The King of Pop Culture Comedy

Joel McHale brings his stand-up act to Treasure Island.

Photo by Frank Ockenfels

For 11 years, Joel McHale kept E! audiences in stitches on The Soup, providing sarcastic and satirical commentary on current events and pop culture happenings. The show was canceled in 2015, but thankfully, McHale is just as good at serving up knee-slappers onstage as he was onscreen—and he’s bringing his stand-up show to Treasure Island May 26. Ahead of his Vegas tour stop, we got on the phone with the Community and The Great Indoors star to talk performing on the Strip, his upcoming role as a young Chevy Chase in A Futile and Stupid Gesture, and how he’s constantly trying to stop his kids from becoming pyromaniacs.

I know you’ve played here before. Do you like performing for Vegas audiences?

They’ve been great. … I think the expectation is that people will be drunk, but I think it’s too early in the evening—like [at an] 8 o’clock show—to be too drunk. It’s like in college—you don’t want to show up to a football game at 10 in the morning wasted, because that’s just bad for everybody. I expected that, but [the audience members] weren’t [drunk]. They were totally cool and they were engaged.

My greatest goal is to try and make people shoot snot out their nose. Hopefully it will say that on my tombstone.

What can audiences in Las Vegas expect from your set?

It’s a Civil War re-enactment. It’s really authentic. It’s very loud. A lot of muskets and gunpowder and cannons. It’s spectacular and very expensive for me to put on, and I am broke.

Now that I’ve done a lot of touring, I have a lot of observations about our country, and about where I’ve gone. I’ll [also] talk about my family.

Will you be able to experience the city after your show?

It depends on what time we get out. I’ll probably hang out at Treasure Island. I’ll be in a full pirate outfit. I hear they have some good restaurants, so I’ll probably go to one of those afterward.

You’re playing a young Chevy Chase, who you costarred with in Community, in your upcoming movie, A Futile and Stupid Gesture. Did you meet with Chevy to get tips on how to play him?

We didn’t have a meeting, because he lives on the East Coast, but I called him to let him know that this movie was being made. The movie is about Will Forte’s character, Doug Kenney, who was Chevy’s best friend and the founder of the National Lampoon [humor magazine]—[he] wrote [National Lampoon’s] Animal House and produced Caddyshack. Whenever [Chevy and I would] chat about him, throughout the years on Community, he would refer to him very fondly and lovingly. [Chevy] was very happy they were making a movie about him. Chevy was like, “That guy didn’t get his due.”

I just watched a lot of old [videos], like when he was in his young years on [Saturday Night Live]—the years before he became the biggest comedy movie star of the ’80s.

He was in this group with Christopher Guest and John Belushi. I looked at a lot of those tapes just to feel what he was like then. In the movie, I’m not really doing an impression of him. … I wanted to capture that young, up-and-coming star feeling, where he’s on his way. It’s more about that and his personality [than an] impression.

Community had a huge fan following. Why do think people really latched on to that series?

It was dynamite writing and a dynamite idea by Dan Harmon. Then you [had] this very special group of actors. … [Dan] always wanted to expose everyone’s flaws, and I think that alone is one of the reasons why it was so successful. Also, I think the joke writing was so damn good.

Between starring in The Great Indoors, touring to do stand-up and guest-starring on other television shows such as Dimension 404 and Bill Nye Saves the World, you’re a busy guy. What do you do to unwind?

Mostly I spend time with my children. I guess the word “unwind” is not necessarily applied there, since they’re 12 and 9, and they’re boys—I’m constantly trying to stop them from setting everything on fire.

Joel McHale

May 26, 9 p.m., $48–$76, Treasure Island, treasureisland.com

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