Q&A: Joel McHale on Mixed Drinks, Razzie Awards and, Yes, “Community”
Why Hollywood's hardest-working comedian and host just added "Chief Happy Hour Officer" to his CV
Joel McHale seems to be everywhere, and I am here for that. While best known for his work on Community and as the host of The Soup — arguably two of the funniest shows of the 21st century — McHale has appeared in nearly 100 projects while maintaining a busy standup schedule (pre-pandemic).
Amazingly, his workload seemed to increase with quarantine. He hosted a Tiger King aftershow on Netflix very early on during COVID, showed up in multiple TV series and specials (including the new Crime Scene Kitchen), hosted a Community-based podcast with co-star Ken Jeong and even took up some pitch-person roles, including Hisense TVs and, the reason we’re speaking to him today, Q Mixers.
“I’m the Chief Happy Hour Officer, which is an official title,” McHale insists. (How busy is he? He’s calling via Zoom during a break from a photoshoot for the tonic/mixers brand.) “Look, I go to all the meetings. CEO, CFOs, they’re all there.”
Given the comedian’s penchant for posting workout pics, I wasn’t sure he was much of a drinker. I was wrong, as our brief but very entertaining talk proved.
InsideHook: You’re insanely busy. Even during the pandemic, it was like Tiger King special, game show host, Stargirl and even last week, I was watching a tech preview for Hisense and there you were. And now Q Mixers. Does your family miss you or are they happy to see you off?
Joel McHale: It’s a very mixed bag on that one. “When are you coming home?” they ask. Then I’m home, and they’re like, “This is really annoying.” I’m an obsessive compulsive workaholic, so when the pandemic hit, I was like, ‘Oh man, what am I doing to go?’ So Ken and I started that podcast because we weren’t touring. It’s always been that way: I grew up with like five different jobs; I worked at an espresso cart, had a paper route, weeding service, tree trimming service, I folded sweatshirts in a warehouse, you name it, I was doing it.
And I was so happy when people like Jamie Foxx and Ellen DeGeneres started hosting game shows, because it’s like, “Now I can!” They paved the way. It used to be, if you did TV you couldn’t do movies. Thank god those lines are blurred now. I do say ‘no’ quite a bit. When it’s stuff I like, I run after it.
Also, what are you drinking? Is that just a tall glass of tonic?
I’m actually drinking a Q Mixer with gin from your friend Paul Feig’s brand. I interviewed him the other week and he said you were one of the loveliest human beings he’d worked with.
[Does pretty good Paul Feig impression for 20 seconds] Also, if you talk to him again, ask him about Ronald McDonald.
That sounds ominous.
There’s a little piece of history there. But Paul and I had such fun on that show we did. It was nice that Netflix gave us two seasons. We obviously would have loved to do more. But they decided to go with Narcos.
You work out a lot, and I was thinking that you didn’t really drink.
I was up this morning at 6 working out. My thing is, if I enjoy drinks and steaks, and this new show on Fox I host that has many, many desserts, I have to counterbalance with exercise. I’m obsessive; I’ve held back old age by two milliseconds by working out for an hour. But I really enjoy it! It sets my day up, and I know that sounds lame. This started when I had to get in shape for a movie in 2013, and it was so hard to get back in shape, so I was like, “I’m never going to let myself get out of shape again.” It’s just 30 or 45 minutes a day, and that’s good, as long as it happens every day.
So you do enjoy the occasional drink.
Occasional? I’ve been day-drinking for the last year and a half, Kirk. But yeah, I do! I really like mixed drinks, wine and beer. I know you set this question up well, but when Q Mixers does an extra carbonated mixer it really does make a drink a heck of a lot better. I never understand why you’d mix high-quality gin with crap. Also, I really like the brand and Jordan, the owner.
Do you keep things that simple with your cocktails? Your buddy Paul was making amazing cocktails every day during quarantine and posting them on Instagram.
Oh, I also can do a three-piece suit, ascot and a cane and a monocle, and take an hour and half to mix a drink, get the bitters going from the garden. Look, no one will ever come to Paul Feig’s level of dedication. He makes the Kingsman look like a slob. I will say if I’m going to make a Moscow Mule, I will pull out the proper cup and I will do all that. I do have some fancy ice trays and my wife gave me drink stones, for when I’m having a Scotch. When I do the Five O’Clock Fizz (note: a drink McHale created for Q Mixers), for example, putting Campari, blanco tequila, ginger beer and lime juice, I’ll make sure it’s properly measured.
But I do like mixed drinks: When my wife and I started out, our drink of choice was the gin and tonic. And I remember a tiki bar near Green Lake in Washington where me and my friends would stay there until 5 in the morning and shut it down.
In all your work, you’ve never been a bartender?
I’ve never been a bartender, though I did work at a wine store. I always saw bartenders as chemists. And it takes practice. I can follow directions and I’m in good shape, but I know people who can pour an ounce without looking.
Shifting gears: You’re now in Stargirl on the CW. Did you always want to play a superhero?
It was a dream of mine since I was a child. And now I get to be Starman. When I got the call from my agent, it was like I was doing a Lucy sketch on the phone, I was so excited. When I squeeze into that super suit, I feel pretty good about myself. And a lot of my scenes are with Luke Wilson. He’s so funny it scares me. I was telling him about a scene of his from The Royal Tenenbaums and how extraordinary he was, and he was like, thanks man! I’m like, you don’t understand, that was a huge thing in my life.
Speaking of important, life-altering comedy scenes in movies, what do you remember about that one scene in The Happytime Murders? You know the one.
Oh, the ejaculation scene? There was so much aerosol spray jizz; it went on for like four hours. The amount of improvising we were doing while that was happening was really fun. And boy, that movie … I was nominated for a Razzie, but when we were shooting it, every scene I was doing, I was like, this is funny! I had a great time.
I’m guessing you’re good at giving toasts and you get asked a lot.
You’re right. My big advice is simple: Happy wife, happy life. Do everything you can to make your spouse happy, same thing will happen for you, and it’ll be a pretty good thing.
What’s next for you? Maybe … a Community movie?
Oh, already shot! In New Zealand, Peter Jackson at the helm, lot of CGI. Besides that? Crime Scene Kitchen on Fox. If you like baking and forsenic crime work, you’ll be happy.
Final question. As someone who lived a bit in Seattle: What do you remember about [influential local comedy show] Almost Live, where you got an early start?
God bless those people and that cast. They allowed me to screw up for five years on television, I would have been thrown out of Hollywod if I had been as green as I was on that show.
And, Kirk, thank you for recycling.
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