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Joel McHale and Jim Rash – Rebooting Community

Updated: Jul 23, 2023

COMMUNITY — “Repilot” Episode 501 — Pictured: (l-r) Joel McHale as Jeff, Jim Rash as Dean Pelton — (Photo by: Justin Lubin/NBC)

Joel McHale and Jim Rash

Rebooting Community

by Jay S. Jacobs

When we last left Greendale Community College, anarchy reigned.  After a marginally successful flirtation with some new show runners following series creator Dan Harmon's being shown the door at the end of season three, Jeff Winger and his study group had graduated, the college was a wreck and the quirky series' reputation was somewhat tarnished, but far from ruined.

Sounds like time for a "re-piloting."

The first and most exciting shot across the Community bow was when NBC rehired Harmon and much of the original crew responsible for making the show such a cult favorite.  Harmon decided not to ignore last year's uneven-but-sporadically good story arc, instead he hit the reboot button on his mind and rethought the whole concept. 

The new season of Community starts three years after we left off (in Greendale years, it's been a matter of months in the real world).  Jeff Winger (Joel McHale) has become an unsuccessful ambulance chaser and the rest of his study group (Gillian Jacobs, Donald Glover, Danny Pudi, Alison Brie and Yvette Nichole Brown) has settled into mind-numbing post-grad existences.  Winger returns to Greendale determined to bring it down legally, but thanks to the desperate need of the Dean (Jim Rash) he ends up taking a teaching position.  And his study group follows him back to the school... well, just because they have nothing better to do.

A couple of weeks before the fifth season premiere, we were one of a whole bunch of media outlets that called in to pick the brains of series stars Joel McHale and Jim Rash about the new era of Greendale, and also listen to them good-naturedly bicker about everything from Oscars to nudity to ankles to bake sales.

Jim Rash: Hello. Say hello, Joel.

Joel McHale: (in high-pitched voice) Hi. (normally) That’s how I talk in interviews on the phone because I don’t know how to behave. It’s like a radio play.

Jim Rash: (chuckles) Yeah. I’ll do the foley stuff.

Joel McHale: So I guess Jim and I will just do a little acting now?

Looking from the outside in has been a very surreal experience. I don’t know if there’s ever been a show with so many behind-the-scenes stories that are almost as fascinating as the actual storylines. What’s it been for you guys inside that bubble? Have there been moments you’ve sat back and said “This is crazy!” or has too much been made out of it?

Joel McHale: Jim, you go first.

Jim Rash: Oh, bless you. What a sweet, sweet gesture. (laughs) No, I think [it was] partly blown out of proportion, in the sense that I think we were that show that has been under the radar for so long in as far as ratings-wise and we’ve always been blessed to be able to come back. We never really know where we’re going. So I feel like in a weird way the drama kept us out there in the [public eye].

Joel McHale: Yes.

Jim Rash: What was that?

Joel McHale: I said “Yes.” I agree with you, Jim.

Jim Rash: Yes. Oh, thank you. That just sort of kept us out there. It was like our drama behind the stage was keeping Community on people’s minds outside of fans, I guess.

Joel McHale: And I would say that, especially this year with Dan [Harmon] back, the scripts have been so great that it becomes...  with all the things that have happened with the show, when the material’s so good you forget about that stuff. Last year was kind of the crazy year, but now that Dan is back it’s like the monarchy has been restored and things are as they should be. So in that sense, the sense of relief that I’ve had this year has been tremendous.

That being said, last season took a lot of hits. I actually thought it was pretty good. I’m wondering in reflection did it really feel like it was creatively missing something? Or do you think it took some unfair knocks?

Jim Rash: Well, I feel you can’t not have Dan’s mind, the creator’s mind, and not feel that there’s some kind of difference. I think that as great as a task that was before them and as great as these writers were that we’ve had over all of our seasons, the math’s fantastic. But Dan’s brain you can’t replicate and his vision.  I think it’s part of the whole staff to go into that vision and help service it. But without him you don’t really have your guide through that. There were so many things that were already created by the first three seasons: as far as the depth of the characters, the world, how things work, how it operates, how it can be both fantastical but at the same time character-grounded. Those things are all there. But without somebody who has this approach to make it so dense and deep with layers, it’s difficult. It’s a Herculean task that I certainly wouldn’t want to take on. But I think we did our best, you know?

Joel McHale: Yes and like a show like Breaking Bad or Arrested Development, you need where it comes from one place. That would be Dan or Mitch Hurwitz [for Arrested Development] or Vince Gilligan [for Breaking Bad]. There was some really good stuff last year, but it did not have the direction that the other seasons had.

You guys have got an absurd number of great guest stars for this new season. I’m curious first of all which of the bunch were the most fun to work with? But I’m also wondering if you ever felt that there were so many that it distracted from the core ensemble of the show?

