SIR JOEL EDWARD MCHALE, LORD OF WINTERFELL
JOEL McHALE is best known as host of E!’s The Soup and for his starring role on the hit comedy series Community. His film credits include A Merry Friggin’ Christmas, Deliver Us from Evil, Blended, Ted, What’s Your Number?, The Big Year, Spy Kids 4: All the Time in the World, and The Informant! Joel also performs standup comedy around the country to sold-out audiences. In 2014, he hosted the annual White House Correspondents’ Association Dinner in Washington, D.C., and hosted the 2015 ESPYs on ABC. Born in Rome and raised in Seattle, Joel was a history major at the University of Washington, where he also was a member of their championship football team. He received his master of fine arts from UW’s Professional Actor Training Program. He is the author of Thanks for the Money: How to Use My Life Story to Become the Best Joel McHale You Can Be.
What is the book (or books) you’ve given most as a gift, and why? Or what are one to three books that have greatly influenced your life?
Because this question is so big, Tim (I can’t believe I’m not getting paid for this), I’m going to list five, you jerk. I’m not going to even recommend my book: Thanks for the Money: How to Use My Life Story to Become the Best Joel McHale You Can Be . . . because that would seem arrogant. In stores now!
Anyway, here are the books.
The Road by Cormac McCarthy. This book is poetry (it’s not really). No novel has ever captured the love a parent has for his child better than this book. It also paints the closest picture to what a post-apocalyptic world would look like. It’s fun!
The Blade Itself by Joe Abercrombie. Mark my words, Abercrombie will go down in history as one of the greatest fantasy novelists of all time. He’s with Tolkien. These books are magical in how he creates a world out of nothing and characters so well drawn that you’ll think Joe takes trips to this magical place and interviews these people. On top of all that, Joe has a hilarious sense of humor.
The Book of Strange New Things by Michel Faber. It’s hard to describe the brilliance of this book. If you read it, keep in mind that it was written by an atheist.
How to Fly a Horse: The Secret History of Creation, Invention, and Discovery by Kevin Ashton. This book is so great. Among many, many other things that it illuminates, one of the most revelatory things is that being creative is not just a unique trait in a few select people—it’s written in our DNA. Everyone’s DNA.
Deep Survival: Who Lives, Who Dies, and Why, by Laurence Gonzales. I read this book 13 years ago, and I still think about it almost every week. The title explains exactly what it is and it is fascinating. This book taught me not to take things for granted. It taught me what to do in stressful and simple situations I would find myself in, and how to evaluate them in a levelheaded way. It teaches you how things really are, as opposed to what you want them to be. And that is the difference between life and death (ominous!).
What purchase of $100 or less has most positively impacted your life in the last six months (or in recent memory)?
Okay, it’s more than the last six months (what are you gonna do to me, Tim Ferriss? Sue me? Please. I will bury you) but I’m going to go with Audible.com. (They are not paying me to write this. That said, please buy the Swiffer WetJet today! It’s magic!) I’m dyslexic (yuo to2? This Time Frerris booak is me føreveer Takeing!), so when Audible came along—it changed my life. I’ve ultimately spent way more than the $100 Tim is holding us to for some godforsaken reason. Each book can be anywhere from $3 to $30. The world of the classics has been opened to me, and I thank God and the nerds that designed this app for it. I was assigned Dostoyevsky’s Crime and Punishment in high school. The chances of me reading that whole thing back then were as good as me growing a tail. I blew through the unabridged Audible version in a couple weeks (36 hours for the whole book). It was so good I got shivers (might have been the flu). When I drive, work out, do the dishes, etc., I listen to that app and I get lost in the world’s stories (either that or the Molly is really kicking in).
What advice would you give to a smart, driven college student about to enter the “real world”?
Hey smart, driven college student—
First of all, why am I hanging out with you? I never used to hang out with people like you. Do you want to go see that Baby Driver movie? I get it, you’re busy, you’re driven. Do you mind if I have a couple of beers while I answer Tim’s question? It’s cool, I’m going to anyways.
My advice for a college student who is about to enter the real world is not revelatory. You probably hear this all the time but I’m going to tell you anyway —again. Here it is: Pursue that dream or dreams that are planted in you already. Yes, some of you are saying you don’t know what that dream is, but—it’s there. Believe me.
That’s the thing for you. Capital YOU. I believe you’re supposed to follow your dreams. Like it’s an order.
Don’t just do the thing that people expect you to do or go for the money. That might work out for a while, but you will harbor some serious resentment as you get into your 40s if you do that. I see it all the time. It sucks. On top of that—and just as important—help people who are less fortunate than you and help the planet. Yep [takes long pull off a bottle of IPA]. At the end of your life, you will be much happier and good (good is more important) if you did something that wasn’t just selfish, even if that selfish thing (your dream) was righteous.
Oh—and be a good wife/husband/mom/dad/friend. Look at Paul Newman’s life. Do that. Do that. Do that.