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Community John Goodman and Joel McHale Interview

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I spoke with John Goodman and Joel McHale about their roles on Community.  Joel plays the arrogant but kind of sweet star of the show, Jeff Winger.  We will meet John’s character, Vice Dean Laybourne for the first time tonight.  It was an honor to get the chance to briefly speak with these two lovely gentlemen.  Season 3 of Communitypremieres tonight only on NBC.  I can’t wait!

Lena Lamoray:  What can you tell us about the season premiere and do you both have a favorite scene from the episode?

Joel McHale:   Well, at least for me when I got to run in with an axe and start chopping up the study table. That was as much fun as I’ve had so far this year. It was pretty dang fun.

Lena Lamoray:  What about you, John?

John Goodman:  They’re all my favorites.

Joel McHale:   Nice.

More Conference Call Highlights:

Q:  One promo for the season features a pretty great discussion between Laybourne and Dean Pelton, so how would you describe your character’s relationship with the Dean right now?

John Goodman:  He’s got his privates in a vice, Dean Pelton. He’s an unseen, unknown force on campus and Dean Pelton was feeling his oats and now he’s having his oats fed to him.

Q:  Do you have any idea of what your episode count is going to be this season, how many you’re appearing in?

John Goodman:  Six, I think.  Unless they can get rid of me more cheaply.

Q:  What was it about this role or about Community in general that made you want to be a part of it?

John Goodman:  It’s the cast. I think they’re a wonderful ensemble. The writing is out there. It’s just – it’s not a typical situation comedy sitcom. It’s risky and – yeah, it – you know, it’s combination of great things and I’ve – I’m just dying to get back into comedy again. That’s what I like to do. I enjoy it. And I’ve been doing pretty heavy guys lately, so you know, it’s nice to lighten up. Not that that’s any easier, I mean the stuff – I had pages of dialogue yesterday that was really precise and – but it’s good to stretch like that.

Q:  Joel, what do you think it is about the show that continues to draw so many viewers?

Joel McHale:  Well, you can to do your exercises before a scene.

John Goodman:  We get to do mirror exercises before each scene.

Joel McHale:  Oh, I’ve exercised many a mirror. It’s…

John Goodman:  Hey, pal…I went away for a month because of that.

Joel McHale:   It draws in viewers? That’s great. No, well, boy I hope, you know, we get an American Idol like audience here soon, but I think I heard what John’s answer was earlier, but I think the originality of the show is not like anything else on TV, if I do say so myself. And I think going back to shows like M*A*S*H or Cheers it’s an ensemble and the world – they care for each other and the world around them changes, obviously Community’s changes drastically.  And I – yeah, I don’t know what the – why people watch it, but I mean those are my ideas, but I think you know it’s the right combination of actors and obviously now with John Goodman it will – we should see – I – you know, I feel like that will really bring even more people in with someone of his status and stature.

Joel McHale:  So, how do you like that one, John?

John Goodman:  Aw, shucks.

Joel McHale:   I’m going to do that at the end of every answer.

John Goodman:  Yeah, thanks.

John Goodman:  All right. Well, out-gush each other.

Joel McHale:   Yeah, that’s great.

Q:  John, will be getting any meta-references to your former work like how there was a Mad Men joke thrown at Allison Brie?

John Goodman:  Good, Jesus, I hope not. Yeah, it’s – yeah, I can live without meta-fiction on television.  Oh, you know what…they might. It’s not – it’s none of my God damned business. It’s – I just have to pretend it’s not there.  Let’s pray to God – let’s pray, you know, for that and nuclear disarmament.

Q:  You mentioned that your dying to get back into comedy, does that mean you’d be willing to sign on again for a – like a part in a 22-episode sitcom?  Have you been hearing from anyone now that they’ve seen you back doing comedy on TV?

John Goodman:  You bet you.  Every once in a while it’s just – they – it – nothing’s clicked so far. It’s got to be – I’ve done two failed sitcoms since Roseanne and they’re no fun if they’re not right. It’s you’re trying to be funny and that – man, that just don’t – I don’t work.

Q:  Joel, can you talk about how Jeff will change this season and how we’ll see his relationship with Annie develop?

