You know Joel McHale as the fast-talking, former lawyer, Jeff Winger on Community. And you probably know him as the fast-talking, funny host of E!’s The Soup. But I have had the pleasure to know Joel McHale as one of my favorite TV personalities to talk with. Not that I’m too spoiled, I’ve only talked with him twice – and only in conference calls with other press outlets. But McHale is unstoppably entertaining (sometimes conference calls can get a bit dry), intelligent, gracious, and he always has me smiling. And let’s face it, I don’t smile as much as I should. I’m not an easy customer. But one show that makes me laugh without fail is Community on NBC. The season 3 premiere airs next Thursday, and I hope you plan to watch. And as a bonus, let me share some of what McHale said in the call. (John Goodman was also on the call, and I have a separate post about that.)

Joel and the Laryngitis Interviewer

I had to let McHale know I’d lost my voice a bit. And he joked about how I, “the scooper” could interview him if I was losing his voice. But I was determined to talk to McHale and Goodman as long as I could talk over a whisper. And to my credit, he could hear and understand me.

I asked Joel about the axe he has in the premiere episode. You’ve probably seen it in premiere photos, lodged in the study group desk.  “…The axe was really fun. There is – I will say there is poisonous gas, there are monkeys, there are night sticks, and there will be about 12,000 or 13,000 boxes of matches.” He wouldn’t say what was happening with the props. John Goodman was also on this phone call and he said that Joel was the “Carrot Top of night time television.”

Joel and the Brand Dropping Dream Prop List

“Wow. I’ve never – oh, my dream prop would probably be like a Porsche 911 Turbo s that I could just have, or maybe a Audi R8 V10. That would be a great prop.”

A Community Musical?

First off, is the Community season 3 premiere a musical? Not exactly. But there is a big musical sequence. McHale said,  “It’s the first thing you’ll see in the premiere episode, and if that doesn’t grab your attention then we’re in big trouble. It’s an over-the-top, very large musical number with crane shots, explosions and the entire school is involved. I did pull a couple hamstrings and was hoarse after.” But he would reveal no other details about it.

Jeff and the Polarizing Romances

What about romance for Jeff? Jeff and Annie (Alison Brie) fans will be glad to know that things will, “develop further on the romantic end of things, much to the chagrin of half the audience according to messageboards. It’s really divided right down the middle.” You might expect that McHale would have a personal preference about who Jeff Winger has a romance with – Annie or Britta (Gillian Jacobs.) But he seemed truly indifferent, noting he hadn’t thought about it too much. He plays Jeff, he doesn’t write for Jeff. “I trust Dan implicitly,” McHale said about Dan Harmon. “Jeff is a very guarded and uncommitted man. All I know is that he’s going to gravitate to Annie this year. But for my personal choice, I would think anybody from the WNBA.” Sure, it’s a cop-out, but it’s funny so you gotta give him points for that.

Jeff and the Mandatory Daddy Issues

But forget about romance for a while. Let’s talk daddy issues! In season 2 we got a peek into how Jeff feels about his absent Dad. McHale revealed that, “I know that my father will become present in the series. Jeff has a lot of father issues and according to [creator] Dan (Harmon), my character will be put through hell.”  Goodman added, “Hell is funny.”

And who will play Jeff Winger’s Dad? Joel McHale had no clue so he said, “I’m just going to go ahead and say that Jack Nicholson will be playing my father. We’ll either Jack Nicholson – yeah…. it’s probably Joe Namath, I don’t know. Or Boutros Ghali, former Head of the U.N.” He also expressed interest in Bill Murray being on the show in any capacity at all.

jeff winger

Jeff and the Touchy Dean Pelton

And will Jeff help out Dean Pelton this year? Even though Jeff isn’t the biggest fan of the Dean, he won’t leave him hanging. “My guess is that at some point he will be forced to help the dean.”

Joel and Community Viewers

My pal Jamie Steinberg of Starry Constellation Magazine asked him about what he thinks draws viewers in and he deadpanned, “It draws in viewers? That’s great.” The crew at Community know they’re doing great work, but they also know they don’t have an American Idol or Glee audience.

Jeff and the Amazing Beehive Fruitcake Lasagna

Joel McHale: “They (the episodes) are action packed and it’s like we are making a movie every week. There’s so much stuff to shoot and film many specialty shots and it’s great, it’s – but it’s as densely packed as a wonderful lasagna.”

John Goodman: It – that’s absolutely right. It’s like a huge fruit cake over there. It’s very layered and it’s like there’s two features going on at the same time on the same stage. Everybody is doing something. It’s – let’s combine the fruit cake with bee hive imagery and I’m down…

Joel McHale: Yeah, it’s like a bee hive, fruit cake…

John Goodman: …with fruit cake.

Joel McHale: …lasagna that’s put into a blender and into an enormous smoothie.

John Goodman: Making a smoothie of comedy.

Jeff and the hell that is Biology

The Wire’s Michael K. Williams plays a biology teacher at Greendale. And Winger doesn’t have an easy relationship with him. In fact, Joel never liked Biology class.

Joel and hell that was Biology

“I did everything to avoid all the sciences because I was so horrible at them. My favorite day was the last day of class, and hopefully I had passed.”

Joel and The Soup

“I love doing it, and I have a contract so they would kill me,” he said. “It’s difficult enough to have anything work on television, so I wasn’t about to leave something that’s working. All my friends are there. It’s a real family. And they’ve made the schedule work, so no one was forcing me to leave. I mean, who knew what was going to happen with Community when we started it two years ago? I was raised Catholic so I  think at any moment the sky could open and I could be crushed by, I don’t know, a giant bird that died in midflight. So I still keep my paper route.”

Jeff and Superpowers

“Jeff Winger’s would really be only concerned about the costume. He could care less about the powers.”

Community’s season 3  premieres on Thursday, September 22 on NBC.

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