Community, the surprise hit comedy of 2009, has some of TV Land's most fanatically loved shows – it may not have the highest ratings, but it's fans are Star Trek-level obsessive. Based around an unlikely study group formed by disbarred lawyer Jeff Winger (McHale), who is attempting to get a real degree, the sitcom pushes all the right buttons. Time Out caught up with McHale – who you might also know as the man dishing out The Soup.
What’s it like for you to star in a series that can attract guest stars including Betty White, Rob Corddry and Drew Carey?
With Betty White, I know that she’s very picky – the fact that she picked our show, I was like, I can’t imagine she watches it, but this is great… She was absolutely delightful. It was like having the queen on the set, and it was just kind of like it was just this honour. So I can tell my grandkids I worked with Betty White.
Do you have any dream guests that you’d like to see coming up on the show?
Yes, I would like to have Bono be our music teacher. If Bono could be the music teacher, I’d be totally into that.
And you look like you’ve buffed up for the role...
I just starved myself and started doing push-ups every night. I didn’t have time to go to the gym, and I just chased my kids around. It was like when Rocky chased the chicken, in Rocky I – that’s basically what I was doing with the kids. I started doing push-ups as much as I could, because knowing I was going to be naked, I didn’t want to be embarrassed. I ended up losing about 6kg. I starved myself and ate hard-boiled eggs and salad. They also spray-tanned me because my skin is nearly translucent white.
What was it about Community that persuaded you to do the show?
For the past few years, as [McHale’s comedy show] The Soup got more popular, I began trying to get one of these pilots. And you read a ton of pilot scripts. I don’t know if you know the averages as far as how many scripts get bought, how many scripts are actually made and then how many are picked up. It’s crazy. It’s something like 500 scripts get bought, maybe 100 get developed, 50 might get made and I don’t know, 20 of them get on the air, then maybe five survive their first season. I read Community and it was by far the funniest thing I had read in years. I was on a plane reading it and I was laughing out loud; there was a guy next to me watching a movie and he was getting mad because I was laughing so loud and interrupting his rom-com. So that was a good sign.
You look like you have a lot of fun with the rest of the cast; do you get to hang out after the show?
You mean do we hang out after work? We do hang out sometimes. I’m sadly not able to hang out the way they do. They have a lot of free time, whereas I have two-year-old and five-year-old kids. I race home to go be with them. But, you know, I wouldn’t give it up for spending time with the boys and my wife. What you see on screen is pretty true. We get along very well. I’m doing a stand-up show here in New York and Donald [Glover], who plays Troy, is in the show with me. We spend so many hours on set. I don’t grow tired of them, and hopefully they won’t have grown too tired of me.
Community screens on Go!