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Culture Joel McHale on the 500th episode of 'The Soup'

Joel McHale on the 500th episode of ‘The Soup’

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Robert Francis
Robert Francis
Robert is a Fort Worth native and longtime editor of the Fort Worth Business Press. He is a former president of the local Society of Professional Journalists and was a freelancer for a variety of newspapers, weeklies and magazines, including American Way, BrandWeek and InformatonWeek. A graduate of TCU, Robert has held a variety of writing and editing positions at publications such as the Grand Prairie Daily News and InfoWorld. He is also a musician and playwright.

 

Abbey Goodman

CNN

(CNN) — After nearly 10 years of expertly skewering American pop culture and the television wasteland, E!’s clip show “The Soup” is raising the stakes on its own program and will broadcast live for the first time to mark the series’ 500th episode.

The show will air live on both coasts on August 21 at 10 p.m.

At a recent taping for the 499th episode, host Joel McHale and executive producer K.P. Anderson spoke with reporters about the milestone and what Anderson called the “high-wire effect” of the live show. “I have full-on dyslexia,” McHale said. “So that’ll be great. I think it really brings a sense of danger.”

The 500th show will be a “Soup” fans recognize, rather than a retrospective. “I think live is pretty much the trick,” Anderson said. “We’ll have a couple of little surprises along the way with our special guests, but I think we as a show do better when the material is fresh and we have new jokes.” As of the interview, the special guests — a different set for each coast — include B.J. Novak, Adam Carolla and perhaps Lady Gaga. (She was still pending.) McHale said he prefers a good mix. “It’s like getting a Blizzard at Dairy Queen,” he quipped.

As for dream guests in the future, he named Paul McCartney, Beyonce and Jay Z, Justin Bieber because “apparently he has a fan base,” David Byrne from Talking Heads and Prince. “I would love for Prince (to come on),” McHale said. “Prince, open invitation.”

And why not? McHale said most guests enjoy their experience. “Without exception,” he said, “every single reality star I have ever met has said, ‘Please put me on your show’ or ‘Thank you for having me on your show and may I come back on?’ No one has gone, ‘How dare you?’ “

Still, the host admitted he never thought “The Soup” would last. “We have a 50-year plan,” he joked. “This is phase one. It’s complete. Phase two is the next 10 years.” But seriously, “I never thought it would go this long. No one ever thought that.

“There was always the sense, especially in the first couple of years, that no one was watching, kind of like public access. And that sense that people still aren’t watching has never left.”

“The TV landscape has changed over the time that we’ve been doing (the show),” Anderson said. “We”ve talked about how we’re going to change things because ‘Pawn Stars’ became more popular than the scream-at-each-other-and-puke-in-the-foyer-shows” that were the show’s bread and butter early on. “The success (of ‘The Soup’) is we take all of the mayhem that exists out there and bring it under one roof. But what that is changes all the time.”

Currently the show’s staff is obsessed with “Whodunnit?” the goofy murder mystery show on ABC. “The clips aren’t necessarily the most provocative, but the show has been driving the staff out of its mind all summer. There are zero stakes. There’s no tension,” he said. “And we love it.”

Though it’s hard to remember most of the clips the show has churned through over the 500 episodes, some, like Whitney Houston on “Being Bobby Brown” and Tila Tequila on “Shot at Love,” naturally stand out. But it’s “Spaghetti Cat” that McHale calls “the greatest moment we ever had.”

When McHale is not taping “The Soup,” he’s busy filming movies and starring on NBC’s “Community.” The show’s fifth season features the return of “Community” creator Dan Harmon, and while McHale modestly underplayed his role in getting Harmon back, it has been said he was instrumental.

“(Harmon) created the show and the show is in his voice, so to have it back in his voice I think was important,” McHale said. “I was thrilled that he wanted to come back and that Sony was willing to have him back, so I’ve never been creatively happier.”

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