Joel McHale: No, not at all. I would say it only supported it. And I think the guest stars, because Dan’s writing is so terrific, even though there are a lot of guest stars, he doesn’t fall into that trap at all - not even near the trap - of people using guest stars to make up for storytelling. All these guest stars only absolutely support and enhance it. Our guest stores are so creative, like Vince Gilligan and Mitch Hurwitz and Chris Elliot and Paul Williams.  I mean, talk about a crazy group of people, including Gina Gershon and the incredible, beautiful, lovely Brie Larson. I think it’s the most creative guest stars of the last... I don’t know, I’m going to go with the last 100 years of television.

Jim Rash: 100 years, Joel?

Joel McHale: I don’t care.

Jim Rash: That’s amazing. I would agree. I don’t need to add to that.

Do you have any particular favorites of the bunch to work with?

Jim Rash: Well, Joel has the most interaction with the largest bunch. What was yours?

Joel McHale: Yes, I will say it’s hard to choose a favorite. I didn’t get to work with Vince Gilligan, but they all really... and I’m not trying to be diplomatic here... I will say that Mitch Hurwitz made me - Mitch Hurwitz and Chris Elliot...

Leslie Schwartz (NBC Publicist): Walton Goggins.

Joel McHale: ...and excuse me, Walton Goggins, thank you, Leslie, geeze Louise. I mean, boy, it’s hard to [choose]. As you can see, I’m stammering, because it’s really hard. It’s like picking amongst your children.

Jim Rash: (laughs) It’s the Sophie’s Choice of guest stars, guys.

Joel McHale: So to answer your question: (mock angrily) No! I can’t pick one.

Jim Rash: Oh my god, Joel. You got so angry.

Joel McHale: (laughs) So pissed. I'm very sorry and I hope you can still enjoy your Christmas.

I was wondering if you could talk a little bit about how they decided to deal with Pierce’s character this season. I thought the episode was really funny, but just wanted to get you guys’ take on that decision, how they decided to write his character off?

Joel McHale: Go ahead.

Jim Rash: Well, as far as why, with the departure of Chevy from the show, I think that was a way to service both how he affected the study group - the character of Pierce - and how they would move forward from this moment. I think that it’s always difficult when a transition period happens. Obviously, five episodes in with we deal with the transition of Troy [Donald Glover] leaving the school. I think it’s about passage of time. It’s the same thing as deciding that all the fourth season had happened the way it happened and then use the ramifications of the choices made there into the fifth season. It was approaching it from the growth of the characters and what it meant for them and the impact of a singular guy on the rest of them. Same thing that will be dealt with the Troy departure.

Joel McHale: Yes, I think from season four there was a lot of unanswered questions. Pierce’s departure was kind of abrupt and it needed to be addressed. It would have been easy for Dan to say everything was a dream upon his return. But the way he handled it was masterful. And it really answered all the questions that I think fans will have and had after it’s appeared. You’ve seen the whole thing, yes?

Yes, well the first three of the season. I’ve seen that whole episode, yes.

Joel McHale: Yes, I mean, the ending scene with Walton Goggins is one of the best scenes we’ve ever done, I think.

It’s so funny, right?

Joel McHale: Walton is so funny and it’s such an incredibly great reveal of how he died. I mean, when I read that, I mean, I stood up and screamed “Touchdown!” It just dealt with it so well. On top of that, you know, Dan called the first episode as a re-piloting as he calls it. The second episode is a re-establishing the ground-ness, I guess you could say, of the characters. So that episode is a bottle episode except for the tag scene. We learned so much about everybody through Pierce’s death. It was just perfectly run and perfectly executed. That episode - it just cooks, so I’m really excited for people to watch it at 8:30, January 2nd on NBC.

Leslie Schwartz: It’s actually 8:00.

Joel McHale: No, that one’s the second episode.

Leslie Schwartz: Oh yes, you’re right. I apologize.

Joel McHale: (teasing) Come on, do your job.

Leslie Schwartz: Sorry, sorry.

I was just going to ask you guys, we’ve talked a little bit about all the behind-the-scenes stuff but just personally, how does it feel to be in this season? Was there a point where you thought this would not be possible and you would not be back on-set and doing this show again?

Jim Rash: I feel like at the end of each year we have that little emotional “Will we be back?” process through our mind. But I think that this whole year felt like a gift. It felt like you were being handed material that was I would argue some of the best of all the seasons. I feel like the growth of this year for all the characters and for Community in general is pretty paramount. In the sense that we really went very far as far as hitting big epic episodes, but also really paying homage to these characters that we started with five years ago.

Joel McHale: As Jim just said it always seems like every season we don’t know if we’re coming back. If we don’t have that feeling then I don’t know what it would be like.

Jim Rash: It would feel weird. It would feel almost anti-Community if we were assured of anything.

Joel McHale: Yes, imagine if we were on The Big Bang Theory, where we like “We can do this until we’re 60 if we want.”

Joel, over the last four years you’ve seen Jeff really come to into his own as being a much more dimensional person. Last year we saw him leave Greendale and resolve issues with his father. With him coming back as a teacher I was wondering what Dan really wanted to accomplish in helping him to mature once more as a person. Also I was wondering how his relationship with the rest of the cast is affected with his new position of authority?

