By Mandi Bierly
Updated September 17, 2009 at 06:15 PM EDT

Finally! Community, the ensemble comedy starring Joel McHale and Chevy Chase about a group of misfits who attend Greendale Community College and find each other in a Spanish study group, premieres tonight (NBC, 9:30 p.m. ET). This afternoon, we’re getting to know Gillian Jacobs, the Juilliard grad with great taste in comedy, who plays Britta, the hard-to-get woman who inspires McHale’s character Jeff, a lawyer sent back to college after it’s revealed his law degree is fake, to start said study group. (Their Spanish professor, Señor Chang, is played by The Hangover‘s Ken Jeong, so they really do need each other.)

• Yes, she was a fan of the The Soup before she met McHale, and their chemistry was instant. “He’s so at ease that he puts you at ease. He’s just like giving s— to the casting director, throwing out lines. With those funny guys, you just got to be ready to play ball with them, and if you’re as game as they are, then you’ll be fine. Thank god sometimes something occurs to me to say in response.” The only problem: McHale is a foot taller than her. “I stand on boxes some times for close-ups of the two of us. I have to wear high heels all the time, which is not my favorite part of the show. They even taped on another inch of foam to platform flip-flops. I’m walking around in these flip-flops when I’m off-camera [mimes teetering], like, Damn his freakish height! [Creator] Dan Harmon has promised me they’ll dig a trench at some point for Joel to walk in so I’m not holding my breath when I’m walking.”

• Liz Lemon (Tina Fey on 30 Rock) is her favorite female character on TV. “She is smart and confident and ridiculous at the same time. That’s what I love. She’s the one who’s trying to wrangle all the characters on the show, but then she’ll become convinced that her neighbor is a terrorist and will report him to INS. It doesn’t mean that you’re not smart and articulate and right about certain things, but there are other things you need to look at in yourself.” She sees Britta in the same vein.”Britta might be charmed by Jeff at times, but he’s not pulling anything over on her.”While she was the straight man and voice of season in the pilot, we’ll soon get to see her quirks (she becomes obsessed with a Guatemalan journalist who’s been killed, she experiences obvious discomfort around girlie girls, etc.).

• She’s a true comedy nerd. Lisa Kudrow’s one-season wonder The Comeback is Jacobs’ favorite canceled show, and she would like nothing more than Strangers With Candy‘s Amy Sedaris to guest star as her mother. She’s also a fan of The Office, Curb Your Enthusiasm, and Adult Swim’s Xavier: Renegade Angel: “He’s like an angel with backwards legs and one of his arms is a snake. It is hilarious and so confusing and you have to pay so close attention to what they are saying because it goes by so quickly, but that is one of the smartest shows on TV.” She credits the teacher of a Saturday afternoon acting class she took for years while growing up in Pittsburgh for developing her sense of humor. “We would do Monty Python sketches in his class, and we’d really listen to the Lemmings comedy albums…. I had my life Monday through Friday in school, and then I had my ‘real life,’ which was my acting class on Saturday. No one was gonna tell you that you were too goofy, or what you liked [reruns of Kids in the Hall, Saturday Night Live, Benny Hill, Are You Being Served?, and Absolutely Fabulous] was too strange. I remember one time there was a really heavy rain and my mom said, ‘You’re not gonna be able to go to acting class today because there’s flooding on the bridges,’ and I was like, ‘WE’RE GOING.’ You have a teacher who’s making you do ‘Dead Parrot’ when you’re in junior high or elementary school, it’s a really great gift.”

• Ballerinas, in particular, find her hysterical. You might remember her from a guest spot as a retiring ballerina on USA’s summer hit Royal Pains. “They had real ballerinas come, and they tried to rig the shot so I wouldn’t have to dance; I would just have to move my arms like they were doing. I did it, and all the ballerinas started laughing. I was like, ‘Really? I’m that bad? I didn’t even move my legs.’ They all thought I was hilarious, and I was not trying to be funny at all. But they got really excited when I put the point shoes on. Apparently, I have good feet for ballet. They all started clapping.”

Photo credit: Paul Drinkwater/NBC