Joel McHale:   Well, I can tell you that that relationship will develop further on the romantic end of things, much to the chagrin of half the audience, at least who comments on message boards, and it’s divided right down the middle. They’ll be like, “Oh, so sweet,” they’re like, “It’s disgusting.”  So – and Dan – I know that my father will become present in the series. Jeff has a lot of father issues, and so that will be dealt with. And according to Dan, my character’s to kind of be put through hell, so I’m really looking forward to taking the journey.

John Goodman:  Hell is funny.

Joel McHale:  Yeah.  So, that’s kind of what’s happening so far.

Q:  What has it been like there with this cast?

John Goodman:  Oh, I’m sorry. I’ve only worked two days. It looks like I’m going to be working one day a month, so it’s – and I only usually work with one people per session, so I don’t know what’s going on yet. It’s – you know, I’m thrown into a very good hands. I mean it’s been excellent so far, but I really – I don’t know what’s going on.  I’m not trying to be evasive, I just – it’s – I’ve got so much to do on the days that I do work that it’s – I don’t – you know, I don’t have time to goof around with everybody.

Joel McHale:   Yeah, we…all the actors are begging the writers to put them in scenes with John. John, I’m not joking about that.

John Goodman:  All right.  You’ll get your 20 bucks next time.

Q:  Joel, now that you guys are on to Season 3, do you have a feeling like with every episode you’re kind of just going for broke and just going crazy with the stories?

Joel McHale:  Yeah, I think there – at one point there was something like people were talking about how it was going to become about relationships, which obviously it is about that. But as far as kind of a lot of stuff happening an episode, they, as John was saying, they are action packed and it’s like we are making a movie every week. There’s so much stuff to shoot and film many specialty shots and it’s great, it’s – but it’s as densely packed as a wonderful lasagna.

John Goodman:  It – that’s absolutely right. It’s like a huge fruit cake over there. It’s very layered and it’s like there’s two features going on at the same time on the same stage. Everybody is doing something. It’s – let’s combine the fruit cake with bee hive imagery and I’m down…

Joel McHale:  Yeah, it’s like a bee hive, fruit cake…

John Goodman:  …with fruit cake.

Joel McHale:   …lasagna that’s put into a blender and into an enormous smoothie.

John Goodman:  Making a smoothie of comedy.

Q:  Joel, John was saying earlier that he’s – his character’s going to have Dean Pelton’s nads in a vice and that he’s going to feed him the oats that he’s been sewing all these years. Is that going to bring the (feddy) game to the Deans defense or are we going to see some bonding there between the “kids” and the Dean?

John Goodman:  No, they’re going to see some bondage.

Joel McHale:  Yeah. It’s going to get really kinky. I haven’t seen that yet in the script. I – to – because John’s stuff is – you know, I – all the stuff that he’s doing is setting up kind of the Darth Vader-like empire that is the air conditioning repair school, and my guess is its going to get really hairy in a couple of episodes. And I – that’s a good question whether they’re going to – because Jeff always is pretty wigged out by Dean Pelton because in every single scene if you watch him walk into the (site) room the Dean finds a way to touch Jeff and it always weirds him out. It’s very weird, like he’s always like, “Oh, he’s touching me again.”  So, my guess is that at some point he will be forced to help the Dean at some point, but I haven’t seen it yet.

Q:  How handy are you with an air conditioning unit? Do you know your way around air conditioners?

John Goodman:  I – yes, I do. I know how to turn them on, off, pick up a phone when they break.  I know not to urinate in them, unless it’s somebody else’s air conditioning unit.  That’s all I need to know. I was not born with – I was not born handy.

Joel McHale:  There you go.  There’s been an outcry from air conditioning repair people that are like, “What, you didn’t do any – what the hell? He doesn’t know how to repair them at all?”

John Goodman:  I get to – it’s more of a Zen performance.  I’m the Stanislofsky of air conditioning repair.

Joel McHale:   Wow, you got to the bottom of that one…

Q:  What was your favorite topic in bio class, and why?

Joel McHale:   Oh, well, I did everything to avoid any of the sciences because I was so horrible at them, and my favorite day of biology class was the last day, and hopefully – I barely – hopefully I had passed.

Q:  Will any of the characters be transferring to the dark side of the air conditioning repair program?