Joel McHale: All very good questions. I would say that this year, Jeff, now he’s a professor, is once again somewhat destabilized. His immaturities are exposed, a whole new set of them. There were a number of things that got taken care of last year. They’re not things that just get wrapped up. As in real life, people are able to overcome some things, but it’s not something like, “Well, that was done and now I’m fixed.” It’s more like you are constantly finding new things to fix and hopefully make that person healthier. But Jeff  has had years of selfishness. A bunch of that is exposed this year. And it was very fun to play. There’s no doubt, though, that he loves this study group. He has to really comes to terms with how he feels about the school ultimately. I think Dan just absolutely lays those things out well for Jeff to have to deal with. As an actor was really fun to deal with.

Jim, the Dean seemed extremely excited to see Jeff once more. I was wondering if you thought there were any plans for the two of them to develop and grow together as characters? What Dean’s growth might be for this season or how he might progress further into character?

Jim Rash: Well this year, much like the re-pilot theme, I think one of the things that we get back to a little bit with season five is that authority figure side of the Dean. Although he’s well-intentioned and makes huge mistakes, he does love the school. (laughs) I think he’s obviously giddy that Jeff is back, both as an entity but also in the idea of helping save the school, which is once again in jeopardy. And continues to be: I think it’s in a constant state of “in jeopardy.” This year definitely leads up to something big in the sense of the loss that the Dean would feel with the school not being around or these people not being around him. He has sort of folded into their family by force. Obviously the fascination with Jeff continues and will continue, I’m sure.

Joel McHale: Can you believe that?

Jim Rash: Yes. It’s still there. That’s actually, I think, a request of Joel, I think that Dan was not sure about it. Then Joel said “I really want the Dean to still be obsessed with Jeff.” I was like “I don't care. I can go either way.” Joel just keeps pushing that agenda.

Joel McHale: I will punch you...

Jim Rash: That’s correct, right Joel?

Joel McHale: I don’t know where you’re getting this. But it’s weird to me...

Jim Rash: I’m getting it from a place called “Reality.” It’s a file I have right here.

Joel McHale: Listen, it’s weird to me that you constantly were like, “I think the Dean needs to win an Oscar this year and he needs to show it to everyone.”

Jim Rash: (laughs) Hey, I’m just spitballing ideas, man.

Joel McHale: Oh, now you’re.... Okay, sure. The Dean makes an independent film that everybody sees.

Jim Rash: That didn’t go over well.

Joel McHale: Oh sure.

Jim Rash: It did not go over well. (laughs again) Anyway, I think it’s getting back to being an authority figure, to segue back to what I was saying.

Do you think the Dean is at his happiest when Jeff is around with him to obsess over? Or do you think there’s something, somewhere that he can progress in a life independent of Jeff Winger’s character?

Jim Rash: Well, I think involvement with Jeff and the study group is something that is where he’s at his happiest. To just be included. That just goes to speak to him as a person. He probably has a need there that is not fulfilled yet. Of course these unlucky few who decided on that study room table became the focus. In season three I even established that I told them about the fire before I told anybody else. By default, I am forcing my way into their family. So I think he is happiest when he is included, whether by his own doing or they actually let him in.

Jim, being that you are an Oscar winner, you’ve written one episode [of Community] before. But do you feel the urge to write more for the series?

Jim Rash: No. I mean, I had such a great time being allowed to write last year and was proud to be a part of at least the Community history. But, to be honest I’m already envious of the stuff we sat down to read this year. I feel like Dan’s brain, Chris McKenna’s brain and the brains that they have hired - I’m always in awe of that. I would probably do some bad imitation of it if I even attempted. So I enjoy the road they take us on. In other words, they don’t need my bald head.

Do you guys always stick to the script?

Joel McHale: Oh yes.

Jim Rash: For the most part, yes. I would say 99 point something percent of the time we’re just doing Dan’s and Chris’ and the writers’ words. Wouldn’t you say, Joel?

Joel McHale: Yes. There’s this weird thing where people, like, “Do you guys just kind of make it up as you go along?” I’m not sure why. I guess there’s a lot of that. But no, I mean, [it] is not an improvised comedy, and all the stuff that Dan is saying in every episode, they’re very deliberate parts of the train-track that is being laid down to get to the end of this season. I know this is going to sound really grandiose but it’s as specific as Shakespeare was with his words. There’s really nothing that’s left. There’s no excess. So, no, there’s not much improvising going on. But as you can see from the performances, they look like they’re improvised because the actors are so damn good.

Can you guys talk a little bit about the costumes or lack of costumes or unusual accessories in one of the first new episodes that we’ll see?

Jim Rash: Whoa.

Joel McHale: Have you seen any of the episodes yet?

I have.

Joel McHale: Okay.

Jim Rash: Well...

Joel McHale: Go ahead, Jim.

Jim Rash: You go, Joel.

Joel McHale: Well as you know I dress in a different outfit for... oh boy. All I can really say generally is that the show has such a big world and can go so many different places. There’s one episode in particular, the one that Mitch Hurwitz is in, that goes the furthest. I don’t know how much I can say, just saying that when you tune in you will not really believe that this is a half-hour comedy. So that’s kind of in general.

