Scratch & Sniff: ‘Spy Kids’ Star Joel McHale Stinks Up Theaters

Joel McHale (Jason Merritt/Getty)

Funnyman Joel McHale makes his biggest film appearance to date in the fourth installment of Robert Rodriguez’s “Spy Kids” series, “Spy Kids: All the Time in the World.” The 39-year-old actor and comedian, best known as the host of the weekly E! show, “The Soup,” and the NBC comedy “Community,” plays spy-hunting reporter Wilbur Wilson, who is clueless that his wife, played by Jessica Alba, is a retired spy. Wilbur doesn’t know it, but their kids are about to become the next generation of tiny spies.

I caught up with McHale for a conversation about the new movie, on-set guitar solos, laundry-based television and what it’s like to scratch ‘n sniff him. Trust me, it’s not appetizing.

David Onda: Your career is comprised of very different types of projects. Was that something calculated?

Joel McHale: No, that’s just kind of how it all happened. My first few years here in L.A., all I wanted was to work. And when, finally, people started giving me work, I wasn’t about to give it up. People are like, “You’re doing a kids’ movie?” And I’m like, “Well, it’s an opportunity to work with Robert Rodriguez, and I would never ever turn that down.”

Onda: You have two kids—is it exciting to be in a movie they can watch?

McHale: Yeah, it is. The other ones I’ve done, they wouldn’t want to see them, because they would not get them and not be interested in them. They don’t run over to watch the “Informant!” And I don’t think they’re going to be too excited about “What’s Your Number?” with Anna Faris, because, so far, the three-year-old hasn’t expressed interest in romantic comedies.

Onda: Which of your jobs shows a side of Joel McHale that is most like your persona outside of Hollywood?

McHale: Well, “The Soup” is me, so that would show the closest side of me. Because it is me, telling jokes about things. In “Community,” people are like “You’re just playing yourself!” And I’m like, “I am not a single womanizer, last time I checked.” I don’t know. There’s still not a show where they show me playing Legos with a three- and six-year-old, or doing laundry. But I’ll pitch that show if it’s interesting. Somehow Seacrest knew that the Kardashians would be interesting, and they don’t do anything.

Onda: What is it about Robert Rodriguez? Period.

McHale: He’s got this gene or that thing—and I can brag saying that I’ve worked with a number of directors who have it—they all have this same gene where they know what the movie is, they’re completely confident about the tone of the movie and they know what it needs to be. And there’s no question of that, there’s no panic, there’s no wavering. And Robert Rodriguez knows exactly what he wants, and when he gets it he moves on. And he plays guitar in-between takes. And he’ll be like, “Hey Joel, this is what’s going to be playing during this scene,” because he’s composing the freaking score during it. He knows what he wants, he knows how to get it and he’s a great storyteller.

Onda: Audiences who come to see “Spy Kids 4” will get a scratch ‘n sniff card called “Aroma-scope,” which will allow them to smell moments in the movie. I was thinking that would be a great gimmick for “Community.”

McHale: Oh! Yes, it would. But it being Greendale, it would probably just smell like moldy paintballs everywhere. Moldy paintballs and monkey droppings.

Onda: Do we get to smell you in the movie?

McHale: You definitely get to smell me, and it’s a cross between strawberries and clam juice. It’s very off-putting. It’s really just a combination of really cheap shampoo and what I fell asleep eating the night before.

Onda: The film’s villain, played by Jeremy Piven, has a major beef with people who waste time. If you didn’t have the responsibilities of being a father and husband, what would you waste time doing?

McHale: Video games. By a mile. All I would do is play video games. Actually, being a father and having to be responsible has kept me away from them in a healthy way. I mean, If I didn’t [have responsibilities], I’d just play all day and all night. You’d lose track of me. I would lose track of myself. I would probably be 900 pounds. That and wine tasting. I would just drink a lot of wine.

The opinions expressed are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Comcast.

The opinions expressed are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Comcast.

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