In 'Thanks For The Money,' Comedian Joel McHale Lampoons Celebrity Memoirs McHale says the problem with the genre is a lot of celebrities don't have enough of a story to fill an entire book. ("My life certainly didn't.") So in Thanks for the Money, he makes stuff up.
NPR logo

In 'Thanks For The Money,' Comedian Joel McHale Lampoons Celebrity Memoirs

  • Download
  • <iframe src="" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript
In 'Thanks For The Money,' Comedian Joel McHale Lampoons Celebrity Memoirs

In 'Thanks For The Money,' Comedian Joel McHale Lampoons Celebrity Memoirs

  • Download
  • <iframe src="" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript

JOEL MCHALE: And action.


Joel McHale made a name for himself in Hollywood by skewering celebrities and the world they live in. He did it...


MARTIN: ...For 12 seasons on the E! Network show "The Soup."

MCHALE: Canceled.

MARTIN: (Laughter) Picking the low-hanging fruit from reality TV.

MCHALE: Innuendo.

MARTIN: He went on to become a bona fide celebrity in his own right.


MARTIN: He was in the hit TV show "Community" on NBC and will be starring...

MCHALE: Kind of a hit.

MARTIN: ...In the new CBS comedy "The Great Indoors," which, coincidentally...

MCHALE: No one knows it will be a hit yet.

MARTIN: ...Launched this past week.

MCHALE: Oh, you watched it this past week?

MARTIN: Yeah, super good. In his new memoir, McHale again takes aim at the nature of celebrity with a book in which he spends almost 300 pages making fun of celebrity memoirs. It is called "Thanks For The Money: How To Use My Life Story To Become The Best Joel McHale You Can Be." Joel McHale joins me now from our studios in New York. Hi, Joel.

MCHALE: It's great to be here.

MARTIN: So why'd you want to write this book? I mean, have you ever read a celebrity memoir before?

MCHALE: Yes, I have, a couple. And some are good. I read Bruce Campbell's "If Chins Could Kill," and that is a great book. But then there are slews and slews of celebrity memoirs that I don't necessarily think that they had enough information or story to last an entire book. My life certainly didn't. And then also, there are so many self-help books that I thought that, well, a lot of that seems to be pretty smoke and mirrors, so why not just use my life story to show you how to become a celebrity and then get free stuff?

MARTIN: So it's hard to tell what's...

MCHALE: Real and not real.

MARTIN: ...Entertaining but totally BS, yeah, in this book and what is real.

MCHALE: Well, obviously, the chapters on, you know - like, when you get into the self-help stuff, some of that is fantastical. But the - you know, like, the chart of me - who I got paid to make out with, all that stuff happened. I do kind of hopefully make it funny and enjoyable to read. Obviously, the stuff - the chapter called "Why I Left Scientology" and then the next page says, I didn't leave it, but if you're going to become a celebrity you should probably try - you've got to leave a cult of some sort.

MARTIN: Try it and then leave it. Yeah.

MCHALE: And, you know, that is made up. All the stuff about my childhood, it is my history but with - you know, told in a hopefully humorous way.

MARTIN: Do you have dyslexia?

MCHALE: Absolutely. That's why this is a radio interview and not an essay.

MARTIN: You wrote about your struggles with the teleprompter when you started "The Soup."

MCHALE: Oh, that is - I cannot read well. I've gotten a lot better at it since I've been reading teleprompter for about 13 years now. But when I first started, it took me four hours to get through 22 minutes of jokes.

MARTIN: I mean, that's - must have been horrifying. It's your whole livelihood, and this is your big break, and you can't read the thing that's telling you the words you have to say.

MCHALE: Yeah, but you - at no point did anyone think it was a big break. When "The Soup" started, it was just put on the air at 10:00 p.m., which was a desert on Fridays. So there was no pressure on us at all to deliver a quality product. So it allowed me to sit and get better at this teleprompter, which was a horrible thorn in my side. And it was really - I don't read books to this day. I just listen to everything on Audible. I have a hard life is what I'm saying.

