Published in The Music (QLD) on theMusic.com.au, Sep 2017
The Real Reason ‘The Soup’ Was Cancelled
Making fun of the Kardashians for a living doesn’t end well, as Community star Joel McHale found out. He tells Daniel Cribb why being a celebrity is so strange.
“I watched Game Of Thrones last night, so I’m happy about that,” an upbeat Joel McHale begins, pacing around his home in the sweltering LA heat.
“There was one season where I was like, ‘Uh oh, it’s losing me – they’re writing too many checks they can’t cash.’ And boy, did they. It’s one of those things that happens every ten or twenty years where the entire world goes, ‘We all get it, we all believe the show is ours, personally.’ I’m going to be sad when it’s gone.”
While US comedy Community – in which McHale played the charming Jeff Winger – mightn’t have had the entire world on the edge of its seat, by the end of its sixth and final season, it did have a cult fan base just as invested and broke many a heart when it wrapped in 2015. With that said, there’s still hope for a film, although at this point there’s “nothing on the books”.
“Obviously most of the cast is pretty dang busy right now,” he says of co-stars Alison Brie, Donald Glover and more. “What’s cool about the show is it continues to have fans – thank god – and I that speaks to the genius of Dan Harmon’s writing and some of the performances.
“My kids are watching it now, which is pretty strange. They know Gillian [Jacobs] and Alison, and I made out with them a bunch. I was like, ‘Is that weird?’ And they’re like, ‘It’s a little weird.’ I’m like, ‘Okay, just so you know, we all pretended we had other names and that was on a sound studio.’ And they’re like, ‘Dad, stop talking, we’re trying to watch.'”
You might be under the impression so far that McHale spends a lot of his time watching TV, but it’s the exact opposite. During his ten-year stint as a writer and the host of E!’s The Soup, he consumed enough pop culture to last a lifetime, but since it was suddenly and surprisingly cancelled in 2015 after 22 seasons he hasn’t had much time.
McHale first saw the writing on the wall when the network asked them to stop making fun of E! juggernauts the Kardashians, which is what they had been doing his entire tenure on the show. “More so, E! got out of the comedy business when Chelsea [Handler] left and, sadly, Joan [Rivers] died,” McHale explains. “We were the last man standing.”
A sea change in management also led to a shift in the show’s business model, which wasn’t sustainable in the long run. “We used to re-air in America like 12 times a week and as soon as we became a union, they had to pay all the writers for every episode and we went from 12 re-showings down to one.
“That did not fit their model and that was the end. We were doing perfectly well in E! ratings; we did great compared to other stuff on the network.”
He’ll have plenty of time to catch up on TV during his flight to Australia in September. “What are you talking about? Are you telling me it’s a long flight? I feel like it’s about 4–5 hours, something like that,” he jokes.
“Coming to Australia, I feel like I’m going through a wormhole it’s so long. I will tell you secretly – I mean, it’s not a secret because you’re recording this and you work for a magazine – but I love Australia. The only thing that confuses me is putting mayonnaise on lobster, that doesn’t make any sense.”
McHale’s glorious return will see him undertake his first full national tour of Australia. “I am all over the map, you will have a hard time getting me offstage,” he tells. “I talk about a shit ton of different stuff, that’s why the show is called – A Shit Ton Of Different Stuff With Joel McHale… it’s not called that.”
It would be a fitting title, given McHale does have a lot to say, proven through the release of his first book, Thanks For The Money: How To Use My Life Story To Become The Best Joel McHale You Can Be (“I think everyone will agree it’s the greatest book ever written.”), which dropped last year.
“I did not want to do a regular celebrity biography – not that there’s anything wrong with those, but I kind of feel like you have to have an insanely compelling story to be able to fill up an entire book, so I filled up half a book; that’s about as interesting as I get – one-half of a book.
“It is kind of a self-help book, but moreso a send-up of other celebrity books and it talks about how ridiculously insane it is that, for whatever lucky reason, when comedians or actor make enough money to live, all of a sudden people start giving them stuff for free. It makes no sense, it’s silly and it really is a strange thing.”
Although it’s hard to believe given his recent on-screen credits alone on The X-Files, The Great Indoors and brief stints on Rick & Morty and BoJack Horseman, that he wouldn’t be able to fill an entire book with engaging stories. In Thanks For The Money, McHale talks about Community co-star and comedy legend Chevy Chase, who is widely known to be difficult to work with.
Despite their differences (some documented through humorous anecdotes in the book), McHale is portraying Chase in an upcoming film about Doug Kenney, the founder of the highly influential National Lampoon’s comedy empire. “We just did reshoots,” McHale reveals of the David Wain (Wet Hot American Summer, Role Models) directed A Futile & Stupid Gesture, starring Will Forte as Kenney alongside Emmy Rossum, Seth Green and more. “Not only is [Will Forte] so good, he’s a total asshole,” he says. “WAIT! He’s the opposite; he’s probably the nicest person I’ve ever met. He’s so nice that it’s off-putting.”
Kenney also wrote the iconic Animal House and produced Caddy Shack, “and then he died – he fell off a cliff in Hawaii,” McHale adds. “I play Chevy Chase, who was his best friend; they were the best pals. It’s kind of the story of his life, which doesn’t get a lot of press as to what he did and what he accomplished in a very short period time. He died when he was like 30.
“While Richard Pryor was changing one kind of comedy and Monty Python was changing another kind of comedy, in America, comedy changed drastically because of him. He’s kind of like the Alexander Hamilton of comedy in America; he made it up out of nothing.”