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Community Interviewby Pattye Grippo    

Joel McHale and John Goodman

This is a transcript of an interview with Joel McHale and John Goodman on September 14, 2011 about the NBC television series Community.

Question:
I've already seen one promo for the season that features a pretty great discussion between Laybourne and Dean Pelton, so how would you describe kind of your character's relationship to 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.

Question:
Do you have any sort of kind of 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.

Question:
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 not a typical situation comedy sitcom. It's risky and a it's combination of great things and 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 had pages of dialogue yesterday that was really precise but it's good to stretch like that.

Question:
You're amazing on Treme.

John Goodman:
Joel, you're amazing on Treme.

Joel McHale:
Thank you. I thought Treme was just a wonderful time for me. I almost disappeared into my role.

John Goodman:
You did, as the Mardi Gras Indian Chief.

Joel McHale:
Oh, my Lord. It was just like college.

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

Joel McHale:
You can to do your exercises before a scene.

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

Joel McHale:
But please finish your answer on Treme, sorry. I interrupted.

Question:
Joel, what you think it is about Community that continues to draw in all the viewers?

Joel McHale:
It draws in viewers? That's great. No, well, boy I hope 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 they care for each other and the world around them changes, obviously Community's changes drastically. I don't know 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 I feel like that will really bring even more people in with someone of his status and stature.

Question:
John, will there be 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. I can live without meta-fiction on television. It's none of my God damned business. I just have to pretend it's not there.

Question:
Is it like this every day waiting for the star to show up?

John Goodman:
There are no stars, everyone's a star, and they're all late. I wouldn't know because I was so thrown in, I had so much dialogue yesterday that I was going to apologize for Joel for not being present when I did talk to him. And I don't think I had three words with the director, they just kind of pointed me in a place and I was so focused on trying to get my dialogue right that I was almost on auto-pilot, as far as human functions go. So, I was out there yesterday, but it was fun.

Question:
You mentioned that our dying to get back into comedy, does that mean you'd be willing to sign on again for a part in a 22-episode sitcom?

John Goodman:
You bet you.

Question:
Have you been hearing from anyone now that they've seen you back doing comedy?

John Goodman:
Every once in a while it's just nothing's clicked so far. 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.

Question:
Hopefully you'll stay on Community.

John Goodman:
Yeah, me likey.

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

Joel McHale:
I can tell you 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.??? 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.

Question:
What's it been like there with this cast, how's that experience been?

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, and I only usually work with one people per session, so I don't know what's going on yet. I'm thrown into a very good hands. I mean it's been excellent so far, but I don't know what's going on. I'm not trying to be evasive, I've got so much to do on the days that I do work that I don't have time to goof around with everybody.

Joel McHale:
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.

Question:
Joel, now that you guys are out 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:
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, but it's as densely packed as a wonderful lasagna.

John Goodman:
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. Let's combine the fruit cake with bee hive imagery and I'm down.

Question:
Joel, John was saying earlier that 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:
It's going to get really kinky. I haven't seen that yet in the script. 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. That's a good question because Jeff always is pretty wigged out by Dean Pelton because in every single scene if you watch him walk into the side 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.

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

John Goodman:
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 handy.

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

Joel McHale:
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 had passed.

Question:
I was wondering if any of the characters will 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.

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

John Goodman:
Because it's funny. 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 keeps your skills going. 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 if you can make somebody else laugh that's a great thing.

Question:
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:
As John had mentioned earlier, they kind of knock out a lot of his scenes 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.

John Goodman:
They missed a lot.

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

Question:
John, I was wondering what your thoughts were 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. The 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'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 just popular culture in general. I'm just an old crab.

Question:
Joel, they put your character with Britta or with Annie, do you have any personal opinion where Jeff belongs?

Joel McHale:
I had not thought about that. When it comes to that I trust Dan implicitly and with Jeff he's a very uncommitted and guarded man, even though 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 probably anybody from the WNBA.

Question:
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:
I love doing it and well, I have a contract, so I can't leave it or 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 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.

They've made the schedule work, so there was really no one was forcing me to leave it, so I kind of thought, ???Well, this is 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? 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-flight. So, I still keep my paper route.

Question:
John, you look awesome. You've lost so much weight.

John Goodman:
It's sad. Mr. Goodman worked his derriere off. It was very hard, very enjoyable, the results were great, and I got a knee operation that slowed me down. I just had a rain of things go bad, so I put on a great deal of that weight back. It's a constant struggle, so now I've got to go back down again and start eating Drano tablets.

Question:
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 guys go off the record all the time. Did you feel that way when you came in that it was a little crazy and you had to get used to everything going on?

