INTERVIEW: Joel McHale On Meeting The Kardashians, His Cameo On ‘The Bear,’ And How His Height Impacted Filming On ‘Community’

Joel McHale Discusses His Time On 'The Soup' And Cameo On 'The Bear'

Monkey Shoulder

Even if you’re not plugged into the world of perfumes and colognes, I don’t think it’s too much of a stretch to assume you’d probably be somewhat skeptical if someone attempted to turn you onto an offering inspired by a bottle of scotch.

That’s how I felt when I was recently alerted to the existence of “Monkey Musk,” the Eau de Whisky that was recently released by Monkey Shoulder after William Grant & Sons “Malt Master” Brian Kinsman worked in conjunction with a team of experts to design a fragrance inspired by the blended scotch.

That group thankfully took some liberties en route to whipping up a genuinely pleasant concoction defined by notes of citrus, vanilla, and baking spices before finding a worthy spokesperson and “Fragrance Model” in the form of Joel McHale, the man best known for hosting The Soup and starring as Jeff Winger on Community.

McHale was kind enough to chat with me about his newest gig in addition to some of his previous work in an incredibly enjoyable conversation where he gloated about joining the ranks of other celebrities who’ve landed a job promoting a fragrance, provided some insight into what the Kardashian sisters are like in real life, and reflected on the many, many hours he spent watching the dumbest television shows imaginable for our enjoyment.

Without further ado…

Our Interview With Joel Mchale

BroBible: Joel, thanks for taking the time to talk with me. I know you’ve been working with Monkey Shoulder for awhile. Can you give me the lowdown on the newest project? 

Joel McHale: I’ve been working with Monkey Shoulder for a couple of years. It’s a blended scotch and it goes without saying how tasty it is.

Now we have a thing called Monkey Musk, which is a fragrance. Believe me, I never thought I would represent a fragrance. I can really rub that in the faces of my two brothers who are not in the industry.

A lot of people are like, “So it’s based on scotch?” Yes, you can say that, but it’s not like they just took some blended scotch and poured it into a tiny bottle and charged 10 times more for it. It smells way better than you would expect,

I think a lot of people are like, “Oh, so you smell like you were at a frat party the night before.” It’s not that at all. It’s kind of criminally good. You’ll be surprised.

That’s actually related to a question I was going to ask. Did you get a chance to smell it before you were approached or was someone like, ‘Hey, we’re making a fragrance that smells like scotch and think you’re the man to promote it to the masses?”

I was not a part of the mixing process because I would have probably made something pretty toxic that would have burned, so it’s good I wasn’t in on that. They had the experts doing it, but whoever did definitely made sure it was on the subtle range of fragrances, which is what I prefer.

I smelled it for the first time when we were doing the photo shoot and was like, “Hey, this is good.” They were like,” Well, yeah, of course it’s good. Why would you even say that?’ I think they were surprised at my surprise.

If I’m selling something, I’m not gonna go like, “Oh, this is average.” But I was actually like, “This is great.

How does being a fragrance model compare to your more usual gigs?

It’s a real continuation of my ascent. In your face Chris Evans…and Ryan Reynolds…and, uh, I think Jamie Foxx has a couple. I’m sure Michael B. Jordan’s got some.

Believe me, when I moved to Los Angeles 22 years ago, it was something I never imagined. It’s silly and great and I’m so happy, I got to wear ridiculous suits selling it. It’s just one of those things where you look at yourself and you’re like, “How did you get here?”

I’m not going to question it. I’m just going to keep going.

I can sort of understand that. I started writing dumb jokes on the internet over a decade ago and now I have the chance to interview people like you. 

That’s ironic because I was telling dumb jokes a decade ago and still am to this very day!

I feel like I was one of many people who watched The Bear and saw you onscreen for 30 seconds before thinking, “Wait, is that Joel McHale?” Can you tell me how that came together?

Chris Storer—who is the creator of The Bear—is the long-time partner of Gillian Jacobs—who played Britta on Community—so I’ve known him for a while.

He’s tremendous. He’s one of those guys who’s always been in the game and in the mix. Everyone knows he’s really good, and then this just happened to be the thing that he made that exploded.

But he wrote scripts that I’ve read that I was like, “How is this not made? There are two actors in this who could have an Oscar-winning performance.” He wrote this one script where I was like, “When did this story happen?” and he was like, “I made it up” and I couldn’t believe it.

He’s one of the nicest men you’ll ever meet, and he knows the culinary world so well. My role was just one of those things where he asked if I would come in for half a morning. I think I got there at 8:30 and left at 11:30, which shows he runs a very efficient set.

I’ve gotten more press out of that two minutes than I got for an entire season of a sitcom I did for CBS [The Great Indoors] in 2016. I’m very happy about it and I hope I get another chance. Maybe I’ll get four minutes next season.

I was going to ask if you’d heard anything concerning a potential return. It feels like there’s an opportunity to explore the main character’s past a bit more. 

My character was actually killed in a stunt-flying accident. It happened offscreen. He collided with a blimp. It was terrible.

I’ve heard that’s a very common cause of death for chefs. 

I don’t know if I’ll be coming back. I’d love to because the show was a hit and people are watching it. It’s fun to be a part of something popular and good, because I’ve been a part of things that were good that weren’t popular.

