On the set of Crime Scene Kitchen (which airs Wednesdays on FOX and which you can stream on Hulu), Joel McHale‘s job is to be the ringleader of a competition cooking show where contestants try to analyze scattered ingredients and clues to guess the desserts that they’re supposed to make. Also, sometimes he gently toys with and lightly tortures them. Very lightly. For fun!
His (and my) job during this interview, on the other hand?
Not being distracted by my toy shelf (this is becoming a problem) and discussing the art and science and miracle of baking when we both really just want to talk about the eating part. Does he succeed? Kinda, with little help from me. What I can say is, we go into the DNA of the show, discuss Kelly Clarkson, murder, more murder, Batman, the virtue of perseverance when cooking the meats, and how wedding cakes can predict the viability of a marriage. If you dig on that sort of interview mayhem, check it out!
So, you’re hosting a baking competition show, how does this come together?
Well, I entered the baking competition show lottery…
Boy, I think it’s a combination of the fact that I appeared on The Masked Singer and I Can See Your Voice, and I did the New Year’s Eve thing for Fox. That’s been over a few years, and I do love cooking, as evidenced by my Instagram. And secretly I love baked goods, but I just have to be very careful with that. Unless you’re hosting a baking show where you eat 16 desserts a day, which — when somebody gave me that green light, I went for it like a lemming does the cliff.
So, yeah. If I wasn’t an actor or host, I would probably be working for Curtis Stone in his restaurant.
Are you just on a treadmill like 24/7 to try to work it all off?
[Laughs] Yes. I’m opening a new bakery where it’s just treadmills, and it’s a zero-sum baked goods thing where you walk in, you’re like, “Oh, you would like a piece of carrot cake? Terrific. Hop on there for the next two hours, and you will have no guilt.”
That sounds like something we could see legitimately within the next couple of years.
I’ll do it.
I did see you had a couple of appearances baking beside Kelly Clarkson. Is that intimidating?
Everything is intimidating next to Kelly Clarkson. I don’t know if you’ve interviewed her, but she’s the bee’s knees. She is the gal that when she walks into a party, you go, “Oh, now it’s a party.” I mean, obviously, she’s insanely talented, and it was no joke that she freaking won American Idol when 25 million people were tuning in every couple of nights. The room is a little bit brighter when she’s in it. And so, I joke around a lot with her, but I highly recommend interviewing her. And Gonzo [alluding to a Muppet on my bookcase].
I’ve interviewed Dave Goelz, the voice of Gonzo, so close enough.
Have you interviewed Frank Oz?
Not yet. I will have to add him to my list. Not that I have a list. That would make me sound like a serial killer.
It would be great if you did have a list, you interviewed people and then murdered them. I wonder how long you could keep that show going before you’d be caught?
That’s my Facebook Watch original show idea that I’m going to put into play, actually.
I’ll tune in. I mean, sure. It’s all evidence and I would be a witness, but still.
Where does the evidence aspect of Crime Scene Kitchen come into play, by the way?
That’s called a transition!
And I applaud you on that! That shows that we are both professionals. So I think like with The Masked Singer and I Can See Your Voice, ultimately, it’s kind of a fascinating unboxing video. People want to know what’s behind or what is that thing, and that’s kind of the same idea. There’s a kitchen, they leave a little bit of cocoa powder. “Oh, there’s some fondant” or “oh, there’s a whisk of a certain type.” Some things are open, some things are not, and [you can tell] something was baked there. So they have to go figure that out in two minutes. And then they have a couple of hours to recreate that thing. All while trying to solve an actual murder. Well, not the murder part… but close.
Look, my heart is basically just a ball-bearing. I don’t really have one, but I genuinely was getting excited, not only to eat these things, but you would be amazed at how close people get. And of course, how they miss it. And there are incredibly well-trained bakers who have schooling, went to France, did all that stuff, and then people who were self-taught, and you’d be amazed at how successful and unsuccessful both of those groups are. So, it’s not like it was like, “Oh, all the trained bakers won.”
I’m going to make a creative suggestion. Instead of placing the evidence throughout a kitchen, just put it on a fat guy’s shirt, like track the stains on my shirt.
[Laughs] Wow, I cannot say that out loud but thank you.
I get to say it because I am fat.
I will make this official. I’m going to pay you for that joke. I will be using that joke later. Definitely in stand-ups, so I want to thank you in advance for that, and I am absolutely going to be plagiarizing.
That’s fine. That’s totally fine. I stole from The Soup for years.
Oh, well then we’re even.
I’m trying to think of some baking-specific questions.
Oh, well, don’t worry about that. I did not know much about baking, is what I’ll say.
I’m not asking specifics about how to bake. I don’t know it either. I’m talking about the consumption portion of it. You’re a fit guy. Did you consider bulking up for this?
[Laughs] I basically did the opposite. I basically starved myself, because we were eating a lot and you can’t be some a-hole that just takes one bite, and then, because I’m not the… I mean, Yolanda Gampp and Curtis Stone were the judges, and they truly are like scientists. They know their shit so well. I’m genuinely excited to eat these things, and you can’t just take one bite and go, “I know.” So I really enjoyed them, and I thought, “How often does this happen, where I have 16 desserts a day?” So… A couple of times, I really did have to go lie down on a couch and just let the sugar cascade out of my system, because at one point I was like, “Oh, boy, so this is like drinking.” I was enjoying it so much.