John Goodman:
I just went with it. Whatever happens, happens and just try to show up and know my lines and bump into anything, and that's true. And I'm just a hired hand there to help and then some.

Joel McHale:
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 carry a live chicken around. We shaved his head and put all his hair into a pillow.

John Goodman:
I made a potholder out of it.

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

Question:
John, are there any shows out there that remind you of what TV comedy that is?

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

Question:
Joel, what do you think is the ultimate John Goodman role?

Joel McHale:
'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.

Question:
What can you tell us about this season and do you both have a favorite scene from the episode?

Joel McHale:
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.

John Goodman:
They're all my favorites.

Question:
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:
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 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 the first thing you'll see in the premier episode, and if that doesn't grab your attention then we're in big trouble.

Question:
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 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.???

Question:
Joel. 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:
John is terribly disruptive. He parked his car on the stage and said, ???This is my parking space,???.

John Goodman:
I parked it on a stagehand. Let's be specific.

Joel McHale:
Yeah, it was very violent. No. Behind the scenes 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. Having John and Michael K. Williams, they're the new antagonists and it's not going to be Chevy anymore, it's going to be outside the group.

John Goodman:
That's right, union agitators.

Joel McHale:
Right, they are pounding on the windows and throwing Molotov cocktails through them. So, 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 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:
You never know, but it's a hand grenade of flowers and sugar.

John Goodman:
And love, a love grenade.

Question:
Joel, I was wondering, where do you find the inspiration for such quirky characters and storylines on Community?

Joel McHale:
That's left up to the writers. I don't have the imagination like Dan Harmon, who 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 I think if you just go around the world, especially to a place where people go to a school or a community college or a bar or somewhere a group of people that don't necessarily choose to be with each other, naturally the characters will come out and it's always different. I think Dan just draws on his experience of going to community college and it works out great. Thank God.

Question:
John, I was just wondering you're back on television now, you've done a lot of work with movies and you've been on Broadway, is there any type of work that you enjoy doing more than the other?

John Goodman:
No. Whatever I'm doing at the time, I yearn for something else.

Question:
John, unless I'm mistaken Michael K. Williams is also guest starring this season, so I was wondering if your character will have any sort of interaction with his character or are they divergent storylines that aren't really crossing paths?

John Goodman:
I have no idea. I don't even know what's going to happen next. What I just did was a little different from the first show I did, so I don't know what's going to happen from one deal to the next. I just show up to throw a monkey wrench into the works.

Question:
Had you met Michael K. Williams before with any crossover from hosting on Dave Simon's Show?

John Goodman:
No.

Question:
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?

John Goodman:
I had a really bad idea coming in and it didn't work out, but it's kind of being redeemed this week. I have big ideas because I have big ideas about the character. I don't know if I'm right yet, it's all personal acting crap that's very boring. It just sounds like psycho-babble, so I'll just keep it to myself.

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

Joel McHale:
My dream prop would probably be like a Porsche 911 Turbo 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. 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.

Question:
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.

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

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

Question:
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.

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

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

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

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

John Goodman:
W.C. Fields.

Joel McHale:
I would say down the middle between Monty Python and Bill Cosby.

John Goodman:
Because, no later on just everything was National Lampoon and Saturday Night Live for me, and Firesign Theater.

Joel McHale:
Firesign Theater. Steve Martin because as a child he was like some sort of father of comedy. I think Richard Pryor's Live on the Sunset Strip is probably one of the greatest performances ever recorded.

Question:
John, I have to ask you had so many memorable turns over the years SNL hosting, would you ever want to do that again?

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

Question:
Because the new season will be putting back on scene episodes a little bit, is that the case and how do you feel about that?

Joel McHale:
It wasn't like at ever any point I thought like, ???Oh, I hope we have more scenes episodes.??? I would say the season is actually more kind of bigger if that's even possible. It definitely started off bigger than last year and there's a lot more stuff happening, just like the huge musical number we have kicking off the premier episode. 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 everyone's looking like, ???When are they going to finally do a silent movie or something???? I don't think it's not like that. 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 I think it's going to be great.

Question:
Joel, you mentioned that the character of the father will be kind of making an appearance in the third season. At Comic-Con someone had mentioned in the hopes that they were going to be able to land Bill Murray. Is that even within the realm of possibility or should I get that out of my head right now?

Joel McHale:
A lot like getting John, it was one of those things where like, ???Well, will you get John Goodman???? And John, as I said earlier, lost a bet of some sort and had to come on the show. I don't know anything about that and 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.

Question:
Dean Pelton, he 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.

Question:
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.

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