Playing Jeff Winger on Community, skewering pop culture on The Soup, performing standup and making movies like the just-released A Merry Friggin’ Christmas, Joel McHale has a lot on his plate.
But working with Purity Vodka on a whimsical video series was too much fun to pass up. The ‘Crafted Spirits’ campaign had him stealing a custom truck from ICON Motors, firing on bulletproof suit from Garrison Bespoke and hitting the waves on a LOST Surfboards custom deck (see video below).
We asked the affable Renaissance man about fine booze, working with Robin Williams and how to be a better man.
“When things are not coming to me, I definitely go after what I want. You have to invent your own career.”
In the Purity Vodka videos, you drive a custom truck, shoot at a bulletproof suit and surf. Which experience was the coolest?
The shooting range was really fun. So was ICON trucks. Here’s how much I believe in those trucks: I bought one. But being out on the water, the surf was wildly dangerous and that made it really exciting. I’m pretty stiff now, so to almost get up on the board was half impressive. They made a special Purity surfboard but I did not get to keep it. I think it went back to Sweden. I went there this summer to meet the people that make the product. I often get offers to sell stuff and I turn a lot of them down, but I thought it was a cool brand and liked their idea of these mini-documentaries. It was cool and I got to do some things I had not done before.
Do you prefer your vodka straight up or in a cocktail?
Usually, just straight. But then someone will give me something, usually involving mint or honey, and I’m like, ‘I’d like to have 25 of these, please.’ Mixed drinks become deceptive. I have to pace myself and not down the whole thing.
Your movie Merry Friggin’ Christmas just opened. What was it like working with Robin Williams, who plays your dad?
It was one of the best experiences of my professional life and personal life because he was so tremendous. The few times that I got him to actually belly laugh I felt like, ‘Oh, I can retire now.’ I made one of the funniest people in the world laugh and that was pretty cool. He was such a gentle, wonderful, trained man and he was such a superstar and so humble and gracious. And he didn’t have to be, and he really was the big exception to the ‘never meet your heroes’ thing. I really do miss the guy. It’s still hard to think about.
NBC canceled Community, but Yahoo is bringing it back. Details?
It’s going to be on Yahoo Screen, their version of Netflix, in February or March. On the day our contracts were up they bought it for tens of millions of dollars. Our budget has actually increased. We’re going to do 13 episodes.
Any other projects?
Community will eat up most of my time. I’m doing standup at the Mirage [in Las Vegas] right before New Year’s, and The Soup is moving back to Friday nights in early December.
You’ve been married for nearly two decades. Do you have advice for making love last?
Make lots of love… lots of oral sex. No. Being married to somebody is a decision you make every day and if you do that every day and you honor your spouse, you look at them every day, and that’s the person you married… your best friend. You love your best friend, you get to have sex with them, and you just choose them every day. And all of a sudden, 18 years will fly by, which they have. It’s been great. I’ve been very, very, very blessed.
As the father of two sons, what has fatherhood taught you about being a better man?
It taught me what true love is. My eyes were kind of opened. The greatest moments of my life were when those guys were born. They’re nine and six, but nine is not too far away from moving out—halfway there—and I know that I will look back and cherish this time. It’s been some of the best times of my life, if not the best.
What was the best advice you ever got, and who gave it to you?
Seeing people like Robin Williams, or when I got to work with Matt Damon or Steve Martin or Steven Soderbergh, I saw how they were on set. I saw how they treated crews. I saw how they treated cast and I saw their work ethic and I just thought, ‘That’s how you do it.’ They’re superstars and they’re still working just as hard as if they were doing all the different jobs in a community theater.
Looking back, what are you proudest of?
By far, being a father. I know that’s such a standard answer, but spending time with my kids and seeing them grow up is more satisfying and rewarding than anything I’ve ever done professionally. Professionally, hosting the White House Correspondents Dinner was just so rewarding and I couldn’t believe I was doing it. And getting to be in a big horror action film with Eric Bana was pretty cool—we’re cops in the Bronx. It’s about an exorcism and I got to play a crazy knife-wielding cop. It’s called Deliver Us From Evil, and it just came out on DVD.
Do you have a game plan for the future?
No. But when things are not coming to me, I definitely go after what I want. When the Community opportunity came up, it was the best pilot I’d read in years, and I wanted it and pursued it. Some things I’m offered are not really me—I can feel it. Others you go, ‘That’s a terrific character.’ You know it when you see it. Now I option scripts and I’m trying to get them made into movies. You have to invent your own career.
What’s the number one thing that guys can do to be better men?
Not being so fucking macho. It just shows how deeply insecure you are.