Jim Rash: Yes, I mean, I think the wonderful thing about Community is that with each genre-shifting moment, we live in a world where these costumes appear upon our cast. This other world is developed within minutes. I mean, it goes back to paintball: in what was maybe a two-hour period, anarchy had hit. This year I think we go into all types of interesting worlds. For me, I just get down to ugly white undies and I wear the same pair of shoes as the Dean every day. I mean, I have one pair of shoes. They maybe cost a dollar to make. Joel, I’m sure, is super-envious.

Joel McHale: I am.

Jim Rash: My clothes are all highly flammable. So I’m the most unsafe person on the set. I mean, I literally am a walking disaster of a bomb just ready to ignite. It’s a little less “costumes for the Dean” this year. There are a couple little ones here - peppered here and there. I think that for Dan, part of the re-pilot was to make sure that none of us were just a one-sentence character, which we never were in the very beginning or throughout the series. But, it’s nice to remind ourselves that we’re all one thing. We did a lot of costumes last year. So I think that while I have a couple little things here and there, it’s nice. I get to wear those dollar shoes.

You have so many cool guest stars. We talked about that. I’m wondering, can you give me like three names of people that you are pretty sure you couldn’t ever get on the show?

Jim Rash: Couldn’t? I think we’ll never get Gene Hackman.

Joel McHale: No.

Jim Rash: He won’t come out of retirement for us. Who else won’t we get?

Joel McHale: Basil Rathbone. Probably because he’s dead.

Good point.

Joel McHale: We’ll never get Nathan Fillion, I’ll tell you that. We’ll never get a live killer whale, I know that.

Jim Rash: No, let’s hope not.

With the departure of Chevy and the reduced role of Donald Glover, has the chemistry changed between the cast? If so, has Dan Harmon’s return as showrunner offset that burden?

Jim Rash: I would say both those absences and Troy’s departure have not so much changed, but - I mean, it’s the same sort of word, but evolved - the study group’s connections. Particularly - you get to figure out what Abed is without Troy. I think they do a very good job of watching this guy transition into the next chapter of his life without his best friend. The same thing with Pierce’s absence and having other characters complete the study room table. As the study room table becomes a whole other entity, I think it really speaks to the idea of the evolution of a series. The rules keep getting changed on us, which is very much like reality. And people adjust. So I feel like, if anything, it always opens up new doors when something happens like the death of someone or the departure of someone. It only helps to explore what happens when that happens to Jeff’s character and Britta and all these characters? I feel like that’s always a wealth of great change for a series.

Joel McHale: Yes, and Dan doesn’t shy away from those things and he never has.

Jim Rash: No.

Joel McHale: Just like when Britta and Jeff through the first season it was like “Will they? Won’t they?” And Dan goes “Oh they will, and they have been for a year.” It’s the same way with Pierce’s departure. People die in real life. And people have to deal with it.

Jim Rash: (shocked) Wait, what? Wait! What???

Joel McHale: Okay, Jim, they don’t just go to a happy place where their body is put into a closet for a while and then they come back later.

Jim Rash: You are lying. We all become cartoons.

Joel McHale: Okay, I’m just making this up then. No, but Dan will just go headlong into those things. I’ll talk about Jonathan Banks here for a minute. Jonathan Banks’ presence in this show is just absolutely, out-of-this-world tremendous. Not only is he such an incredible actor, he is really funny. It’s just a whole different wonderful vibe. You’ll see how - and you’ve already seen in these first few episodes - how his character just sings through this thing. I didn’t mention him with the guest stars earlier, because I count him as a series regular [rather] than a guest star. Then with Troy’s departure, as Jim just said, you thought that Danny Pudi was awesome before. He is incredible with being this character that is socially different than everybody but is dealing with these big, heavy emotions. Boy, does he do it. I mean, he’s just incredible.

As we’ve talked about, the show has had its ups and downs. The hardcore fans have stuck by the show. Now you’re talking about how the season premiere is a “re-piloting.” How would you encourage someone new to the show to give it a chance?

Jim Rash: Yes, and I think that granted you can say “Oh, the idea of a re-pilot is we’ve got to get new people. We need to expand our audience,” and all the things that you would love for your series with little or no effort. Regardless of calling it a re-pilot, it’s not just to add people. It’s also to raise the stakes for our characters. Jeff’s already going to a new place with this. Where he starts is lower. [He] has hit rock-bottom and this is a whole new world for him. Also just what goes through his mind in the pilot episode alone: about his allegiance to the school or not to the school for his own selfish reasons, his attachment to these people, to them wanting to come back, for what reasons. I mean, I think it is more than just for new people. It’s really for the fans to see the evolution of these people if the stakes are raised in different ways.

You guys have already completed filming for this season, is that correct?

Jim Rash: Yes.

Joel McHale: Yes.

Do you guys then move on to different projects or do you become a fan? How do you approach it? Are you guys Community fans now, like the rest of us? Or is it just another job that’s in the books?

