Joel McHale mocks Snooki on The Soup and slings zingers at the misfit members of his study group on Community. But in Spy Kids: All the Time in the World in 4D, the comedian takes on a role much closer to home: married father of two. McHale plays Wilbur Wilson, a spy-hunting TV reporter married to Jessica Alba, a retired spy herself. Vulture talked with McHale, who also co-stars in the upcoming comedies What’s Your Number? and The Big Year, about his kid-friendly franchise, the third season of Community, and being compared to Ryan Seacrest.
This is the fourth Spy Kids in the franchise, which can be risky in terms of keeping a film fresh. Did you hesitate at all before taking it on?
It was Robert Rodriguez — I didn’t hesitate for a second. And, you know, this one’s very violent. There’s a lot of killing; it’s brutal. A lot like how they reinvented James Bond. No, no. But just like James Bond, there are a lot of Spy Kids movies and if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.
Is Spy Kids the first project you’ve done that your kids can actually watch?
Yes, it is. It’s not like my kids were rushing out to watch me in The Informant!, but I can take them to this premiere. I don’t think they’ll be interested in the Anna Faris movie I just did [the romantic comedy What’s Your Number?]. But maybe. Maybe my kids are into romantic comedies. No, the 3-year-old, he’s not into romantic comedies. Yet. But he does love Kurosawa.
You recently started filming season three of Community. And John Goodman will join the cast for multiple episodes! That must be pretty amazing.
Oh, God, yes. I met him for the first time yesterday and I just sat there and was like, You know that Big Lebowski’s really goood?!?! D’oooh. Barton Fink was awesome. Uhhhh. You’re so great. He is one of the best actors in the world and he’s on our show. I don’t know what bet he lost, but now he has to do it.
And, please tell us, is Pierce still out of the group?
Those questions will be settled, eventually. I don’t want to reveal too much, but Chevy [Chase] is still showing up to work every day so he’s still on the show. It was really fun to see the cast again. It’s like the first day back at school, seeing everybody after summer vacation.
At Comic-Con, Dan Harmon said that Jeff Winger is going to graduate. Where would you like to see the show and your character go after that happens?
Um, I’d like him to maybe get a spaceship. I’d like to see the series turn into a kind of Battlestar Gallactica. I love that series. Like Jeff becomes Captain of the Millennium Falcon. Something believable.
On The Soup, you skewer pretty much every reality show out there. Are there any that you watch for real, rather than for material?
Anything on Discovery Channel. But shows like Big Brother drive me out of my mind. I can’t stand them. That title is a moving target, as things in reality shows change all the time. But Big Brother should just be called Whispering and Conspiring. It shows human beings at their worst. Those shows where they just say, “Let’s take a bunch of damaged people, throw them into a house, and ply them with booze and see what happens”? That’s where we’re using our loser brains.
Obviously your schedule is pretty grueling with Community and The Soup and three movies this year. How do you do it all?
I don’t know. Methamphetamines? I’m just desperate for work and scared that I’m not going to have it anymore, so I don’t say no. I don’t ever want to give up The Soup. I have a great time doing it and they’ve been really gracious and accommodating of my schedule. With the unpredictable waters of network television, I’m not about to give up such a steady gig. And Community is a dream come true. I love the show deeply. And I’ve always wanted to do movies, so when I get those opportunities I jump at them. Then all of a sudden I’m not sleeping anymore.
You’re often referred to as “the second hardest working man in show business after Ryan Seacrest.”
Yeah, that’s why he and I both made nearly 50 million dollars this year. Oh, wait a minute. I made less. Yes, that’s right. I just did the math and figured that out. Sorry. I make significantly less. But, I’m one of the tallest men in show business and he’s one of the shortest, so it all evens out.