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McHale soups up comedy act

Q and A with Joel McHale
by: John Shearer 
“The Soup” funnyman Joel McHale will appear at Chinook Winds Casino Resort Saturday, May 21.

Joel McHale is everywhere these days. The 39-year-old Seattle-area native is on the small screen ('The Soup' on E! Entertainment Television and 'Community' on NBC) and the big screen (two films to be released this year).

In February, he hosted the Film Independent Spirit Awards. The Los Angeles resident, married with two small children, is in Boston shooting his fourth movie in two years, 'Ted.' McHale was also featured this month in Parade Magazine's 'Intelligence Report.'

Since 2004, the Mercer Island High and the University of Washington grad has served as host for 'The Soup,' making fun of reality shows and celebrities. He plays Jeff Winger on the NBC comedy 'Community,' a lawyer attending a community college along with students, some portrayed by actors Gillian Jacobs and Chevy Chase. The show recently was renewed for a third season.

McHale appears at Chinook Winds Casino Resort in Lincoln City, 5 and 8 p.m. Saturday, May 21. Tickets are $45 to $60 and available by calling 1-888-244-6665.

McHale slowed down long enough to take part in a Q and A session with the Portland Tribune:

Portland Tribune: Feature subject in Parade Magazine, eh? Must be hard for Joel McHale to be humble these days.

McHale: I have a terrible time being humble. I usually have to wear sunglasses to bed.

Tribune: You're a Seattle native. What do you think about the Pacific Northwest?

McHale: It's the greatest. I love Seattle. A lot of my family - my mom and dad, my grandpa - still live there. There's something about the Northwest, with the dark green of the forest, the blue of the waters and the white of the mountains, burned into my memory cells in some weird way. I get out there two or three times a year.

Tribune: As a walk-on tight end, you played two years at the University of Washington. You're included in the team photo for the 1993 Rose Bowl Game. How good were you at football?

McHale: Awful. I mean, I was fine. I was probably pretty good, but not compared to the guys I was competing with. I know I made them look terrific at practice. I didn't play at all. I redshirted the first year, sat the bench the second year and got to suit up for the Rose Bowl. The third year, I quit and started doing a lot more acting.

Tribune: You were 6-4 and 250 pounds back then. Now you're 190. Did you go off the 'roids?

McHale: After I quit football, I ran a lot of marathons. And with 'Community,' I've had to be naked a lot. I starved myself. It was the 'terrified-of-being-naked-on-TV-in-two-weeks' diet.

Tribune: Were you the class cut-up growing up?

McHale: No, there were much funnier people than me in school. I screwed around a lot, but my good friend Ethan Sandler (an actor-writer) was the real funny guy.

Tribune: Did you get your start in comedy at Pike Place Market?

McHale: That's where I really put in a lot of hard work, doing improv there onstage three or four times a week. That was kind of like a wonderful boot camp for improv comedy of that specific type. I have some great memories.

Tribune: You've been hosting 'The Soup' for seven years on 'E!' Who has been your favorite celebrity or reality show star to make fun of?

McHale: It really is a moving target, because no one stays in the spotlight for that long. For awhile, it was (David) Hasselhoff. Lindsay Lohan's always in the news, but that gets very sad quickly. The Kardashians, Whitney Houston - it's constantly changing.

Tribune: I watched the latest episode of 'Community.' It was out there. Have you ever played paintball in real life?

McHale: Yes, maybe five times. It's great fun.

Tribune: The writers for the show are clever. There are a lot of good lines, such as when you tell the episode's hunk, 'You think you're good-looking, but you're not. You're just an average-looking guy with a big chin.' Are you contributing to the scripts?

McHale: I would never pretend to be able to write those scripts. Dan Harman, the creator, is an absolute genius, and he has assembled an incredible writing staff. I defer to him and all those things. I'd follow him into any comedy battle. He comes up with things I can't believe at times. I thank God I get to say them.

Tribune: You've played roles in several films, including an FBI agent alongside Matt Damon in 'The Informant.' What was that like?

McHale: They say never meet your heroes, but he's one of those people you do want to meet. He's such a good guy, so smart, so dreamy to look at. I was very fortunate getting to work with Matt and (director) Steven Soderbergh in my first large role in a movie. Matt's performance was amazing. It was one of those things where I would have paid to be there it was so great. It was how you would want a massively famous movie star to be like.

Tribune: You have parts in four movies to be released this year - 'The Big Year' (Steve Martin, Jack Black and Owen Wilson), 'What's Your Number?' (Anna Faris), 'Spy Kids 4' (Jessica Alba, Jeremy Piven) and 'Ted' (Mark Wahlberg, Mila Kunis), the latter directed by Seth MacFarlane of 'Family Guy.' That's a lot of work, man.

McHale: Acting has always been my first love.

Tribune: The Spirit Awards were wild and irreverent. What was your reaction when Paul Rudd grabbed Eva Mendes' breast, followed by Rosario Dawson grabbing Rudd's crotch?

McHale: I was backstage at that point. I was pissed I wasn't able to see it. As the host, you introduce somebody to come out on stage. I was backstage writing new jokes and getting ready for the next intro. When I saw (clips) later, it was pretty funny.

Tribune: How much stand-up comedy do you do?

McHale: It depends on the year. Last year, I did a lot getting ready for a show at Carnegie Hall. I didn't want to completely screw that up. This year, it just depends. When a weekend looks pretty clear, I might do a show or two. For Lincoln City, I'm flying out for the show, then heading right back to Boston.

Tribune: You hit the big '4-0' in November. Are the 40s a daunting proposition?

McHale: I hardly even paid attention to my 30s. All I know, is I have to get a colon exam at some point. I'm really looking forward to it.