Joel McHale: If Community was another job you would be devoid of joy or emotions. No, because it’s only 13 weeks, we started in August and we ended in early December. Jim goes off and makes movies and writes movies and wins Oscars. I do The Soup and I try to be in movies as much as I can. Then you really can only hope for it to come back, because I love doing this show. I know that when Community is over, it will be a near-impossible task to duplicate the quality of the show. To go into another show with this sort of quality. I would say as a fan of the show, I look forward to every year coming back and seeing what’s next for us to do as characters.

Jim Rash: Yes, and it’s nice when you’re experiencing all of these episodes with the fans at the same time, because we haven’t seen anything completed. We’re going to be seeing it the same way everyone else sees it. We don’t also have that ability to hear what the fans are saying as you’re shooting. In other words we’re just going to put it out there and experience it all together. So I think in that way we’re already huge fans. And I know Joel likes to watch himself, so, I mean, I think, like for him...

Joel McHale: What?

Jim Rash: ...he’ll just sit there in front of the TV and then, like, text me and say, like “How great was I in that?”

Joel McHale: Jim also...

Jim Rash: That’s pretty much him: not just a fan of the show but of himself.

Joel McHale: Jim Rash...

Jim Rash: I’m not going to be shooting movies, I’m going to be hardly doing...

Joel McHale: Jim likes watching himself but that Oscar gets in the way so much because he puts it right...

Jim Rash: No, you know what? In your face: I’m just going to be doing bake sales while we’re off, just tons of bake sales.

Joel McHale: Yes, in the shape of Oscars.

Jim Rash: All right, and next question?

Joel McHale: What’s it like having an Oscar? Go ahead, shoot, Jim.

Jim, I actually met with you in New York this summer when The Way, Way Back was coming out.

Jim Rash: Oh yes.

And like Joel said he’s also doing some other movies with Robin Williams and Eric Bana coming up. Between the show and your film work and also TV hosting and everything, how do you juggle all that stuff? And do you ever get to sleep?

Jim Rash: Well I’ll let you go, Joel, because I don’t think you do sleep.

Joel McHale: I don’t. Especially last, because my dog two days ago got neutered. So he’s been whimpering a lot and that’s been this great... no. Well, it’s always different every week. I don’t necessarily have the balance down right. My major goal is to see my wife and children as much as possible. Then, Jim always wants to get on the phone and talk about his Oscar, which takes up about two or three hours.

Jim Rash: Yes, or Joel just wants to get on the phone and talk about umm...

Joel McHale: Think of it. Think of it!

Leslie Schwartz: His muscles?

Jim Rash: No, I’m not saying that. (laughs, then yells in mock frustration) Leslie, mind your business.

Leslie Schwartz: Sorry.

Joel McHale: No, so I count myself as incredibly blessed, because I get to work. I remember a lot of time before I got The Soup or Community where I spent most of my time not working and trying to get it. So to have it is a huge blessing. If I ever get the balance I’ll be very happy. But I haven’t yet. But believe me, working on Community I skip to the set each day. And it’s - for as long as they have us on...

Jim Rash: He literally. He’s being honest. He literally skips to work.

Joel McHale: Literally.

Jim Rash: It’s one of the more sad visuals I’ve ever seen.

Joel McHale: Jim can’t skip, because he’s got his Oscar in his back pocket.

Jim Rash: (mock outraged) You know what? That’s not even funny, because I’ve had some weird surgery that gives me the inability to skip. That’s... oh, how offensive!

Joel McHale: So tell me right now without pause what your weird surgery is.

Jim Rash: The weird surgery was I wasn’t sure if you need ankles and I got them removed. That was wrong: you do need ankles. They put them back and now I can’t skip. In your face.

Joel McHale: You sound like an idiot. In your face.

Jim Rash: No, I...

Joel McHale: What an idiot. An Oscar winner guy who doesn’t think you need to have ankles. In your face.

Jim Rash: That was my journey. That was my journey.

Joel McHale: Idiot journey.

Jim Rash: Next question.

Over the years the series has had some classic sort of ‘theme’ episodes: the paintball episode, the video game episode, the Law and Order episode. Can we look forward to any of those this year?

Jim Rash: I’m sorry, did you say Dean episode or just theme episode?

Theme. Theme episode.

Jim Rash: Theme, you said theme. Oh, I made it about myself for two seconds. I apologize.

That’s quite all right.

Jim Rash: Theme episode. Well, you definitely get some this year. As far as the fantastical side and the school being overtaken with a genre, so to speak, without losing its characters. That you get, for sure. We definitely do. If we can talk about these things, I don’t know. But, we hit upon some David Fincher worlds and we do all types of stuff.

Joel McHale: There’s another D&D episode, I don’t know if I can say that. Leslie, you can tell me. You’re the one.

Leslie Schwartz: Yes, we’ve already put it out there that it’s coming.

Jim Rash: Okay.

Joel McHale: There is an homage to Logan’s Run, if I can say that, but I’m saying it. I don’t know what’s going to happen if I do. Then we do a shot-by-shot redo of the movie - what is it, that Blue is the Grayest Color or whatever it is? Very, very sexual.

