Joel McHale talks ‘Community’ movie: ‘Can you believe this is happening?’

Joel McHale said his new Fox sitcom, “Animal Control,” is a “different take” on the workplace comedy genre.

“I thought maybe someone had done it, but they hadn’t,” McHale, 51, told The Post. “I was like, ‘That’s a good sign that it seems like this could have and should have been done.’ Let’s be the first ones to do it!’” 

Airing Thursdays at 9 p.m., the sitcom follows the personal and professional lives of Frank (McHale) — a cranky ex-cop who works for Animal Control in Seattle — and his co-workers: friendly-but- gullible former snowboarder Fred (Michael Rowland); party-girl Victoria (Grace Palmer); frazzled family man Amit (Ravi Patel); and their nervous and insecure boss Emily (Vella Lovell, “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend”), who Frank likes because he thinks that she’s easy to manipulate. 

Victoria (Grace Palmer), Frank (Joel McHale) and Amit (Ravi Patel) in "Animal Control" stand in a line in an office, smiling.
Victoria (Grace Palmer), Frank (Joel McHale) and Amit (Ravi Patel) in “Animal Control.”
Bettina Strauss

Joel McHale stands in the middle of ostriches.
Frank (Joel McHale) gets his feathers ruffled in “Animal Control.”
Sergei Bachlakov

“The cast really is an extraordinary group of actors. I’m so excited about them, and I hope the series continues because they’re so phenomenal,” McHale said. “I don’t doubt that they’re going to become big huge stars.”

McHale is no stranger to playing snarky and/or cynical characters. His resume includes the manipulative Jeff Winger on “Community,” a grifter on “Sons of Anarchy” and a ruthless, in-your-face chef in “The Bear.”

Joel McHale, Alison Brie, Yvette Nicole Brown, Gillian Jacobs, Danny Pudi in "Community" sitting around a table.
Joel McHale, Alison Brie, Yvette Nicole Brown, Gillian Jacobs, Danny Pudi in “Community.”
©NBC/Courtesy Everett Collection

Frank (Joel McHale) with Fred (Michael Rowland) in "Animal Control" looking serious walking down a sidewalk.
Frank (Joel McHale) with Fred (Michael Rowland) in “Animal Control.”

“I’m very sarcastic, and now my two sons are very sarcastic, so that has come back to haunt me in a big way,” he said. “I was asking for it. So, I think that’s the part where I relate to Frank. I like characters that are somewhat [morally grey]. Playing somebody like that is fun. He’s someone who is deeply unsatisfied, and is reluctantly trying to work on it.” 

In each episode of “Animal Control,” the team deals with a variety of critters, from foxes to weasels to ostriches. McHale said he found himself in his element.

“If you ask my wife, she was like, ‘This is truly the perfect job for you.’ I love animals, I have three dogs now, and we have a rabbit,” he said. “When I was younger, I worked at a Catholic CYO camp, and they had a horse camp part of that … for summers, I was a wrangler-in-training and I helped lead trail rides and water the horse and put saddles on them. I’m thrilled by that stuff. And I’ve been hosting the Beastly Ball at the LA Zoo for the last five years. If my wife would let me, I’d be bringing animals home every week. I’m not allowed to … anymore.” 

Joel McHale smirking and holding his arms out standing in an office.
Frank (Joel McHale) in the office.
Sergei Bachlakov

Joel McHale in an office typing on a computer.
Frank (Joel McHale) gets to work on “Animal Control.”
Sergei Bachlakov

“Animal Control” uses a mix of puppets, CGI and real animals. But even for a self-proclaimed animal lover like McHale, there were some furry co-workers that took getting used to. 

“I had never worked with a tarantula before,” he said. “And once I got over the initial ‘This is something I’ve been nervous about,’ once I got to know her – her name is Gretchen – I fell in love.”

In addition to “Animal Control,” McHale hosts the Fox cooking competition series “Crime Scene Kitchen” and he’s also starring in and producing the “Community” movie that’s resurrecting the cult show. 

“We’re planning on shooting it this summer,” said McHale. “I know the outline for the script [and] it’s on track now to happen. Peacock has given us the money. We still are all kind of like ‘Can you believe this is actually happening?’”