LOS ANGELES—If there's one thing I took away from the Paley Festival's Community panel on Wednesday night, it was this: Never try to upstage Chevy Chase. Seriously, just don't. Because no matter how old he is at that moment (co-star Ken Jeong pegs him at 186), he's always going to get the biggest laughs. He's just. that. good.
But Chase was only one of many, many funny people who took part in the Community panel. He was joined by creator and executive producer Dan Harmon; executive producers Neil Goldman, Russ Krasnoff, and Joe Russo; director Anthony Russo, and cast members Jeong, Gillian Jacobs, Joel McHale, and Donald Glover. The rest of the cast members, including Alison Brie, Yvette Nicole Brown and Danny Pudi were working and unable to attend, but honestly, I don't think any more people could have fit onto the stage.
Community isn't Lost, so the people in Wednesday's panel audience weren't there to have their burning questions answered. They were there to laugh, and they weren't let down. After screening tonight's new episode, which is easily one of the best so far, the cast and crew discussed their inspirations, working together, and—more often than not—Chevy effing Chase.
Joel McHale gets naked
Attention, Joel McHale fans: his character, Jeff Winger, strips all the way down in tonight's episode. This isn't HBO, so we don't see much, but that doesn't mean McHale didn't feel performance anxiety. "I shaved down," he admitted. He also confessed to getting a spray tan and going on what he called the "I'm going to be naked in two weeks" diet. The episode also contains a same-sex kiss, about which McHale deadpanned, "It's just odd to kiss someone who has stubble, because my wife shaves every day."
Art imitates life
Wondering how executive producer Dan Harmon came up with the idea for Community? Why, his own stint at community college, of course! And while Harmon did, in fact, take a Spanish class, his biology skills were what landed him in a study group much like the one on the show. He noted that he was skeptical at first: "You want to siphon my A, suck my genius juice out of the fuel tank." But he soon bonded with his fellow students and realized what a unique experience a community college study group could be.
A veteran of the original cast of Saturday Night Live, Chevy Chase was likely the most famous person on stage. "I hoped to be married and have a family and not have to count on any of this crap," he joked. As the other actors talked about auditioning and getting their parts, Chase continued to demonstrate the physical comedy that made his Gerald Ford impression on SNL so memorable... though after a while, he let everyone have their turn. Donald Glover was discovered through his work with the sketch group Derrick Comedy. "Also, Nick Cannon said no, right?" he asked Harmon. And Gillian Jacobs was thrilled to be cast as Britta, a character much closer to her real personality than most of the other roles she's taken. "I've played a lot of drug-addicted prostitutes," she said. "Look on IMDb!"
One big happy family... minus Chevy Chase
There was a clear rapport between the cast members on the stage. Jeong spent much of the evening guffawing and playing off of Chase. Everyone complimented one another repeatedly. As Harmon put it, "The cast, minus Chevy, is so nice." And true to form, Chase responded with, "I feel so young working with them. Well, no I don't, actually. I feel like an old shit." But the he let his curmudgeonly front down for some heartwarming sincerity, comparing the cast of Community to the original cast of Saturday Night Live before returning to the funny: "And what about [Joel McHale's] torso?"
I'm Chevy Chase, and you're not
Seriously, though, it always came back to Chase, who feigned sleep, gargled his water, and parroted Jeong. Annoying? Kind of. But he's Chevy Chase, and he's allowed to do whatever he wants. As one of the Russo brothers noted, "[Speaking] is impossible. I'm just gonna be upstaged by Chevy." The panel couldn't help themselves from revealing interesting tidbits about their comedy icon co-star, such as his proclivity for name-calling. "He is the funniest person on the set," McHale gushed, "and then he calls you a prick."
Next on Community
Again, this is not Lost—so no one was that tight-lipped about what's to come. The cast and crew insist that an upcoming episode in which Chase's character Pierce thinks he's a wizard is very funny. (Sounds like it.) Then there's Katharine McPhee's upcoming guest appearance. Finally, Harmon teased a conceptual episode that cost much of Community's budget: a 22-minute sitcom version of an action movie that inspired Glover to pipe up. "Anytime I get to say 'Get some, bitches,' in something, it's gonna be good," Glover said. "I don't care if it's a show or a family reunion."
Follow TV.com writer Louis Peitzman on Twitter: @LouisAtTVDotCom