MARTIN: (Laughter).

MCHALE: A lot of people think they've had hard lives, but no, it's really me.

MARTIN: You spend a good amount of time in the book positioning yourself as this B-list guy who never gets invited to hang out with the cool kids.

MCHALE: Right.

MARTIN: But you've gotten some pretty great jobs, including...

MCHALE: That's true.

MARTIN: ...A couple years ago you were asked to perform at the White House Correspondents' Dinner.


MARTIN: Was that fun? Was that stressful?

MCHALE: Was it fun?

MARTIN: Well, I don't know.

MCHALE: It was one of those things where you - I don't know if people climbing Everest think it's fun at the time that they can't breathe and their muscles are screaming at them and a storm is coming in. But they definitely made the choice to be there. And so it was a very stressful event for me. I've never worked harder on a set of 15 minutes of jokes.

MARTIN: Really?

MCHALE: It is tons of pressure, but I would do it in a heartbeat again. So yes, ultimately I very much enjoyed it.

MARTIN: You got a little bit of flack for making a joke about New York Governor Chris Christie's weight.

MCHALE: Yeah. Yeah.

MARTIN: If you had it to do over again, would you change that? Or do you think everyone's fair game?

MCHALE: Yeah, I would've been - I think I would've been harsher.

MARTIN: Really?

MCHALE: Yeah, probably. That was right as, you know, the bridge thing was happening and...

MARTIN: ...The political scandal in New Jersey.

MCHALE: Yeah. I think he was very pleased 'cause I didn't go too hard at the bridge. I actually just went hard at him. But now that as the scandal's coming out and it turns out that he pretty - he knew everything...

MARTIN: ...Allegedly.

MCHALE: Allegedly. Like, it's...

MARTIN: ...Trial's still going on.

MCHALE: If that is the most flack that I would get over that then, again, I'm perfectly fine. It goes back to that age-old thing of if you're not offending a certain amount of your audience all the time then you're not doing your job.

MARTIN: I mean, that was the whole thing with "The Soup." I mean, you just made fun of celebrities who, more often than not, were kind of asking for it. And the - you know, you can make the argument that you sign up for this life, you know, this is just going to come with the territory. But obviously, you had to draw lines sometimes. I mean, was it always up to you? Or did you have to deliver jokes that you thought were going too far?

MCHALE: No. It was ultimately coming out of my mouth, so I was the one who said I'm not doing that or I am doing that. And we made fun of celebrities, but we mostly made fun of reality shows. There was a lot of that. And soon as I would say that to anybody, they're like, oh, yes, please go as hard as you can.

MARTIN: Well, and that's the whole rub, right? You made a living off of reality TV, which you were skewering.

MCHALE: Yes. It was so silly because, like, my little brother is a priest, an Episcopal priest who goes to hospitals and helps people in the last moments of their life. I tell, you know, silly Honey Boo-Boo jokes and call her mom a human thumb. And that is such a - I cannot believe my good fortune that I had gotten to this point.

And I think that's part of the book, is that so many performers take themselves very seriously. But we are getting to do something that - you know, we dreamt about doing something as a kid and we actually get to do it. So when I see actors complaining about hours or material or things like that - how many other people's jobs have catering? How many people's jobs have a person who will park your car?

I mean, there - it's all silly when you begin to look at it. And then you see actors, you know, acting out, and they should be sent somewhere and swing a hammer for a while. Yes, what I'm saying is imprison actors that complain.

MARTIN: There we go. And the title of the book is "Thanks For The Money: How To Use My Life Story To Become The Best Joel McHale You Can Be." Joel McHale talked to us from our studios in New York. Hey, Joel, thanks so much.

MCHALE: Thank you. And will you - when you edit this down to about six minutes, I hope you leave all the good parts.

MARTIN: I'll try.

MCHALE: Thanks.

Copyright © 2016 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.