John Goodman:  They’re trying.  They’re trying to seduce one in particular.  To the dark side…of – not…personal seduction.

Joel McHale:   …like Darth Vader and Donald Glover’s character Troy is like Luke Skywalker.

John Goodman:  I am his father.

Q:  John, can you talk about why you want to come back to comedy on TV?

John Goodman:  It – because it’s funny. There’s a sense of – I haven’t done comedy in a long time, intentional comedy. There’s a great sense of achievement because it’s so damn hard. There’s a lot of ingredients to doing it and it’s – it keeps your skills going. It’s – you know, you have to learn how to juggle again and it’s just a great thing. Plus, there’s a great payoff when it works. And I like to laugh almost more than anything in the world and it’s – if you can make somebody else laugh that’s a great thing.

Q:  Joel, can you talk about what it was like to have John Goodman on set each day and what he brings to the show?

Joel McHale:   Well, as John had mentioned earlier, they kind of knock out a lot of his scenes, you know, like end of the day. And so, he ends up having to do the bulk of the work during the day and a lot of the actors just go and watch him so he doesn’t steal anything, and he’s had a problem with stealing stuff off the set. No…

John Goodman:  They missed a lot.

Joel McHale:   …but it gives – he was – I mean, I know that, John, you love the gushing or that I’m – but you know, it’s like I really do – having him on the show is such a – I – you know, it’s like we just got the Stealth Bomber and no one can touch it. So I feel like, you know – see he – we just – it just a bond. But, it’s one of those things where I – we are all so excited and we wonder what bet he lost to have to come on the show.

Q:  John, what are your thoughts on the current TV landscape and how things have changed since your days on Roseanne with sitcoms now being just grossly outnumbered by reality shows?

John Goodman:  It’s probably a natural weeding out process. It reminds me of the early days of television when they’d throw anything up against a wall to see if it would stick. There’s a lot more – you know, it – with all the cable – the shows going to cable – or I’m sorry, hour shows going to cable now, you’d think there would be more comedies out there. There are a few, but I thought there would be more, but it doesn’t seem to be going that way. I don’t know why, maybe there’s a smaller concentration of comedy writers than there are real people out there.  I really don’t – I’m not – I’m just an old crabby bastard. I’m not a big fan of reality television. There’s some stuff I like. There’s a lot of stuff that I don’t, but that’s – you know, that’s just popular culture in general. I’m just an old crab.

Q:  Joel, so you know they put your character with Britta and then with Annie, do you have any personal opinion where Jeff belongs?

Joel McHale:   No, wow. Wow, in my personal opinion, geez. I – that’s a good question. I had not thought about that. I – you know, when it comes to that I trust Dan implicitly and, you know, with Jeff he’s a very uncommitted and guarded man, even though he seems – he’s got a lot of issues going on, and you know he’s going to be more gravitated to Annie this year.  But, if it’s my personal choice then I guess it would have to be – boy, I don’t know, that’s a good – probably anybody from the WNBA.

Q:  Joel, a lot of people would have left The Soup when they got a big primetime network TV show, so why do you still do it?

Joel McHale:   Oh, gosh. Well, I love doing it and well, I have a contract, so I can’t leave it or they would – they could kill me. No, but I didn’t want to leave and it’s one of those things where it’s difficult enough to have anything work on television and I wasn’t about to leave something it – with it working, and all my friends are there. My best friend from childhood is a writer and he’s a performer on it, and so it’s a real family and I really do enjoy doing it.  And – yeah, and they’ve made the schedule work, so there was really no reason to – no one was forcing me to leave it, so I kind of thought, “Well, this is – this – why quit something that’s not broken?” And so, that’s kind of was my reasoning and who knew what was going to happen with Community when we started 2-1/2 years ago?  So, you know I’m – I was raised Catholic so I think at any moment the sky will open and I will be crushed by, I don’t know, a large bird that died in mid-air – mid-flight. So, I’m – you know, I still keep my paper route.

Q:  John, you look awesome. You’ve lost so much weight.

