It is the moment when the shooter becomes the target, when the smart-ass social critic himself assumes the spotlight.
But Joel McHale, a novice stand-up taking the stage in Vegas for the first time Friday night, hardly sounds concerned.
“What am I expecting? Not sure,” McHale says during a phone interview last week. “Sweatiness, and hopefully free drinks. It’ll be just like gambling. Hopefully I’ll be constructing sentences people can understand.”
After a pause, McHale allows, “To be very serious, I’m terrified.”
McHale performs at Mandalay Bay Theatre at 9 p.m. Friday. Expect the same tenor McHale has used to dice and dump celebrities into The Soup on E! Entertainment. McHale has hosted the show for two years, and by the time he’d taken the pilot’s seat the show was famous for airing snippets of regretful celebrity moments, to be followed unfailingly by a swift skewering from the host. Or, the crew creates its own zany segments, such as a trailer for the upcoming Oliver Stone biopic on George W. Bush, W, with a satirical cast that features Willard Scott as Dick Cheney and a clip of Laura Bush on the Today show, sitting next to Al Roker and adjusting her seat while an aptly placed fart sound rips through the video.
McHale fits in ideally here. Though he jokes (I think) that his early influences were “mostly early Helen Mirren movies,” he lists his favorite pop-culture sources of humor as, “The Onion, which is the funniest thing I’ve ever read. The National Lampoon Yearbook. David Letterman. Conan O’Brien. Monty Python. Hey, if The Soup is as funny as Mystery Science Theater 3000, we’ve succeeded. The British version of The Office is as funny as it gets.”
McHale, also in town emceeing the taping of Last Comic Standing today (Thursday), explains his act thusly:
“It will be a whole smattering of everything.”
That means, an unvarnished, behind-the-scenes look at The Soup, a lot of celeb commentary and a recitation of “who we’ve pissed off.”
“I’m not telling you,” he says, laughing. “I’ll save it for the stage. All I’ll say is, her name rhymes with Myra Panks.”
Though the Strip has been an unfriendly haven for satire and wit over the past few years -- Avenue Q and Monty Python’s Spamalot sank at Wynn Las Vegas, and last month the Flamingo unplugged its Second City revue -- McHale says his brand of humor is thriving.
“I don’t think it’s ever been bigger,” he says. “with Jon Stewart, Steven Colbert … as long as there are things to make fun of, I don’t think anyone will become too polite.”
I ask McHale if he’s amenable to making regular return trips to Vegas, similar to the appearances made by Ray Romano, Brad Gilbert, David Spade and Jerry Seinfeld at such hotels as The Mirage, Planet Hollywood and Caesars Palace.
“Well, my (The Soup) contract is up in December, and we’re talking now. We’ll see how it all pans out,” he says, and adds with a laugh. “If they will have me, and they don’t mind hearing the exact same material over and over again, sure.”
There’s already a comic who does that. Can’t say who it is, but (in the spirit of The Soup) his name rhymes with Ray Weno.