Joel McHale’s finally cashing in on the celebrity memoir fad. Anna Kendrick has a new book out, apparently Naya Rivera (plus everyone else from “Glee”) has put out a memoir and Zayn Malik gathered enough One Direction gossip to get a book deal. It’s about time that our favorite “Community” and “The Soup” alpha male needed one, too.
His new book, aptly titled “Thanks for the Money: How to Use My Life Story to Become the Best Joel McHale You Can Be” is exactly what you’d expect from McHale, a noted yet charming smart-ass. It features actual tidbits from his life and a few moments of authentic confession, such as details about his struggle with dyslexia. Mostly, it’s a direct hit to the rampant celebrity memoirs filling bookstores as of late, complete with tips on becoming famous and fighting Chevy Chase.
McHale discussed the book and his other famous-person shenanigans Oct. 28 at San Francisco’s Nourse Theatre at a book tour stop coordinated by the Commonwealth Club, a national public affairs forum. INFORUM, the Commonwealth Club’s innovation lab, prides itself on gathering the likes of Mark Zuckerberg, Rachel Maddow, James Franco and Hillary Clinton for conversations with scholarly moderators.
This time around, first-time author McHale was in conversation with political analyst Melissa Caen, who was faced with the daunting task of keeping up with a nonstop joke machine. He walked out as if there were a red carpet laid out for him, bowing and waving, imitating a subpar, self-absorbed stand-up. That, McHale is not.
In “Thanks for the Money,” McHale ridicules his own lavish lifestyle just as he ridiculed the hottest of reality television stars on “The Soup.” After all, McHale admits to a lifestyle of not paying for anything he wears, sitting through constant interviews and making tons of cash. (What’s the best perk of the show and the book? “The money.” Next question.) Celebrities can fill books with their rags to riches tales, so McHale does too, with gleaming excess and irony.
INFORUM asks all of its guests the same question: What would you do to change the world? McHale isn’t exactly the kind of guy who spends his days agonizing over world peace or social change — after all, he wrote a book that features a chapter called “Eat a Dick, Angela Lansbury.” After suggesting Melissa Caen pose that question to Elon Musk instead of an actor, McHale responded, “Uh, there should be more 35-inch size jeans and a for-real-waterproof mascara.” (Wait, that actually might change the world.)
When Caen asked about his upbringing, the actor-comedian shrugged. “My parents did very well,” he said nonchalantly. McHale is clean cut and well-adjusted. Even if he weren’t, we’re not so sure he’d admit it.
He’s not some tortured, dark and twisty comic with a tough home life. He joked with faux-despair, “My one adversity is that I was blind for 10 years.”
Every question Caen asked led to a sarcastic remark (expectedly). His knack for slick, satirical comedy shows both while in character and out. He tells jokes with such speed and dryness that it leaves you wondering who the “real” Joel McHale is. If anything, his snideness proves that McHale is overwhelmingly self-aware, as if being the eternal jokester is a way of protecting the part of himself that actually does take things seriously.
McHale showed that more sensitive, authentic side of himself during a brief exchange about working with Robin Williams on 2014’s “A Merry Friggin’ Christmas,” one of Williams’ final films. He told about Williams’ persistent use of the phrase “fuck me” when he found something funny, but in a welcome reprieve from the conversation’s snarkiness. “(Robin was) born on another planet and came down here,” McHale said, this time with real despair. Noticing how quiet the room had gotten, McHale added, “You weren’t expecting that were you?”
Now there’s the real Joel McHale.