You know him from “The Soup,” and then “Community.” Now, Joel McHale has a new book and a new show, and will be back in his hometown soon.
People send you stuff when you’re famous. Stuff you can well afford, because you’re famous. But that kind of logic doesn’t work in Hollywood.
That’s how Joel McHale found himself with a cooler full of bacon. A stool for squatting over the toilet. A free car for a year. And lots of watches.
“It’s ridiculous,” McHale said the other day from Los Angeles, where he lives and stars on the new show “The Great Indoors” (which premieres Oct. 27).
The author of “Thanks for the Money: How to Use My Life Story to Become the Best Joel McHale You Can Be” speaks at 7 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 29, University Temple United Methodist Church, 1415 N.E. 43rd St., Seattle; $30.64; each ticket admits 2 and includes a copy of the book (brownpapertickets.com).
Not that he’s complaining about the bacon or even the sex toys someone sent, hoping they’d be used on McHale’s wonderfully snarky E! show, “The Soup.”
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But it did serve as fine fodder for his new book, “Thanks for the Money: How to Use My Life Story to Become the Best Joel McHale You Can Be.”
The book is “half-tell-all memoir, half-self-help manual,” all delivered in McHale’s signature, smarty-pants style.
A sampling of lessons: How to start a celebrity feud. How to join, profit from and escape from the Church of Scientology. How to lose weight and look fit “simply by starving yourself and working out constantly.”
“It’s not a practical guide, because that would make me look like a dick,” McHale said. “The goal is to make people laugh and enjoy themselves. It’s not me bragging about actual stuff; It’s about the ridiculous construct of being a celebrity.
“I get paid well to tell fart jokes on television.”
Way to make the folks back home in Seattle proud.
McHale, 44, grew up on Mercer Island and attended the University of Washington, where he was a tight end on the Huskies football team. He got a bachelor’s in history and continued at the UW, earning an MFA from the Professional Actors Training Program there.
In 1993, he joined the cast of the KING5 late-night sketch show, “Almost Live” and stayed for four years. He moved to Los Angeles and landed small roles on television shows like “Diagnosis: Murder” and had a memorable turn as a bank manager in the film “Spider-Man 2” before taking over as the host of “The Soup” in 2004.
All the while, he popped up in Los Angeles theater productions or radio shows — even “Iron Chef America.”
Then in 2009, McHale landed the lead role in the NBC sitcom “Community,” which led to more TV and film work (“Sons of Anarchy, “The X-Files,” “Ted”), and hosting the White House Correspondents Association Dinner in 2014 and the 2015 ESPYs.
“The Soup” ended last December after 22 years on the air.
“It was time,” McHale said of the show that made him a household name. It got moved to Wednesdays a couple of years ago, he said, which didn’t help ratings.
“And I don’t think comedy fell into E!’s brand anymore,” McHale said. “It was 12 years and I can’t thank them enough and I got to do the show with my friends.
“With this journeyman life with actors,” he said, “if you do a job your whole life, you’re in an extraordinary group. I wanted to do more stuff and be out there.”
He’s now starring in the new NBC sitcom “The Great Indoors,” and settling into his new house in Studio City where he lives with his wife, Sarah, their two young sons and a dog named Harry.
“We were on a very steep hill, so if the kids lost a ball, it would be going at about 60 mph,” he said. “Now we’re on a flat street and we have a pool and there’s a lot more room for my fur collection.”
Of course McHale has furs. He’s a huge celebrity now. With a book.
He worked on it with the writers who helped him craft his jokes for The White House Correspondent’s Dinner.
“Unless they yelled at me, I wasn’t going to write a single word,” McHale said. “It was them helping me stay focused and prodding me along. They were very good at helping me actualize some of the stuff I wanted to write about.”
There are stories about his boyhood injuries, meeting his wife and on-set antics. There’s also a story about a gun, and another about his parents that he’s a little fretful about.
McHale produced a commercial for the book, as well as the hotline 1-855-YES-JOEL, better known as “The Joel McHale Intimate Audio Experience.”
Press 1, and hear “The Joel McHale Personal Affirmation of Excellence.” (A sampling: “You look really attractive when you breathe.”)
“To have me listen attentively as you talk about your day, press 2.”
“To listen to a list of current fashion ins and outs, press 3.
“To listen to me eat egg salad, press 4.”
“For today’s lucky numbers, press 5.”
(I’ll admit it; I listened to him eat egg salad.)
“I didn’t want to do a straight memoir,” McHale said. “So we were making fun. This is not a heady, searing indictment of Hollywood. It’s a reset. It’s fun. It’s good times. It’s an observation about how ridiculous it is.
“But I freaking love Hollywood and the fact that I can do this ridiculous career,” he continued. “Before cameras were invented, I would have been going down to town in Europe saying, ‘We will perform if you feed us!’ ”
McHale is a die-hard Seahawks fan, and still loves Seattle, but he doesn’t consider it “home” anymore.
“I’ve been in L.A. for 16 years,” he said. “It’s a world I’ve been operating in for a while. So it’s a weird thing where it has stopped feeling like I am going back ‘home’ to Seattle.”
Still, when he’s here, he’s part of the place: Seahawks games, dinner at Matt’s In the Market or The Whale Wins. He takes his sons to the Woodland Park Zoo, Pike Place Market “and wherever there’s Legos.”
He keeps up with the changing city by following “Vanishing Seattle” on Instagram.
“Seattle is part of my DNA,” he said.
But he’s a big celebrity now, so.
“Almost everything is good about being a celebrity,” he said. “I have some friends who don’t like it. But if you choose to go to the audition and be on camera, you will be recognizable.”
And when McHale is recognized — hard not to; the man stands 6’4” — he will pose for a selfie or sign an autograph. No problem.
“People walk up and tell me how much they like me,” McHale said. “Compared to a meter maid, where you’re being spat on all the time? I am not swinging a hammer.”
One of his brothers is an Episcopalian priest “and he’s in hospitals all the time, helping people transition through life,” McHale said.
His other brother is an electrician, who could get zapped to death if he isn’t careful.
“They ask me what I do, and I say, ‘I got interviewed, removed makeup and told jokes.
“If you are so lucky and blessed that you get on something that people say, ‘That makes me happy and I like that,’ when I hear people complaining I say, ‘Stop doing it!’
“We have ridiculous lives.”