Joel McHale has graduated from community college and ventured out into the wild, only to be summoned back inside. In the CBS comedy The Great Indoors (tonight, 8:30 p.m. ET/PT), the Community alum stars as an outdoor adventure magazine writer who must return to the office to supervise a staff populated by strange creatures he doesn’t understand: millennials. Let’s fall into the generation gap with McHale, who, by the way, also wrote the just-released book Thanks for the Money: How to Use My Life Story to Become the Best Joel McHale You Can Be.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: What was your first reaction when you read this script?
JOEL MCHALE: It was a combination of the writing and the spirit and the situation; it just kind of levitated above the other ones… I consulted the Oracle of Delphi, and it said it was the one. I talked to King Arthur, and I pulled the sword from a stone, and right through the sword was the script.
What your second reaction, when you found out that you’d be starring opposite Stephen Fry?
I thought it was a mistake, and I assume he’d been blackmailed into it somehow. He clearly doesn’t need the money, and he has a very good reputation and does not want to dilute that by being on screen with me. I was like, “Why are you doing it?” and he was like [in British accent], “Oh, I thought it would be fun!” And I was like, “YOU’RE STEPHEN FRY.” So each morning when I see him, I’m like, “Hey! You’re Stephen Fry!” and he’s like, “Oh! I still am. All right!”
You play an outdoor adventure writer. What is the headline of your greatest outdoorsy achievement?
“I Almost Climbed Mt. Rainier.” My wife and I, my little brother, and Jim Rash of Community fame tried to climb Mt. Rainier. But one of our guides didn’t bother to tell us that he had pneumonia, and at 10,00 feet he had a panic attack and ran back down the mountain, leaving us guideless, which meant we couldn’t summit. And that guy never apologized either, which was really, really tacky of him.
Do you expect millennials to be offended by the show’s portrayal of easily offended millennials? Does that excite you?
Absolutely. If we are offending easily offendable millenials, then we are doing our job. That said, we are equal-opportunity offenders. Generation X will absolutely be offended, and so will baby boomers. I guarantee that if some kids wander onto set, we’ll make fun of them, too.
Can you say something nice about millennials?
They are the most inclusive generation in the history of the world.
Okay, now can you something mean about millennials?
They played too many sports as kids where their parents didn’t want their feelings to be hurt if they lost. Their feelings were definitely worried about way more than mine.
What is the least millennial thing about you?
Probably my age.
What is the most millennial thing about you?
Finish this statement: Kids these days…
…have the greatest distressed clothes.
You hold a baby bear in the pilot. I have no question. Just stating a fact.
That is a true thing, and right now, the same bear could kill me in seconds, because it has gained 300 pounds. I mean, rip my arms off and eat my heart while it was still beating. It did bite me. But they were putting food on my sleeve, and I think it was just like, “F— it, there’s a perfectly good arm here.”
I’m not convinced you’ve ever watched a CBS comedy. Name a joke from one.
The Everybody Loves Raymond episode where [Raymond’s parents] were talking abut the sexual habits of Raymond and his wife, and then his brother enters the scene, and as his parents are talking about it, he doesn’t say a word; he crosses through the kitchen and he listens, but he’s still slowly moving through, and then he leaves the scene and lets out a bloodcurdling scream. It was really funny. And anyway: Bazinga!
Some people might be surprised to find you in a CBS multicamera comedy. What appealed to you about that?
There’s a million different articles written that the [multicam] sitcom is dead, and it clearly is not since they are the most popular comedies in the world. If you are a comedy format-ist — as in, racist — then just take a few minutes and listen to the jokes, and you’ll be like, “Oh! All right! Here we go!” Watch it before you take a swing at it. And if you take a swing at it, I will catch your fist and crush it while staring into your eyes.
More likely to happen: a Community movie or a Great Indoors movie?
Well, right now I would say Community since The Great Indoors has not aired. But I’m going to go with (instead of that saying, “You mean a sequel to The Godfather?”) yeah, there definitely will be both. But you have to have one before the other, so we’ll go Community then Great Indoors.
You’ve described your book as part memoir, part self-help book, saying, “I’m going to give you practical ways to become a celebrity and get stuff for free.” Can you just tell them one way for free right now to get stuff for free?
No. They gotta read my book. You can’t be lazy. You have to make a concerted effort to try to get free stuff through being a celebrity. It is not a passive job. It’s not like you inherited some money and you can just sit on a yacht for a week and a half — you gotta work hard at getting free stuff.
Give us three tips to being Joel McHale.
Have a lot of quality hair products — and backup hair products. When someone offers you something, ask for three of them. Warn your family before you write a book about them.
Is there one shocking revelation in the book that you can cryptically tease?
Angela Lansbury will finally get what’s coming to her.