Jim Rash: Yes. It’s like our own 50 Shades. It’s just a lot of nudity.

Joel McHale: Yes.

Jim Rash: A lot of pixilation.

Joel McHale: We also are doing a live Sound of Music.

Jim Rash: Oh, I wish.

One of the things I was realizing when I started watching episodes is: does Jeff have a similar trajectory to Chang from the first season? Or is that asking too much?

Jim Rash: From which season?

From the first season. Like watching Chang downfall in being that teacher that we respect to being that guy that no-one wants to pay attention to?

Joel McHale: You respected Chang as a teacher in the first season?

Maybe a little bit. I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt.

Joel McHale: Then you’re an insane person. He was out of his mind as a teacher.

Jim Rash: Yes.

Joel McHale: You really like abuse.

I actually am a teacher, so kind of.

Joel McHale: Wait, you like abusing your children? What?

Jim Rash: What’s happening?

Joel McHale: We’ve exposed a crime, Jim.

Jim Rash: What do you think? I think, Joel, you have more of an upward climb, wouldn’t you say?

Joel McHale: Yes, I would say no. Chang is referenced a couple times. He’s like “Maybe I’m just insane and out of mind.” Still, I would say that it’s a completely different path. Jeff has all sorts of insecurities and deficiencies from building up walls around him from trying to act cool and be cool and always overconfident. I’d say he’s on a completely different path, I would say.

I’ve been a fan and I’ve attended a couple of Community cons. How excited are you guys for the fans to see 503 with the homage to a certain other actor? Without giving away who it is.

Joel McHale: Well, I’m very excited. Have you seen it already?

Yes, it’s the last one that they sent out with the screeners.

Joel McHale: Yes. You know how funny it is and I don’t want to ruin it for the people who haven’t seen it, so... It was one of those things where every time I read these scripts that are our table reads I’m like “Holy crap, he did it again.” Dan just knows. He just knows, man. That’s why Dan is Dan. He’s got this whole world in his brain. I think it’s just so funny, because if you look at some of the things that are said about this actor and what it is, a lot of them are very true and are actual analysis, which is hilarious.

You’ve released some really cool holidays in the past. I know you’re debuting in the mid-season this year. Can we expect to see any holiday episodes?

Joel McHale: Yes, there’s an Arbor Day...

Jim Rash: We’re hitting all the big ones: Easter...

Joel McHale: Yes, National Secretary’s Day. Bring Your Kid to Work Day...

Jim Rash: May Day play day.

Joel McHale: Then we celebrate all the Slovenian holidays.

Jim Rash: Which I was surprised how fun they were.

Joel McHale: Fun and I didn’t realize that you could have two holidays a day. In that country they have over 380.

Jim Rash: I know. Like let’s move there. In seriousness, no. We tried to stay on our calendar this year. Isn’t that right, Joel?

Joel McHale: Yes. And, you know, last year there was a ton of holidays and so you’ll see as Dan said, it’s a re-piloting of the show and a re-establishing of the characters. Community lives because the characters are I believe incredibly grounded. That means that when that happens that the world can go crazy or just go way out there, and you will see that in spades this year.

Is there an episode that you guys that are particularly excited for the fans to see this season?

Joel McHale: That’s hard.

Jim Rash: That’s tough, because there are probably many. I personally think only because I wasn’t associated the first D&D round, very excited that I got to be part of the D&D redux. D&D two, I guess. I feel like that was where Dan and them want to always go further than we went the first time. I think they do. What about you, Joel?

Joel McHale: Again, as you just said, Jim, it’s hard for me to pick out. I am truly excited about all of it. The thing that I am excited for people’s reaction to is in the Logan’s Run homage there is one scene in particular that involves choreography that is definitely the most insane piece of television I’ve ever been a part of. I’m so excited. I don’t know what people are going to even think. I’m just excited to see what people’s reactions are to it, because it’s so wonderfully out there.

They’ve asked a lot of really great questions and stuff about character development and I’m really interested in all that. But I really want to ask you what the people really want to know.

Jim Rash: Uh-oh.

Is Joel going to be in his underwear this season?

Jim Rash: Joel, I’ll let you take that one because I don’t know if I could keep my lunch down.

Joel McHale: Oh. Well, yes. Because, you know, the Dean wouldn’t be into that. And so...

Jim Rash: I’m not talking. I’m talking as myself. Go ahead.

Joel McHale: ...this is the first time in network television history that I spend an entire episode full-frontal.


Joel McHale: You believe me?


Joel McHale: Okay good, you don’t believe me. That’s one of the reasons that I have to go to the gym so often, out of paranoia that I won’t appear well on screen. So yes, I am pretty exposed, yes. I would say there’s a lot of exposure.

Jim Rash: Well, I mean the good thing about it is that when he does have to take his shirt off or go to his underwear and his body wasn’t where it needs to be...

Joel McHale: What?