John Goodman:  I – you know what, it’s sad. I worked my ass off last – I’m sorry, Mr. Goodman worked his derrière off. It was very hard, very enjoyable, the results were great, and I got a knee operation that slowed me down. My other knee, to compensate for the other knee – anything. I just had a rain of things go bad, so I put on a great deal of that weight back. I’m – it’s a constant struggle, so I’m – you know, now I’ve got to go back down again and start eating Drano tablets… the fad. Yeah, no, it’s good. I don’t recommend anybody..

Joel McHale:   Oh my, Lord.

Q:  John, you’ve done both, TV and film and I know that some of your cast has said that people come into the show and normally kind of go, “What am I doing here,” because the cast is so crazy and, you know, you guys go off the record all the time.  Did you feel that way when you came in that it was a little crazy and a little – you had to get used to everything going on?

John Goodman:  No. I just – I – yeah, I just went with it. Whatever happens, happens and just, you know, try to show up and know my lines and bump into anything, and that’s true. And just, you know, whatever – I’m just a hired hand, you know, there to help and then some.

Joel McHale:   Yeah, we did the regular thing where you haze the person that shows up. We hazed him for about a week, and then we finally did the initiation and he had to wear his underwear on the outside and, you know, carry a…

John Goodman:  My body hair is growing back.

Joel McHale:   …yeah, carry a live chicken around. Yeah, it – we shaved his head and put all his hair into a pillow. It was – you know…

John Goodman:  I made a potholder out of it.

Joel McHale:   Yeah, he did. He came out, you know, he did great.

Q:  John, are there any shows out there that you – when you’ve talked about maybe getting back into comedy that actually kind of make you laugh and whet your appetite and think to yourself, “Boy, that reminds me of why I want to maybe get back into comedy – TV comedy that is.”

John Goodman:  Yeah, I like the whole thing that Ricky Gervais kicked off with that – it was not a bogus documentary that’s done necessarily, but no audience. I just kind of like the way that goes around, and that – The Office, Parks and Recreation, the whole NBC lineup.

Joel McHale:   Nice.

Q:  Joel, for you quickly, what do you think is the ultimate John Goodman role? I guess what I’m asking is when did you fall in love with John Goodman.

Joel McHale:   Oh, when did I fall in love with John Goodman?  Well, I’m going to go with True Stories with David Byrne’s True Stories, 1982

John Goodman:  No, sir, 19 – I think it was released in ’86.

Joel McHale:   Oh, ’86. Also, of course the coach in Revenge of the Nerds. I fell I love early on.

John Goodman:  Oh, God.

Joel McHale:   Yeah, Revenge of the Nerds.  And I thought he was great – yeah, I thought he was great in Willow, but I had no idea.

Q:  I just wanted to know a little bit about this musical number that we’ve seen in the preview. What’s going on with that?

Joel McHale:   Let’s see, it is what you saw. It is an over the top, very large musical number with crane shots and streamers and explosions, and the entire school is involved. I don’t – I got – I don’t want to say the reason for it, but let’s just say that I did pull a couple hamstrings and I was hoarse afterwards, but believe it’s going to – it starts – it’s the first thing you’ll see in the premier episode, and if that doesn’t grab your attention then we’re in big trouble.

Q:   I’ve heard a rumor that you guys have a banner on the set that celebrates your zero Emmy nominations, is that correct?

Joel McHale:   Yes, I tweeted it. I tweeted the photo of it. Dan had that made and it was – at one point it was stretched across the entrance of our sound stage here at Paramount and it’s in the exact same font as the Glee sign that says, “Congratulations Glee on your nine Emmy nominations,” and our says, “Congratulations Community on your zero Emmy nominations.”

Q:  Joel, out of all these new guest stars, like John and Michael K. Williams, and Martin Starr, I just wanted to know who’s shaking things up most at work on set or behind the scenes?

Joel McHale:   Oh, boy. Well, John is terribly disruptive. He parked his car on the stage and said, “This is my parking space,” and…

John Goodman:  I parked it on a stagehand. Let’s…let’s be specific.

Joel McHale:   Yeah, it was very violent. No. Well, this – well, boy, no – I’m – I – behind the scenes there hasn’t – I mean, there is not like wacky hijinks and practical jokes. But as John was saying earlier, I mean you get here and there’s so much stuff to do and there’s so many lines to memorize that it’s not like it’s a quiet set, but it’s definitely like we have so much to do that we have to get to it.  So – but having those – you know, having John and Michael K. Williams, they are – they’re the new antagonists and it’s not going to be Chevy – you know, it’s not going to be Pierce anymore, it’s going to be outside the group. So, that…

John Goodman:  That’s right, union agitators.

