Up until 2008, self-professed “basic-cable clip show host” Joel McHale was not a stand-up comedian—as he’s pointed out in his many stand-up comedy dates since. The host of E!’s The Soup, whose first headlining comedy gig was at Wiseguys in Ogden last year, is now playing Abravanel Hall (or, as he says on his show, “A Brave Anal Hall”) on Friday, June 12, as well as starring in a new NBC sitcom (Community) this fall, and an upcoming Steven Soderbergh film with Matt Damon (The Informant).
The last time you were here, you threw out the caveat, “I’m not a stand-up comedian; please bear with me.” Do you feel more like a real comic now?
It was a great audience in Ogden, and the first time I ever headlined—that show. I did four shows in one night, seven or eight overall. It was out-of-the-way; it allowed me to work some stuff out. Now, after a year, I feel more like a stand-up comic. I’ve done it a hundred times—I can’t believe how many dates I’ve booked. It just shows how desperate I am for money. It’s a desperate cry for help … and money.
Is it harder to do The Soup as it gets more popular, seen by more of the famous people you’re mocking?
We try not to be any more conscious than we were before. Our attitude used to be, “Well, nobody’s watching, so why don’t we try this? No one will see it.” We’re basically daring each other to put stuff on the air. It’s still deep cable, so it’s not like American Idol numbers. If we tried to overthink it, there would be a lot of migraines. And naps.
Are you ever at a loss to top what stars like Heidi and Spencer Pratt do to themselves publicly?
When we started The Soup, it was Paris Hilton, all the time. Who would have thought that Heidi and Spencer, from a fully produced, fully scripted cable “reality” show that’s not even real [The Hills], would become the obsession of the country? I liken it to America contracting herpes—we just have to live with it now. If you can out-narcissist Janis Dickinson on a reality show, you have a serious skill set.
Is it true you once appeared on CSI: Miami? And Diagnosis Murder?
I did! My character was in the sub-story, before David Caruso came in. It was a very straight acting part; I was about a year into doing The Soup. Little did they know Horatio Caine would become a regular feature on our show. Also, Diagnosis Murder—it was one of my first acting jobs. I was murdered with a fire poker. I wanted there to be more blood, but … it was Diagnosis Murder.
Any ironic feelings about a basic-cable clip show host performing in the posh Abravanel Hall, where the Utah Symphony plays?
I don’t think you know this, but I’ll be conducting the symphony—it’s going to be a really different show. I’ll be playing the oboe and the tympani drums at the same time. This isn’t intimidating at all, being compared to comedy legends like Beethoven.
Any flack yet from referring to our fine Salt Lake City venue on TV every week as “A Brave Anal Hall?”
We got an e-mail from the guy’s grandson: “Please stop besmirching the name of my grandfather!”