Joel McHale Hosts the 2015 ESPYs—and Adds a Soupçon of Comedy

Rob Moynihan
Justin Stephens for TV Guide Magazine

Joel McHale, highlights, TVGM

For the past 11 years, Joel McHale has perfected the art of skewering pop culture and reality television as the host of E!’s The Soup. But tonight, the comedian steps into a totally different arena as host of the 2015 ESPYS, honoring the year’s most elite athletes across the wide world of sports. Here, McHale fields a few questions about the gig.

What is your sports background?

Well, I did a lot of luge, jai alai, downhill running and horse breaking. No. All I did as a kid was play sports because I was so bad in school and I was way too competitive. I played a lot of basketball, and in college, at the University of Washington, I played football very poorly. My wife and I are planning on climbing Mt. Rainier next week, so we’re going to do some mountaineering.

Which major sports stories will you address in your monologue?

We’ll hit the Triple Crown, the Super Bowl, the Golden State Warriors and Deflategate—though the overplay on that story has reached maximum. I’m sure we’ll talk about FIFA and the Women’s World Cup and probably someone who is very dominant in her sport, like [UFC champion] Ronda Rousey. To do my job, you poke fun at the hand that’s feeding you, so we’ll probably make fun of ESPN, too.

Do athletes have thicker skin than actors when it comes to taking a joke?

Athletes probably take more crap than other performers by a mile. The very nature of them playing an away game makes them the enemy. They take more abuse than actors do because of that alone.

Olympic decathlon gold medalist Caitlyn Jenner will accept the Arthur Ashe Courage Award. You’ve joked about her and her family for years, so what are your thoughts about Caitlyn receiving this honor?

It really has divided people, but there’s no doubt that what Caitlyn did was courageous after all those years of feeling trapped. There’s also no denying that when she was Bruce, what she did at the Olympics was an insane accomplishment. You’d have a harder time finding a more famous American athlete in the ’70s. He was an American hero, and he defined the Wheaties box. There are so many deserving athletes, but this year it’s Caitlyn, and there is no statute of limitations on her accomplishments.

Does this mean you’re done making fun of her?

Oh, no. If you are making money on your own reality-TV show, you are fair game. When the news broke, our first joke on The Soup was, “Thank God there’s finally a chick in the Kardashian family who knows how to go easy on the eyeliner.”

The 2015 ESpYs 8/7c, ABC