But I will say, I knew that baking was difficult, but the complexity of getting it all right, I swear to you is like trying to make The Godfather over and over again, because if you screw up one little thing, they’re like, “Well, you know what happened here?” People are like, “Yeah, I know.” I’m like, “What?” They’re like, “You let your egg whites cook for more than three minutes, and that just ruined the whole thing, and now I can taste it.” And I’m like, “I can’t.”
The precision is bananas. So, it’s like ice skating.
Do you have a preference: pie versus cake?
I think cake has been so adulterated in America. Is that the right word? I did not know what it was like to have a certain quality of cake. The world of cakes has been opened up to me and I’m like, “Bring it on. It’s so good.” I think wedding cake is probably one of the worst versions of cake, unless you get a really good baker. I went to a wedding one time where they served ice cream wedding cake, and it was the only time I’ve seen people go back for a second.
Like a big Fudgie the Whale or like a custom?
So it was a custom wedding cake, and each layer was half ice cream, half cake. So when you cut into that thing, you got a piece of, like it was cake on one side, ice cream on the other, and it was like vanilla cake and chocolate ice cream. And I was just like, “Thank you, Jesus.”
That’s a couple that’s going to make it. They know how to compromise.
They are still married.
See. You can tell from the cake.
So, I saw you were on Fallon and, you were talking about making the perfect ribeye. Any more cooking tips… beyond baking, where you’ve established that you’re more of a consumer than a craftsman, which is, again, completely understandable.
It’s like, I love wine. I love it. And I have a lot of it and I know about it somewhat, but when people are like, “Hey, are you going to make your own wine?” I was like, “No way.” You have to be so educated and so good. It’s a lifetime. I was like, “What?” Every time I hear about a freaking actor making their own wine, I’m just like, “They’re not.” The only actor I know, I think there are three actors… I know Kyle MacLachlan can actually make wine. He knows how to do it. He’s good at it, and it’s a whole skillset. Kurt Russell, I think makes his own. I think he kind of makes it. Emilio Estevez can actually make wine.
I think Sam Neill is also on that list.
Sam, yes. But you could make the argument that Sam Neill has kind of stepped away from acting to pursue the perfect Shiraz. He is definitely a scientist, as well. Anyway, so with ribeye… what were you saying about ribeyes? [Laughs]
I have no fucking idea. [Laughs]
Here’s what I’ll say: I love cooking steaks. It drives my wife out of her mind, because she’s like, “I wouldn’t even eat steak if I wasn’t married to you.” And I was like, “25 years married. Let’s eat some steak.” But the great thing about steak is that you can undercook it and be okay, and put it right back on the stove or in the oven, but if you overcook it, then you’re an abomination and should be taken out back.
When I test out my jokes for stand-up, I do the same joke like 10 shows in a row to get the joke going and to get the bit going, so I will do a bone-in ribeye brown butter thing, which is what I told Fallon to do. I’ve done that now like I don’t know, 50 times just so I can get it right. It’s actually a pretty easy recipe. I think people get a little scared. But the more you practice, I mean, it makes perfect sense. The more you practice it, the easier it is.
I’m out of questions.
I like that. That’s fine. I got questions for you. This is good. I can’t tell if that’s…I think it’s Batman. For a moment I thought it was Darth Vader, but it’s definitely Batman. [he’s talking about my bookcase again]
Many Batmans. Too many Batmans.
Who’s your favorite Batman?
The Keaton era movie one, because it’s the first one for me.
I was in high school when those started coming out. I’m sure you weren’t even born, but I was on the football team, and the band would play the theme to Batman while it was raining in Seattle, and I was just like, “This is the coolest high school band of all time.”
You know what would’ve been cooler? If they played “Partyman.” From the soundtrack, that would’ve been cooler if they would’ve done that.
They played Batdance by Prince.
That’s pretty cool. That’s up there.
Are you excited? I’m actually very excited for Robert Pattinson’s Batman because I think he is a tremendous actor, and after watching him in Tenet, I was just like, “This guy can do anything. He’s amazing.”
I’m very excited for it. I think he’s a tremendous actor. That movie he made with the Safdie Brothers is really good. So good I forget the name of it.
I was going to say, he played Kevin Garnett and I was like, “Wow. That’s amazing.”
So much range. You look at Pattinson and you think he’s more of a Stephon Marbury type of actor, but no, he elevated.
Oi, Kevin Garnett, he did a great job in Uncut Gems. Also that guy, the kind of older enforcer guy who was not an actor was incredible.
Yes. A lot of those people weren’t actors actually. It’s really incredible.
Seth Rogen said it, that comedy, and this is going to say ‘woe is me’ because I’ve obviously made a living doing comedy, but comedy’s always like the last on the list of anything that gets honored, and I couldn’t agree more, because when I look at Sandler’s performance in Uncut Gems, it’s Oscar-worthy. Of course, he should have won and he should be nominated for a lot of things he’s done. But that performance was incredible, and it just gets written off as, “oh, it’s Adam Sandler.” And because he is such an insanely successful comedian, it gets overlooked, because that movie is a masterpiece. I mean, not only is it well made obviously, but the performances are amazing. Now, I’ll keep talking about this.
This has reached the point in the article where no one’s actually going to be reading anymore, so it’s fine.
I think that happened about half an hour ago.
New episodes of ‘Crime Scene Kitchen’ air Wednesdays at 9 on FOX