Joel McHale:   Right, they are pounding on the windows and throwing Molotov cocktails through them. So, it is – it has definitely made the set more exciting and it brings a whole new energy, and obviously when you get a caliber of actor like John and Michael it really – everyone is bringing their (apps) game.

John Goodman:  I’m like a hand grenade, you never know when I’m going to go off.

Joel McHale:   Yeah, you never know, but it’s a hand grenade of flowers and sugar.

John Goodman:  And love, a love grenade.

Joel McHale:   Yeah, it’s a love grenade.

Q:  Joel, where does the inspiration come from for such quirky characters and storylines on Community?

Joel McHale:   Dan Harmon, is a certified genius. And the idea for Dan was he wanted to make a sitcom that his uncle in Wisconsin would watch, and a lot of the stuff that he had written previously, I think he was told that it was kind of out there.  And so, you know, I think if you just go around the world, especially to a place where people aren’t necessarily wanting to – like you go to a school or a community college or a bar or a – somewhere where you – it’s a group of people that aren’t – don’t necessarily choose to be with each other, naturally the characters will come out and it’s just – you know, it’s always different.  It’s not, you know – and so I think Dan just draws on his experience of going to community college and it works out great. Thank God.

Q:  John, obviously you’ve seen prior seasons and there’s a lot of really big personalities from Dean Pelton to Chang and such, so when you were trying to kind of figure out how big to make the Vice Dean was there any particular inspiration or anything that you talked to about with Dan Harmon about how big (a billing) you wanted to make him?

John Goodman:  No, I actually…I had a really bad idea coming in and it didn’t work out, but I – it’s kind of being redeemed this week. I – yeah, it’s – I have big ideas because I have big ideas about the character. I don’t know if I’m right yet, so I don’t – boy, it’s all personal acting crap that’s very boring. It just sounds like psycho-babble, so I’ll just keep it to myself.

Joel McHale:   Whatever he’s doing it’s working great, so I hope he’s completely tortured. I’m so sorry, John.

John Goodman:  I get the talk in my – the way I was trained.

Q:  Joel, you’ve got an axe in the Season 2 Premier, what other props are we going to see this season used by you, others, and what would be your dream prop?

Joel McHale:   Wow. I’ve never – oh, my dream prop would probably be like a Porsche 911 Turbo s that I could just have, or maybe a Audi R8 V10. That would be a great prop. But so far, boy, the axe was really fun. There is – I will say there is poisonous gas, there are monkeys, there are night sticks, and there will be about 12,000 or 13,000 boxes of matches.
Q:  John, how much interaction you’re going to have with the study group and are you trying to poach them all?

John Goodman:  I have no idea. I don’t know what’s going to happen. I’m pleasantly surprised every time I show up.

Joel McHale:   Yeah, the great thing is that, you know, like Chevy still doesn’t know what’s happening. No, wait, I’m kidding. I’m sorry.

Q:  John, did the show connect to you or did you express interest in the show?

John Goodman:  They – it was out of the blue. It was unexpected and a very welcomed surprise.

Q:  What’s your advice to actors?

John Goodman:  Be prepared.

Joel McHale:   Yeah. Just make sure you do a lot of it if you are – want to be one.

John Goodman:  Yeah, and what – at whatever, whenever, and wherever you can.

Q:  Joel, I know you’re going to have a little bit of an adversarial relationship with one of the teachers this year, and I think whenever Jeff sort of has someone challenging his authority it’s when he’s most entertaining. So, is that going to be a season-long arc or is it going to be just a couple of episodes?

Joel McHale:   My adversary at this point is going to be Michael K. Williams, and the first episode that is definitely revealed and there’s a couple others. I haven’t seen anything since, but you know we still have many episodes to shoot. But, that’s what I was told and if that’s still happening then it’s going to be Michael K. Williams, and let me tell you he can be really scary. His acting is just great because it’s scary and intimidating. He plays an ex-con biology teacher.  So, I think it will be a really good rivalry between the two, because he has a lot more power over Jeff now.

