Interview with Joel McHale and John Goodman from Community

Season 3 of Community will introduce John Goodman guest starring as Vice Dean Laybourne, Dean of the highly regarded Air Conditioning Repair Annex at Greendale. I recently had the opportunity to participate in a conference call with John Goodman and series regular Joel McHale. Both guys were extremely funny and very down-to-earth. Joel was eager to spend more time talking with us, even as they were calling him back to the set. John says he will be on 6 episodes this season, but is currently only showing up on set about once a month to film all his scenes.

Here are some highlights from the conversation.
 

John, on why he wanted to be a part of Community

John Goodman: It’s the cast. I think they’re a wonderful ensemble. The writing is out there. It’s just – it’s not a typical situation comedy sitcom. It’s risky and – yeah, it – you know, it’s combination of great things and I’ve – 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 mean the stuff – I had pages of dialogue yesterday that was really precise and – but it’s good to stretch like that.
 
Jump with us to see what else they had to say.
 

John, on knowing how big to play his character

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

Joel: Whatever he’s doing it’s working great, so I hope he’s completely tortured. I’m so sorry, John.
 

John, on his character’s relationship to the Dean

John: 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.
 

On whether Laybourne’s presence is going cause bonding between the “kids” and the Dean

John: No, they’re going to see some bondage.

Joel: I haven’t seen that yet in the script. I – to – because John’s stuff is – you know, I – 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. And I – that’s a good question whether they’re going to – because Jeff always is pretty wigged out by Dean Pelton because in every single scene if you watch him walk into the study 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.
 

On whether any of the characters will be transferring to the dark side of the air conditioning repair program

John: They’re trying. They’re trying to seduce one in particular. To the dark side of – not personal seduction.

Joel: John’s like Darth Vader and Donald Glover’s character Troy is like Luke Skywalker.

John: I am his father.
 

John, on how handy he is with an air conditioning unit

John: I – 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 with – I was not born handy.
Joel: There you go. There’s been an outcry from air conditioning repair people that are like, “What, you didn’t do any – what the hell? He doesn’t know how to repair them at all?”

John: I get to – it’s more of a Zen performance.

Joel: Wow, you got to the bottom of that one, so…

John: I’m the Stanislofsky of air conditioning repair.
 

Joel, on the character of Jeff & his relationship with Annie this season

Joel: Well, I can tell you that 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.”

So – and Dan – 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.

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.
 

Joel, on his personal opinion who Jeff belongs with?

Joel: No, wow. Wow, in my personal opinion, geez. I – that’s a good question. I had not thought about that. I – you know, when it comes to that I trust Dan implicitly and, you know, with Jeff he’s a very uncommitted and guarded man, even though he seems – 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 – boy, I don’t know, that’s a good – probably anybody from the WNBA.
 

On whether a big name star will be playing Jeff’s father

Joel: Well, a lot like getting John, it was one of those things where like, “Well, do you think John – will you get John Goodman?” And John, as I said earlier, lost a bet of some sort and had to come on the show. But, you know, I can’t – no, I don’t know anything about that and who they have – you know, 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. We’ll either… Jack Nicholson – yeah, if… it’s probably Joe Namath, I don’t know.

John: Or Phil Parsons.

Joel: Yeah, or Boutros Ghali, former Head of the U.N…
 

Joel, on what it’s like having John Goodman on the show

Joel: Well, as John had mentioned earlier, they kind of knock out a lot of his scenes, you know, 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. No…

John: They missed a lot.

Joel: …but it gives – he was – I mean, I know that, John, you love the gushing or that I’m – but you know, it’s like I really do – having him on the show is such a – I – you know, it’s like we just got the Stealth Bomber and no one can touch it. So I feel like, you know – see he – we just – it just a bond. But, it’s one of those things where I – we are all so excited and we wonder what bet he lost to have to come on the show.
 

Joel, on why Community continues to draw in all the viewers

Joel: It draws in viewers? That’s great. No, well, boy I hope, you know, 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.

And…yeah, 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.
 

Joel, on why he continues with The Soup

Joel: Oh, gosh. Well, I love doing it and well, I have a contract, so I can’t leave it or they would – 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 it – 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.

And – yeah, and they’ve made the schedule work, so there was really no reason to – no one was forcing me to leave it, so I kind of thought, “Well, this is – this – 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?

So, you know I’m – 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-air – mid-flight. So, I’m – you know, I still keep my paper route.
 

John, on how hard it was getting used to such a crazy show and cast

John: No. I just – I – yeah, I just went with it. Whatever happens, happens and just, you know, try to show up and know my lines and bump into anything, and that’s true. And just, you know, whatever – I’m just a hired hand, you know, there to help and then some.

Joel: Yeah, 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, you know, carry a live chicken around. Yeah, it – we shaved his head and put all his hair into a pillow. It was – you know…

John: My body hair is growing back. I made a potholder out of it.

Joel: Yeah, he did. He came out, you know, he did great.
 

Joel, on what props we’ll see this season and his dream prop

Joel: Wow. I’ve never – oh, my dream prop would probably be like a Porsche 911 Turbo S 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. There is – 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.
 

Joel, on the musical number in the season premiere

Joel: Let’s see, 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 – I got – 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 going to – it starts – 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.
 

On which guest star is shaking things up the most on set

Joel: Oh, boy. Well, John is terribly disruptive. He parked his car on the stage and said, “This is my parking space,” and…

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

Joel: Yeah, it was very violent. No. Well, this – well, boy, no – I’m – I – behind the scenes there hasn’t – I mean, 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.
So – but having those – you know, having John and Michael K. Williams, they are – they’re the new antagonists and it’s not going to be Chevy – you know, it’s not going to be Pierce anymore, it’s going to be outside the group. So, that…

John: That’s right, union agitators.

Joel: Right, they are pounding on the windows and throwing Molotov cocktails through them. So, it is – 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 it really – everyone is bringing their A game.

John: I’m like a hand grenade, you never know when I’m going to go off.

Joel: Yeah, you never know, but it’s a hand grenade of flowers and sugar.

John: And love, a love grenade.

Joel: Yeah, it’s a love grenade.
 

On the inspiration for such quirky characters and storylines on Community

Joel: Oh, well, 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, you know, I think if you just go around the world, especially to a place where people aren’t necessarily wanting to – like you go to a school or a community college or a bar or a – somewhere where you – it’s a group of people that aren’t – don’t necessarily choose to be with each other, naturally the characters will come out and it’s just – you know, it’s always different.

It’s not, you know – and so I think Dan just draws on his experience of going to community college and it works out great. Thank God.
 
 
Thanks to John and Joel for taking time out of their busy schedules to talk with us. They are just as entertaining in real life as they are on our TV screens. I can’t wait to watch the Season 3 premiere of Community today, Sept 22, at 8/7c on NBC.

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