Joel McHale

Also Credited As:

Joel Edward McHale
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Biography

Joel McHale became one in a long line of wry, rapier-edged comedians to make a name for mercilessly eviscerating pop culture on E! Entertainment Television's signature comedy show before riding that job to fame well beyond the cable channel. Though having only minor acting credits under his belt, McHale's host duties for "The Soup" (E!, 2004- ) earned him such buzz that in 2009, he was tapped to star in the much-anticipated NBC sitcom, …
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Job Title

Actor

Born

November 20, 1971

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About

Joel McHale became one in a long line of wry, rapier-edged comedians to make a name for mercilessly eviscerating pop culture on E! Entertainment Television's signature comedy show before riding that job to fame well beyond the cable channel. Though having only minor acting credits under his belt, McHale's host duties for "The Soup" (E!, 2004- ) earned him such buzz that in 2009, he was tapped to star in the much-anticipated NBC sitcom, "Community" leading to TV Guide to chose him as one of its "Fresh Faces of Fall 2009." A member of the University of Washington Huskies national championship football team, he made a name for himself as anything but a dumb jock, translating his snarky, iconoclastic dissection of "the festering petri dish of celeb culture" into stand-up comedy, as well as on-call pundit status on news shows such as "Countdown with Keith Olbermann" (MSNBC, 2003-2011). Along with the ratings success of "Community" came feature film offers, including a turn alongside Matt Damon in director Steven Soderbergh's "The Informant!" (2009). Demonstrating that rare capacity for both sarcasm and nice-guy affability, McHale - like Steve Carell before him - leveraged a small but zealous cable following into a more multifaceted acting career.

Joel Edward McHale was born Nov. 20, 1971, in Rome, Italy, the second of three sons of Jack and Laurie McHale; the latter a native of Vancouver, BC, Canada. Not long after McHale's birth, the family relocated to the Seattle, WA, area where he grew up in a jovial household on Mercer Island; his father's quick wit rubbing off from an early age, he recalled years later. At Mercer Island High School, he befriended Dominic DeLeo and Ethan Sandler. All three attended the island's local youth arts institution, Youth Theater Northwest, and cut their teeth on deconstructive comedy by watching the influential early Comedy Central show, "Mystery Science Theater 3000" (Comedy Central/The Sci Fi Channel, 1988-1999), which screened and lampooned B-movies. The three graduated high school in 1991 and McHale matriculated at the University of Washington in Seattle. He majored in history and, having grown to 6'4" and 240 pounds, earned a walk-on spot as a back-up tight-end on the Huskies football team, just in time for the team's 1991 NCAA championship run - though he played little outside of practice and remained on the team only through his sophomore season.

In his last year at UW, McHale scored an internship at the local NBC affiliate, KING-TV, and went to work on a rare, locally produced sketch-comedy show, "Almost Live!" The show's troupe, however, was composed mostly of actors in their forties, so they recruited the young McHale to play younger characters in skits, which he did through 1998. In the meantime, he married interior designer Sarah Williams, and re-enrolled at UW in its graduate drama program. He also did a four-year stint with Unexpected Productions, which staged a well-established Theatersports improv show at Seattle's Market Theater.

His masters degree secured, McHale moved to Southern California in search of more regular and lucrative work. He netted a handful of guest starring roles on popular TV shows such as "Will & Grace" (NBC, 1998-2006) and "Diagnosis: Murder" (CBS, 1993-2001), and secured considerable commercial work, notably a recurring role in a series of Burger King vignettes, which had him as a wisecracking Alpha in a cast of BK-frequenting office drones. In 2004, he snared his first feature film role - a small part as a black-hearted bank executive in "Spider-Man 2."

McHale's prolific auditioning paid off when E! picked him as host of "The Soup," essentially a broader-scoped revival of its erstwhile talk show-lampooning clip-show, "Talk Soup" (1991-2002), whose famously snarky hosts had included Greg Kinnear, John Henson, Hal Sparks and Aisha Tyler. McHale's dry, wise-ass pedigree meshed perfectly with the reformatted weekly show, which updated viewers on the absurd goings-on on talk TV, reality shows, soaps, kids shows and celebrity gossip, sparing few barbs in slamming the privileged, narcissistic and stupid denizens of television, including some of E!'s own celeb-fawning shows. McHale brought DeLeo and Sandler aboard as writers, while he took on a producer credit in 2006. "The Soup" built its buzz with mini-skits and hilarious cameos by celebrities, including ones the show often routinely jabbed.

McHale made particular pop-cultural hay with a rotation of running gags - notably an ongoing faux feud with fellow E! star Ryan Seacrest and a real one with reality/talk diva, Tyra Banks. The show earned McHale a comic rep, which he would translate into a touring stand-up act and prolific side-work as a guest commentator on pop culture, making frequent appearances on radio shows such as Adam Corolla's eponymous show, "Love Line" and "Opie & Anthony," as well as network late-night talkers and news analysis fare like "Countdown with Keith Olbermann."

McHale continued to pick up one-off supporting and guest roles, as in "Lords of Dogtown" (2005), "CSI: Miami" (CBS, 2002- )"Pushing Daisies" (ABC, 2007-09), the long-delayed "The Onion Movie" (2008), the CBS TV movie "Giants of Radio" (2008) and his highest profile project up until that time, Steven Soderbergh's comic thriller, "The Informant" (2009). He was cast in two network pilots, but nothing made it to air until 2009 when he won top-billing alongside comic legend Chevy Chase on "Community." Created by J and Anthony Russo, who won an Emmy Award for their direction of the short-lived but much-lauded "Arrested Development" (Fox, 2003-06), the show portrayed McHale as a slick-talking, ambulance-chasing lawyer trying to rapidly earn a legitimate degree at a local community college after the local bar association discovers the one he claims to have is fraudulent. The very busy McHale, who along with being the father of sons with Williams, promised "Soup" fans he would continue to host the E! favorite, in addition to branching out into network comedy with "Community." When the show became one of NBC's rare hits during its first season, McHale suddenly found himself more in demand than ever. In addition to maintaining duties on "Community" and "The Soup," the busy actor also squeezed in film work with projects like Robert Rodriguez's third sequel in his family adventure franchise "Spy Kids 4: All the Time in the World" (2011), opposite Jessica Alba.