Q:  When are we going to see superhero-themed episodes, and if we did what powers would you guys have?

Joel McHale:   Wow, John, take it away.

John Goodman:  Well, I like the – I like heat vision myself and the power to nap.

Joel McHale:   My power would be to determine who lives and dies and I – boy, I – all I would be – Jeff Winger’s character would really be only concerned about the costume. He could care less about the powers.

Q:  In your own lives growing up which comedian had the most impact on your own sense of humor?

John Goodman:  Oh, W.C. Fields.

Joel McHale:   I would say for me it was a – down the middle between Monty Python and Bill Cosby.

John Goodman:  Yeah, well, and how old is growing up?  Because, no later on just everything was National Lampoon and Saturday Night Live for me, and Firesign Theater.

Joel McHale:   Firesign Theater, yeah. And – well, and for me, yeah, Steve Martin because as a child he was like some sort of father of comedy.  And then, I think Richard Pryor’s Live on the Sunset Strip is probably one of the greatest performances… ever recorded.

John Goodman:  Yeah, absolutely.

Q:  John, you’ve had so many memorable turns over the years hosting SNL, would you ever want to do that again?

John Goodman:  Yeah, I think I’m a little long in the tooth for that now. I – yeah, it’s just something that I haven’t thought about for a while, but boy they are – they’re really good now and it’s wonderful to see, but yeah, I’m down for that any time.

Q:  We’ve heard that the new season will have fewer theme episodes, I was just wondering how you feel about that.

Joel McHale:   Oh, boy, I – you know, it’s – I – it wasn’t like at ever any point I thought like, “Oh, I hope we have more theme episodes.” But, you know, so it’s not – I – boy, there’s – I’m – I would say the season is actually more kind of, I don’t want to say (unintelligible), but it is bigger I think than – definitely than – if it’s – if that’s even possible.  It definitely started off bigger than last year and there’s a lot more stuff happening, and – I mean just like the huge musical number we have kicking off the premier episode. But with – like John pulled the whole thing with the part of the air conditioning school, the air conditioning repair school. That just opens up this whole other side. And I don’t think, you know, everyone’s looking like, “When are they going to finally do a silent movie or something?”  I don’t think, you know, it’s not like that. It’s really about, I think, developing this – so far the season’s really about developing this other part of the school and it’s a whole other presence that really changes it and – for – you know, I think it’s going to be great.

Q:  Joel, you mentioned that your character’s father will be kind of making an appearance in the third season…At Comic-Con you guys and someone had mentioned in the hopes that they were going to be able to land Bill Murray. And I know you’re not going to be able to confirm or deny it, but I mean is that even something that is within the realm of possibility or should  we get that (stat) out of our heads right now?

Joel McHale:   Well, a lot like getting John, it was one of those things where like, “Well, do you think John – will you get John Goodman?” And John, as I said earlier, lost a bet of some sort and had to come on the show. But, you know, I can’t – no, I don’t know anything about that and who they have – you know, who they’re trying to get. I mean, I know that they would like to get him, that’d be great, but you know I don’t know anything more than that.  So, I’m just going to go ahead and say that Jack Nicholson will be playing my father. We’ll either Jack Nicholson – yeah, if (unintelligible), it’s probably Joe Namath, I don’t know.

John Goodman:  Or Phil Parsons.

Joel McHale:   Yeah, or Boutros Ghali, former Head of the U.N….

John Goodman:  The U.N. – U.N.

Q:  Dean Pelton dresses up in costume, what would Vice Dean Laybourne dress up as if he had to?

John Goodman:  Whatever the Head of the Illuminati wears, that or a makeshift Nazi uniform.

Q:  What would you like to wear if you could pick out anything?

John Goodman:  Actually, I wish they made XXX size Armani suits, but they don’t.  They don’t have enough God damned material. Hey, I don’t have…enough material that’s why I’m on the phone.

John Goodman:  Joel, good luck at the Emmy’s, man.

Joel McHale:   Oh, thanks. I hope it’s – I get that surprise nomination, you know, the day of.

John Goodman:  That lifetime achievement thing?

Joel McHale:   Yeah. Oh my, gosh, yeah.

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