Jim Rash: ...we have the technology to sort of make it better. You know what I’m saying? It’s like in post Dan will go “Let’s just fix this, because it’s not right.” You know, just one of those things.

Joel McHale: Wow.

Jim Rash: You know, Joel does his best but sometimes clothes come off and it was not what you were hoping for. And we can fix it in post. That's a good thing. Next question?

Joel McHale: What’s weird to me is that when Jim has been asked to be not well-clothed, when he takes his shirt off he has his Oscar duct-taped to his side, which is weird, because duct tape reacts to your skin pretty harshly. And...

Well I would imagine they would have to do some spanx kind of thing, like to smooth that out? I don’t know. That sounds really bumpy.

Joel McHale: Oh it takes way more technology than that. And there’s other bumps that he has that need actual professional attention.

Jim Rash: Well, that’s why the Dean’s clothes are so large and baggy on me. It’s just to sort of hide imperfections.

One of my favorite parts of every episode is when the Dean comes out and his over-the-top whatever that he’s wearing that week. Have you had a favorite Dean outfit that you just really love?

Jim Rash: Over all the seasons?

Yes, just any time.

Jim Rash: Well, they’ve all been fantastic. We have an amazing wardrobe department that has had to on the fly to create so many wonderful things and then the writers put them into the scripts. I always go back to the pretty much every entrance at the our very first flashback episode, when we were commenting on all the costumes I come in on. I mean, that whole little line-up of five were great, from Tina Turner to my Carmen Miranda. All of those. I think Joel’s the one who probably admires them the most.

Joel McHale: Yes. I mean, I become so bored...

Jim Rash: No, tell them what you said. You just said it yesterday to me.

Joel McHale: Well I say “Thank God for those outfits,” because, Jim, sometimes I can hardly understand a word he’s saying, because I’m honest.

Jim Rash: (laughs) That sounds different than I heard it yesterday. Yesterday it was, like “Jim, you’re like a wonderfully-wrapped present in costumes. I can’t wait to open them, because the outside is as good as the inside.” Next question.

Joel McHale: Literally I was on a plane all day yesterday. So once again, Jim usually takes his home line and just puts it against a stuffed animal and then he calls that. It’s weird.

Jim Rash: Well I had a great conversation with you. And yesterday you were a little seal.

Joel McHale: You see? That’s what I’m talking about. So now it’s pretty clear, huh?

Jim Rash: All right, end that.

Joel McHale: It was a pleasure to talk to you and allow Jim and I to insult each other.

Joel, I was wondering what was more fun to play, the student or the teacher?

Joel McHale: Boy, it’s neither and both at the same time, because they both are really fun to play. I got to do really fun things as a teacher, but as a student I got to do... if you had said to me that you’re going to be in a zombie apocalypse and get to play kind of a Bruce Willis action star while you’re on half-hour sitcom I would say that you’re probably high. But with the teacher, as we’ve been saying this season we re-establish ourselves as characters. Then things go nuts. It was fun every day, so I cannot make a distinction.

Did the cast have anything to do with Dan’s return? Did you guys send him baked goods, camp out at his house? How did you get him to come back?

Jim Rash: Pretty much all of that, right?

Joel McHale: Yes.

Jim Rash: I mean, the bake sale went really well.

Joel McHale: Yes, it was a very good bake sale. I make a macaroon that will slay you.

Jim Rash: Oh man, you’ll die when you eat these.

Joel McHale: No. I mean, there was nothing I particularly laid out. I should have gotten him a beard trimmer. (both laugh)

Jim Rash: Certainly Joel probably was paramount in starting these conversations towards the end of last season I would say. Imagining a world where everyone, the whole team [returned] - and that meant some crew people as well that had moved to another show for season four and are now back with us. It really was not just a re-pilot but we were putting the family back together. I think Joel needs to take some of that credit for...

Joel McHale: Well, Jim, you were in those lunches, too.

Jim Rash: Well, fine. But I feel like you were the one who...

Joel McHale: (yells) I win!

Jim Rash: What’s that?

Joel McHale: I win.

Jim Rash: Okay. (laughs) Yeah. So that, coupled with those wonderful baked goods, at least got the conversation going.

Joel McHale: Jim and I - much like when you’re mountain hiking you need to keep your carb intake high, because you’re burning calories so much.

Jim Rash: Yes, which is good until unfortunately, Joel has to take his shirt off and we have to go into post to fix all those carbs. So...

Joel McHale: Right, or when Jim’s Oscar falls 400 feet down a cliff and we spend two days getting it. Like I’m going to pick that thing up. Thank God you didn’t drop the Independent Spirit award. (They both laugh.)

Jim Rash: Well I think we nailed it.

Joel McHale: Boom.

Jim Rash: We nailed that question.

Joel McHale: Question answered.

Jim Rash: Yes.

Thanks for talking to me. And I just have one request, that you guys should end this interview by singing us “A Kiss From a Rose.” Just saying.

Joel McHale: Oh I could. If you pay us. If you pay my episodic rate, I will.

Jim Rash: Wow.

Joel McHale: Boom.

Jim Rash: Boom. I don’t even know if I could even get to it.

