Actor and comedian Joel McHale, the pride of Mercer Island High School, returns to Seattle for two shows at The Moore Theatre on Friday and Saturday. He recently took a few moments from a hectic schedule to speak from his office at the E! Network, where he hosts "The Soup," a weekly snarky digest of...

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Actor and comedian Joel McHale, the pride of Mercer Island High School, returns to Seattle for two shows at the Moore Theatre on Friday and Saturday. He recently spoke from his office at the E! Network, where he hosts “The Soup,” a weekly snarky digest of the best (translation: worst) of reality and talk television.

Q: Today (Nov. 20) is your 37th birthday. What do you have planned?

A: I’m taping “The Soup” in about an hour and a half, and then I’m going to be madly running around to pack up some T-shirts so I can fly to Spokane tomorrow morning after doing The Adam Carolla Show.

Q: I know you were born in Rome. Was your dad in the military?

A: No. My mom’s family lived in Rome because my grandfather was the head of a U.N. organization. And my dad was a just an “Italiophile” who wanted to get out of Chicago. So my dad went over and became a dean of students, my mom was a student, and they fell in love.

Q: You have so many fans on the Internet. The television writer for the New York Daily News calls you her favorite tall person. Another sends you MySpace birthday greetings and adds, “you seem so kissable.”

A: Wow. I really need to read the Internet more!

Q: Another blogger calls you her “pretend husband,” and regrets she didn’t have a photo taken with you when she saw one of your shows.

A: She should regret it. She didn’t buy a T-shirt and that would have made me six bucks.

Q: I see that you and your wife, Sarah, moved recently.

A: The name of my stand-up tour is, “Thanks for My Pool.” I’ve lived in Los Angeles for eight years now and this is the first time I’ve been in a place that had a pool. And this is what people are supposed to have.

Q: Does the house have a yard for the kids (Edward, 3, and Isaac 8 months)?

A: No yard. There’s a play area for sure, but we’re on a very steep hill and the top of our property opens into Griffith Park, so the kids can run around and be eaten by coyotes.

Q: You were a frat boy at the University of Washington.

A: For two horrible quarters. Those jerks “claim me” all the time. I seem to be on some Theta Chi list, but I wish they’d ask me about it because it was a horrible experience. The worst time of my life.

Q: You were also an athlete, which I didn’t know.

A: Yes. I was recruited to row. I don’t know what was going on with the rowing team, but they had a lot of weird hazing rules. The freshmen had to shave all of the hair off their head and eyebrows and put it into a pillow.

And I didn’t push a chair in properly or something. … And this guy and I got surrounded and jumped by the varsity team, and they smacked us. That was awesome (sarcastically). So I left that and joined the football team [in the early 1990s]. I was one of Washington football’s most esteemed walk-ons. Which only means that I crumpled really well. But I had a great time on that team. Two years, and it was really fun. They were good guys who were working toward the goal of winning, as opposed to shaving our heads in the proper way and putting it into a hair pillow, into a display case full of hair pillows.

Q: Everyone asks about “The Soup,” but I’m more interested in your upcoming film, “The Informant” [due out next September].

A: Thank you for asking! It’s a serious story, but Steven Soderbergh and Matt Damon — a credit to their brilliance — saw it as a dark comedy. It’s like a nutty spy novel, but it’s a true story, based on a book by Kurt Eichenwald. And it has to be true, because the twists and turns it takes are so outrageous that you can’t believe it. Scott Bakula and I play FBI agents who are in charge of Matt Damon’s character’s case. Matt Damon is incredible.

Q: Did they approach you? Did you have to fight for the role?

A: I auditioned for it. I put myself on tape.

Q: How did you find out you’d won the role? Did you do cartwheels?

A: I was right in the middle of a voice-over session for an animated movie (“Open Season II”). I was on a 15-minute break when they told me. But then they said, “Don’t tell anybody yet … it’s not finalized.” So it’s like, “Hey, you won the lottery but WAIT, don’t tell a soul.”

Q: You went to the White House Correspondents Dinner this year. Who was your date?

A: My dad. My wife had just given birth, and we weren’t about the haul-the-family-around-the-country. It was fun, because my dad likes all that stuff. We got a private tour of the White House.

Q: … You’ve said in other interviews that growing up with him was pretty much a hoot.

A: Oh yeah. He’s where I got all my smart-assery from.

Q: On a totally separate note, how did you end up being a judge on Iron Chef America?

A: On “The Soup” we made fun of Iron Chef every week for about a year and a half, and they finally asked me. It gave me a chance to tell Mario Batali that his food was only so-so. They haven’t asked me back. I made too much fun of the lentils.

Q: Any parting words? … Something you’re never asked that you’d like to answer?

A: I would like someone to ask me, “Would you like to have $100,000 in cash with no strings attached?”

And I’d say “Yes.”

Megan Sheppard is a Seattle freelance writer. Contact her at: megans@hootspA:com