-old actor-comedian – he’s already landed a new gig to star in the CBS comedy pilot, “The Great Indoors.”
McHale will headline at 8 p.m. March 5 at the Silver Legacy Resort Casino.
“No, I’m not sad,” McHale said by phone from his home in Los Angeles when asked about “The Soup” being cancelled. “It was an incredible 12 years. It was great fun while it lasted. I enjoyed every minute of it. I was making a TV show with friends, and we got to do ridiculous things with some amazing people. I felt like I was tricking the world because I was being paid to do that. It was wonderful. I couldn’t believe my good fortune.”
As host of “The Soup,” McHale offered sarcastic and satirical commentary on pop culture and reality television from the previous week. The show also featured comedic skits and “What If?” scenarios. Although the show was scripted, it allowed plenty of room for McHale to ad-lib.
“I did a lot of improvising,” McHale said. “But there’s only so much you can do when you have preloaded clips where you have to hit a certain time or you’ll screw up the commercial breaks.”
When asked to recall some of the show’s most hilarious or bizarre moments, McHale paused to think.
“There were so many strange moments, I don’t know,” McHale said. “It all sort of blends together. I handed an award to Tila Tequila while dressed in a HAZMAT suit in the show’s second year so… One of the most thrilling moments for me was our last episode when Eric Idle (of Monty Python fame) came on. He reached out to us. It was ridiculous. He couldn’t have been cooler.”
The fact McHale still gets excited meeting a personal idol (Idle) speaks volumes about him. After all, McHale is one of the most sought-after and popular performers in the comedy industry. He hosted the 2014 White House Correspondents Dinner where he unleashed zingers such as this:
“What’s our biggest concern as Americans? TV show spoilers. In other countries, spoilers mean, ‘Hey, I haven’t been back to the village for a while. Don’t tell me who died in the drone strike.’”
McHale also hosted the 2015 ESPY Awards, which each year honors the best of the athletic world. He made people laugh and squirm uncomfortably in their seats with commentary such as “(Former UFC champion) Ronda (Rousey) has knocked out more women than Bill Cosby” and “Many are calling Jordan Spieth the new Tiger Woods, which is great news for golf and terrible news for the future Mrs. Jordan Spieth.”
Born in Italy and raised in Seattle, McHale said he’s a big sports fan in general and of Seattle sports teams in particular. He even played football for two seasons when he attended the University of Washington.
“Yeah, I played, but not well,” he said. “I’ve gone down in the (school’s) Hall of Fame as one of the worst players ever.”
Thankfully for McHale, his acting skills far exceed his athletic abilities. His entertainment career began in Seattle in 1993 as a member of the improv comedy group Unexpected Productions.
“Being raised in the Northwest before the Northwest was really popular was cool because we had to make our own entertainment,” he said. “We kind of did our own thing. I thought, ‘I’m going to try to be an actor and see what happens.’ Thankfully, I had a lot of support from my family and friends.”
After earning a master’s degree in acting from the University of Washington, McHale moved to Los Angeles where he got small roles in “Diagnosis: Murder,” “The Fugitive” and “Will & Grace.”
Fast forward to 2004 when he was hired to host “The Soup.” That kept McHale busy, but he still found time to lend his voice to movies such as “Open Season 2” and to appear in the film “Spider-Man 2,” and TV shows such as “Sons of Anarchy,” “Pushing Daisies” and, of course, “Community,” which began in 2009 and lasted six seasons.
Fast forward to 2015-16 where McHale plays Internet talk show host Tad O’Malley on the revival of one of his all-time favorite shows, “The X-Files.”
“Talk about a sweet gig,” McHale said. “When I learned they were interested in me playing the role, I was like, ‘Please have me.’ I count myself as wildly fortunate that I can have gigs like this.”
McHale, who lives in the Hollywood Hills with his wife of 20 years, Sarah Williams, and their two sons, said he’s also excited about his stand-up comedy schedule for this year. While not a replica of what he did on “The Soup,” expect plenty of social commentary and pop culture references during his performance.
“I’m doing about four shows a week on average,” he said. “I’m working hard on actively writing new material. I love performing. I always have. I think it keeps me alive and younger, or youngish. It makes you use all your faculties at once. That’s why I’m doing it … for the workout. I also like the money.”