Joel McHale, host of E!'s The Soup, suggested we title this article ''Joel McHale: Television's Roofie.'' But there was at least one problem with that analogy: His strength does not go undetected. Readers of EW.com's PopWatch blog made their appreciation of his celebrity and reality-TV skewering skills known when they declared E! one of their five must-have cable channels just so they could watch him. And because McHale has four new specials to promote the first, The Soup Presents: Pretty, Stupid Models, premieres March 17 at 10 p.m. ET he agreed to answer questions submitted by those readers.
McHale phoned us March 6, right before taping an episode of The Soup (Fridays, 10 p.m. ET), and clearly, he had a lot on his mind: Would his in-studio guest, his favorite member of The Bad Girls Club, Tanisha, "beat his ass"? (No.) What happened to those Dina Lohan jokes he read earlier? (The network thought it was too soon for him to make fun of his future channel-mate, so excuse him while he edits Hillary Clinton punchlines.) Did Kady Malloy just get kicked off American Idol? (''I liked her Britney impression a lot,'' he says.) And will his answers to these questions shorten his career? (You be the judge of that.)
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: So, you're answering reader questions.
JOEL McHALE: My answers will be a little different than what you're used to. A lot of like, ''Mmm, f--- you.''
They'll love that.
Okay, good. [Silence] I'm just trying to think of other things that I can say that are inappropriate.
A lot of people want to know how the show actually works. SKYE put it the simplest: ''Do they really make you watch all of that crap on TV?''
When the show started, I used to [watch everything]. But now I force production assistants to do it. And I laugh, and laugh, and laugh at them. There is a person on our staff that has to watch the Today show. All of it. Every day. Well, it's the fourth person to do that. The first three committed suicide. [To Soup writer Lee Farber, also in the room] Lee, what's your average for TV? Six hours a day? [To EW] Oh right, we measure in how many hours we don't watch. One of the guys on our staff made it to three. It was 21 hours of Extreme Makeover: Home Edition. Huge Ty Pennington fan. And also has a soul patch.
What about you, personally? What do you average?
Being the host of the show, I watch the shows that I want to watch now, which are usually what my wife wants to watch: Dancing With the Stars and American Idol. I actually watch those. I'm a big fan of The Ultimate Fighter because that's the most honest reality show on television. It's not like, ''Well, you didn't sing very well. You're a little off-key. Hope you don't get cut.'' It's like, you go into a ring, and you have to bare-knuckle fight someone for two grand. And there's a good chance that you're gonna get your nose broken. I'll watch other stuff, like Big Brother. But Big Brother drives me up the wall because it's just conspiratorial whispering. The entire show is people lying around, conspiring and whispering. Literally, I believe it is a glimpse at hell. If they go, ''Joel, you're going to hell,'' I go, ''Oh. Am I being burned alive?'' ''No. Worse. You're gonna be stuck in a room with a bunch of really attractive idiots who will try to conspire to vote you off. And when you get voted off, you'll just go to the next Big Brother house.''.... I do also watch Pants-Off Dance-Off sometimes.
You just touched on this, but several people, including DANIEL, asked, ''Are you a big fan of some of the shows you poke fun at, e.g. Lost?''
I really genuinely like American Idol, because it is an honest show. Sure, Paula might be there and her brain is somewhere around Cleveland, but that show is great because it's a good old-fashioned talent show and there's no living in the same house and hoping for conflict. I usually agree with Simon, every time he says something, almost to a T. Almost. I actually like Survivor, somewhat. Sometimes it's a little contrived, but I think [Jeff] Probst is a great host. We'll include clips from Lost and stuff like that, just to talk about what happened. We are devotees of Lost, and 24, and Battlestar Galactica.
Does your day job affect how you watch TV at night?
It does affect what I watch at home, because my 3-year-old will come in and go, ''I want to watch Cars. I want to watch Cars. I want to watch Cars.'' And I go, ''Daddy has to watch Bret Michaels! Go away! Get outta here! Daddy's working!''
Someone whose screen name is a little too dirty for me to reprint asks, ''How many TVs are in your office?''
It's one TV. ''I have to watch Flavor of Love. Sorry! I have dibs.'' No. It's 14 televisions. Since it's E!, they're Zeniths from about '74.
That person also wants to know who's in the show's audience.
Employees of E!, and friends of employees of E!, and people I randomly meet on the street who I give my e-mail out to against my better judgment. And I'm not kidding. I give out my e-mail way too much. A lot of the time I'm managing the audience and not paying attention to the show.
[To Lee] Lee, do I give out my e-mail to people all the time? [Lee answers] Did you hear that?
''Like it's kinda sad.'' Yeah.
It's how I sign autographs. ''Please, please tell your friends about me and the show. Best wishes, JoelMcHale@eentertainment.com.'' [NOTE: Not his actual e-mail address.]