Joel McHale: (sings) I’ll be kissed by a rose...

Jim Rash: (sings harmony) Kissed by a rose... (stops singing) No, it’s going to sound terrible. I already know it.

Joel McHale: Yes, it’s already awful. Reporters are just jumping off the line. They’re like throwing their phones out their cars.

Jim Rash: They’re literally saying “I did not sign up for this.” Click.

Joel McHale: They did it. I did not sign - click. They don’t even finish the sentence.

Jim Rash: They didn’t even finish their own sentence, they wanted off so fast.

Joel McHale: I bet there’s not even any reporters left.

Jim Rash: (phone rings in the background) Oh, someone’s calling in, though.

Joel McHale: An alien is calling. An alien is calling in.

I was talking to Gillian [pronounces it Jillian] probably right around Thanksgiving time...

Joel McHale: Gillian, with ‘guh.’

Gillian, that’s what I meant. It was a hard ‘g’ or a soft ‘g?’ I always confuse the two sounds. [ed. note: hard G]

Joel McHale: I get it. 

Anyway, I was talking to Gillian about what she would say to skeptical or perhaps disillusioned fans and ways to maybe lure them back to this season if they’re still reeling from the abrupt departure of Dan Harmon. She said that she believes it’s convincing enough an argument that Dan’s back and that you have some of your best episodes this season. She suggested that perhaps to convince people further, you could go to people’s homes and sing Christmas carols. I’m not suggesting anything necessarily that extreme, but I guess I’m asking how would you guys pitch it to perhaps skeptical fans beyond the obvious points of Dan Harmon’s return?

Joel McHale: Oh boy. Well, beyond Dan Harmon’s return - what else do you need? More so, we just need to be promoted well. [That] would I think help us greatly to bring people in. To remind people that the show is back on January 2nd and doing things like this. But I think just getting out that general awareness is a key. But B, throughout the year last year we have, I think, the best fans in the world. I sadly wasn’t able to be at Comic Con, but if Comic Con was any evidence - I saw some of the video - there looked to be no problem that people were back and onboard to watch it, evidenced by them having to turn away 4000 people or something.

Jim Rash: Yes, I agree with that. And...

Joel McHale: That said, I will go to people’s homes while Gillian is singing and I will give them a foot massage. (laughs)

Jim Rash: Yes. And I will go and apologize for the two things they’re doing and then do their chores.

Joel McHale: Yeah, right. Those chores will be, like “Have you ever seen an Oscar before? Oh, here’s one.”

Jim Rash: (laughs) Well, you know, as long as you don’t take your shirt off and show them the truth. Next.

Joel McHale: Boom.

Jim Rash: Boom.

Joel McHale: Well, look. I can just take the shirt off, but you have to take the shirt and the girdle off, so.

Jim Rash: (laughs harder) And my face.

Well, I feel like a lot of the big questions have been asked. So if it’s okay I’m just going to ask about an obscure detail and be kind of that geek.

Jim Rash: Yes.

At the end of the last season we had this kind of a subliminal message on the chalkboard, with “Six Seasons and a Movie” slogan in there. Can I just ask who wrote that and do you think you should try more subliminal messaging to bring more people on board watching the show?

Joel McHale: Yes, we’re going to use subliminal messages to command our sleeper cell to awaken all the fans.

Jim Rash: Yes.

Joel McHale: I don’t know who wrote that?

Jim Rash: I think Don [Diers], right?

Joel McHale: Yes, I think it was Don, one of our set dressers. He’s a man in his mid to late-40s who it seems at one point was pretty athletic.

Jim Rash: What are you talking about? Don always writes something of interest up there. I think that was just his big “Here we are, let’s make this happen.” At this point we’ve put that on our vision boards, “Six seasons and a movie.” And at this point I feel like we might be proving how completely valid the idea of The Secret is, that if you put it out there it works. (Joel laughs)

Leslie Schwartz: Didn’t it first come up when Abed was obsessed with The Cape?

Jim Rash: Well, yes. That show would go for six seasons and a movie, yes.

Leslie Schwartz: And then we adopted it for Community...

Joel McHale: Well, “Six seasons and a movie” is an original term from Community that Dan wrote, whereas my character kept saying “It’s going to be off the air in three weeks.”

Jim Rash: Oh, that’s right.

Joel McHale: That was the origin. But you will not be disappointed as far as seeing tons of cool stuff that will be in the background, stuff that’s happening. That’s why when you read Dan’s scripts they’re so wonderfully layered with stuff like that. And that’s why these worlds are created and they’re really wonderfully complete worlds, even though we’re only telling a story in 21 and a half minutes now. I know the fans love things like that.

Joel McHale: Awesome.

Can't wait for the show to be back.

Joel McHale: Oh, believe me, I am looking forward to January 2nd more than I was Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Years.

Jim Rash: Yes. We’re very excited for this year, that’s for sure.

Copyright ©2014  All rights reserved. Posted: January 1, 2014. 

Photo Credit: © 2013 Justin Lubin. Courtesy of NBC. All rights reserved.

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