I’m 6’10” and like to get the chance to chat with people like you who’d I’d describe as “Noticeably Tall.” Has your height ever interfered with your acting career or prevented you from getting any roles?

I am 6’4″, so I am just at the edge of all airplane seats not being comfortable, but no, it actually hasn’t had an impact.

Everyone I know goes, “Oh, you’re so much taller than everyone in Hollywood” and I’m like, “I don’t know. I know a number of super tall and big people that work in Hollywood.” I think it’s more that when people get Mega Famous, if they happen to be short, people are like “Everybody’s short!”

Tim Robbins is like 6’6″ or 6’7″. I’m guessing if you were to average out the height of every male actor in Hollywood, I think it would probably be the same average of, like, lawyers or construction workers

I will say that on Community—all of the women on Community were like 5’3″—so every time there’s a scene where two of us were standing in the same shot, they are standing on a box.

I promise I will spare you yet another question about the Community movie [this interview was conducted shortly before the project was officially announced] if you’ll put up with me briefly going into Fanboy Mode over a show that was particularly formative for me: The Soup.

That’s going way back, my friend! Thank you for remembering.

You actually came full circle with Monkey Musk because—and I’m not sure if you remember this—there was an episode in 2009 where the Kardashian sisters crashed the set and assaulted you by spraying their own line of perfume in your eyes. 

Jeez, I do not, but that sounds a lot like something we would do.

That was right before they had ascended from reality stars into lesser gods. Not even lesser gods, like full Greek gods—or Armenian gods—who didn’t need to promote anything on The Soup because they are the most famous people on the planet.

I remember being at the Sheraton attached to an office building next to the Universal Studios theme park. I had been on the air for a couple of years, and the network was doing a launch event for Dr. 90210 and Keeping Up With the Kardashians. I remember it was held in this tiny restaurant. Then, cut to them in some magazine saying, “This is our favorite private jet interior designer.”

The secret about them is that they’re actually super nice. Maybe it’s not a secret anymore, but they are definitely not monsters. They are incredibly kind to their crew, which goes 1,000 miles in my book.

Can you estimate how many combined hours went into finding clips for The Soup on a weekly basis? Some of the stuff you managed to dig up was just…insane. 

When it started, there was a total of seven people working on the show for a year. I would watch television for five hours a night.

People are like, “Well, that’s not that much,” but it is when you have to watch it deliberately and go, “What could we pull off to make a good TV show?” It’s a much more involved thing because you really have to pay attention. Could this be funny? Could we tell a joke about that?

So, I would be into my fourth hour of Extreme Makeover: Home Edition or going through a week of Who Wants to be a Millionaire? combing for that clip. I can’t even say how many hours that took. It was a lot. I also had a newborn and another kid who was a toddler My wife would be like, “What are you doing?” and I’m like, “I just have to look at Ty Pennington a little bit more and then I can come to bed.”

When I was doing Community and The Soup at the same time I stopped looking for them. I did not have the hours in the day. At that point, the show was doing well and we had like six interns who wanted to do it.

Everyone nowadays is like, “How come you’re not doing it again?” I think those times are kind of gone now.

I’m aware I’m getting a little heady here, but I think The Soup is a borderline historical artifact when you consider it inadvertently captured the death rattles of traditional cable television and its slow descent into whatever it is today. 

I also think they have sanitized reality shows. When we were covering them, it was sort of the open frontier.

Everybody was making a huge profit on reality shows because they were cheaper than making dramas and comedies. You didn’t have to pay anybody, and there were no writers. You just were filming people.

So. you got Whitney Houston in Being Bobby Brown—which was obviously rough looking back, but that was a show. You had Britney Spears and Kevin Federline just walking around with video cameras [for Chaotic].  The early RuPaul’s Drag Race was nothing like it is today. There was that really low-budget Cheaters show where they would just follow people around.

People ask how we found all of the clips but we were throwing so much away. We could have done a two-hour show every week. Anyway, it’s nice of you to remember.

This is admittedly very random, but I want to close this out by asking for your help to get to the bottom of a mystery that’s been a very hot topic of discussion among my friends since this year’s US Open where.

You watched a match while sitting next to Jason Biggs, Justin Bartha, and James Murphy of LCD Soundsystem. Were you rolling with that entire crew or was it just a random assortment of people who just happened to end up in the same place?

I had actually never met Justin Bartha—I think maybe we’d crossed paths once—and I’ve known Jason Biggs over the years, but James Murphy is actually a friend of mine. He used to come on The Soup. When I found out he was a fan of the show, I was like, “Get him this second.” His music is so great. I invited him to come watch some tennis.

I’m actually an investor in a wine bar called the Four Horsemen [in WIlliamsburg] that James opened. He actually picks a lot of the wines they serve. He’s like a real sommelier. I’m not. I’ll drink almost anything. People are like, ‘Oh, this is this vintage from this vineyard” and I’m like “Sounds great!”

But you know what I really love? *In unison* Monkey Shoulder blended scotch.

Mystery solved. Thanks, Joel.

Thank you.

Some portions of this interview were edited for clarity. 

Connor O'Toole avatar
Connor Toole is the Deputy Editor at BroBible. He is a New England native who went to Boston College and currently resides in Brooklyn, NY. Frequently described as "freakishly tall," he once used his 6'10" frame to sneak in the NBA Draft and convince people he was a member of the Utah Jazz.