Joel McHale is unleashed. The comedian’s new Netflix series “The Joel McHale Show with Joel McHale” looks a bit like his long-running E! series “The Soup,” thanks to the green screen, the guest stars, and The Staffer Formerly Known As Mankini. But the new show comes armed with a secret weapon in executive producer Paul Feig, and a mandate to expand the scope beyond entertainment.
“We wanted to broaden the show,” McHale recently told IndieWire’s TURN IT ON podcast. “E! always wanted me to keep it to entertainment news or entertainment and no sports or anything like that, and don’t get too weird. This allows us to go all over the place.”
McHale spent 11 years as host of “The Soup,” and kept it going even as his career exploded and he ended up starring in the late great comedy “Community.” But as management changed at E!, McHale said things changed for him and the show, and eventually both sides parted ways at the end of 2015.
E! hasn’t commented on McHale reviving the concept elsewhere, but as the host notes, there isn’t a trademark on TV clip shows. “There’s ‘Tosh.0,’ there’s Rob Dyrdek [‘Ridiculousness’]. They are essentially the same format. Like ‘The Daily Show,’ it’s not like ‘SNL’ could say, ‘hey, you’re making topical jokes on a fake news show. I don’t know how E! feels about it. They must have known I was going to do something like this. But so far they haven’t sued us. There is nothing left the same. We changed the color of the backdrop from Kelly Green to Forest Green. Come at me?”
McHale has said in recent interviews that E! started to bristle at his jabs at the network’s stars, particularly the Kardashian clan. That network has recently run into several controversies, including a pay equity issue tied to the departure of E! News host Catt Sadler. Asked how he would have handled such news on “The Soup,” McHale said, “there’s no humor to be mined out of the #MeToo movement. And so we would say there’s no jokes there. It would be very difficult.”
Even after “The Soup” ended, McHale said he felt the format was too good to lay dormant for long. The new show came about in quite the unusual way: It was director Feig who instigated the revival, when he ran into former Soup executive producer KP Anderson and suggested they bring the show back. Feig was a fan, and is now heavily involved with Anderson and McHale on the Netflix series.
“He shows up almost every day,” McHale said of Feig. “It’s weird that he’s there. It’s great. We did not think he would be there that much. But he absolutely contributes and gives great notes and we love it. I keep going thank god his career is tanking!”
IndieWire’s TURN IT ON recently attended a taping of “The Joel McHale Show with Joel McHale,” which takes place swiftly and efficiently on Thursday afternoons. Afterward, we caught up with McHale to discuss the new show and what else he has on tap. We began by discussing what’s back, and what’s new. Listen below!
McHale tapes the show on the same lot as Netflix’s Hollywood headquarters, and that means chief content officer Ted Sarandos frequently stops by to watch McHale. “They’ve been very cool about [poking fun at themselves]. With Netflix, the quality of the programming is so high that it’s a little bit harder, but we’ll find a way.”
Meanwhile, McHale was also free to start up the new show after his CBS sitcom “The Great Indoors” was canceled after one season. McHale said the show was still finding its legs when it was canceled, but that he enjoyed working with “international treasure” Stephen Fry.
However, he also admits he was also frustrated with how the show’s real-life studio audience’s laughter was “manipulated.” “It ends up sounding canned when they’re not canned,” he said. “They turn the laughs down to save time to get to the next joke setup, which is not how theater works. You wait.”
Earlier this year, McHale starred as Chevy Chase — yes, his old “Community” co-star — in “A Futile and Stupid Gesture,” Netflix’s biopic of “National Lampoon” founder Doug Kenney.
John P. Fleenor/Netflix/REX/Shutterstock
“It was very odd at first,” McHale said of playing Chase. “It was the young Chevy, and I so deep-dived into really early Chevy tapes that I stopped thinking about how I had worked with him for four years. Really, this is a guy who is about to be the most famous comedian in America and he was the most confident person on the planet.”
McHale said the first time he called Chase to tell him about how he was doing the role, “he laughed. But he was very pleased about Doug Kenney getting attention. This guy was a force.”
Speaking of “Community,” McHale also did a voice last year on Dan Harmon’s “Rick and Morty,” and they briefly discussed the long-anticipated “Community” movie. But alas, there’s no movement yet.
“I don’t think he’s written it,” McHale said. “He’s got his hands full writing ‘Rick and Morty.’ And getting Donald [Glover] would be very hard at this point unless we had $10 million lying around for him to appear. Donald, $10 million good for one day? We kind of need him.
“It would be great to do, I’d do it in a New York minute.”
“The Joel McHale Show with Joel McHale” premieres new episodes every Sunday on Netflix.
IndieWire’s “TURN IT ON with Michael Schneider” is a weekly dive into what’s new and what’s now on TV — no matter what you’re watching or where you’re watching it. With an enormous amount of choices overwhelming even the most sophisticated viewer, “TURN IT ON” is a must-listen for TV fans looking to make sense of what to watch and where to watch it.