Joel McHale Has Sold Out (And That's Just Fine)

The comedian on shilling for Berocca, why Washington parties are better than Hollywood parties, and the return of Community.

Images courtesy of Getty Images

Year 2014 has been up and down for Joel McHale. High: This past spring, he struck gold when he nabbed the coveted position as host of the White House Correspondent's dinner, a position reserved for the comedic elite. Low: But his beloved sitcom Community was canceled by NBC and for a few weeks, it was looking like that show's end had come. High: Yahoo! eventually stepped in and decided to revive it for a sixth season to premiere online. This fall, along with reprising his role as Jeff Winger on Community, he's partnering with vitamin tablet maker Berocca for a series of forthcoming advertisements that he helped create and write. High: Plus he's still hosting The Soup on E! and has more films on the way. The dude never slows down. recently spoke with McHale about the unprecedented Community resurrection, telling jokes to Obama, partying with politicians, and more.

DETAILS: You've recently partnered with Berocca, which is an energy support supplement. Why are you into it?

JOEL MCHALE: Well, they paid me a bunch of money to promote it, which I'm into.


JOEL MCHALE: It was one of those things where when things get presented to me, I go, um, "Well, maybe." I had to make sure they allowed me and my writers to use my voice or how I'd like it to be . . . because I'm playing a character. And the product is a dissolvable tablet that has caffeine and vitamins, so I take those everyday anyway, so it was very easy for me to get behind it as opposed to some crazy energy drink.

DETAILS: Recently there were some headlines about Comic-Con and Community that said "Joel McHale says the Yahoo! deal was a 'fuck you' to networks."

JOEL MCHALE: No, no. I get that that would be quoted. I joked, you know. I went on about how excited I was to be at Yahoo! and how Dan Harmon will be unencumbered on Yahoo! and can really do anything he wants. It really is a sandbox now for him. And then as a joke, I followed up and said "fuck network TV" and then I said immediately after that, "—unless they want to simulcast it."

DETAILS: Has the stigma for an actor to do a show for the Internet gone away?

JOEL MCHALE: Oh, definitely. If you had said, "Oh, Netflix would have more Emmy nominations than anywhere else," five years ago, you would mean "Oh, the DVD mail to you and mail back service? How is that possible?" Same thing with AMC. Ten years ago, if you had said, "Oh, AMC is going to have three or four of the most popular and cool shows on television" you'd be like "You mean, the place that shows colorized versions of Jimmy Stewart movies?" Now it's just a part of the regular conversation. And obviously, the pay channels like HBO, they're making some of the best television—I don't know if you'd call it television anymore—you could call it the best series, I guess. House of Cards, obviously. Orange Is the New Black, these things are kicking ass and these companies have billions of dollars now.

DETAILS: Did you feel vindicated in some ways like "Hey, you know, you guys didn't think we were good enough, but a lot of people do."

JOEL MCHALE: Our ratings were as good as any comedy on their network. We were up against The Big Bang Theory every year and the other shows that took our slot at 8:00 didn't do as well as we did. And we ended very strongly and I thought that was enough to come back, but I was clearly wrong. And you go to Comic-Con and 5,000 people jam into a ballroom and they turn away a thousand . . . that is not the sign of a show that has lost interest. Dan Harmon said, "Now people can watch the show they've always watched." Which is, you know, we've always had a very young internet savvy audience that loves the show.

DETAILS: You hosted the White House Correspondent's dinner earlier this year. Were you stressed?

JOEL MCHALE: Oh, no, it was a total walk in the park, it was totally easy! I liken it to waking up late and just having breakfast. It was one of the strangest, most nerve-wracking and exhilarating things under the sun.

DETAILS: What are the do's and don'ts of Obama jokes?

JOEL MCHALE: They don't harbor any limitations on you at all. There was zero censorship, which shows that we live in the greatest country in the world. If I told some of those jokes about another leader in some other country, I'd be put in jail for years.

DETAILS: Not even a good jail.

JOEL MCHALE: Oh, bad jail. I mean, I made Guantanamo Bay jokes, I made drone strike jokes. The thing is, I talked to a lot of guys that did it—I talked to Seth Meyers, I talked to Craig Ferguson, Kimmel, Conan O'Brien—and they just say "You have to go in and do your thing because you're not going to win anymore." The President is going to win. And because he's the president and he's very good at telling jokes—he really is good. He's quite remarkable, actually. But you tell a Republican joke, Democrats laugh. You tell a Democrat joke, Republicans laugh. And if anything seems too edgy, they're not going to laugh. They're going to go "Ooooooh!", which is exactly what they did. So it's not like any sort of regular gig you've ever done. My advice is to do your thing and don't try to be shocking for the sake of being edgy or shocking. If you're not edgy, you'll be criticized. If you're too edgy, you'll be criticized. So it's one of the things that you just go in there and you just do it. They're not going to hurt you.

DETAILS: Did you learn anything about public speaking, looking out at such an esteemed audience?

JOEL MCHALE: Remaining calm and relaxed and being yourself is really important.

DETAILS: How were the parties?

JOEL MCHALE: I think they're probably better than Hollywood parties because they're concentrated into a one night thing. There's only a couple of them and everyone keeps telling me, over and over and over again, that the celebrities are as enamored with the politicians—and as enamored as they are—because the politicians are just as enamored as we are.

DETAILS: What are you working on now?

JOEL MCHALE: I was going to go on a big stand-up tour, but that has to be very short because Community starts up. So I actually booked a bunch of gigs and I'm going to do a few of those and my wife is like, "So you're doing a bunch of stand-up and you're doing Community? Thanks a lot, asshole." And you know, trying to develop a couple movies and shows, so you might hear something soon. We'll see.

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