Interviewing the entire cast of Community together is a fool's errand, but a fortunate fool's. Ken Jeong, who plays professor-turned-student Señor Chang, wears only a navy bathrobe. "You've been off camera for an hour and you can't even put a shirt on," jokingly scolds Gillian Jacobs (the often brittle Britta). Jeong deadpans, "There goes the buzzkill — it's all about her."
Try keeping up with these people. Inevitably, they'll one-up each other with one-liners — particularly Chevy Chase (cranky Pierce) and Joel McHale, The Soup host who serves up snark as study-group ringleader Jeff. They're a friendly bunch — Donald Glover (sensitive jock Troy) offers the most thoughtful insights, while Yvette Nicole Brown (pregnant born-again Christian Shirley) tries to help the interviewer get in a question or two. Danny Pudi (quirky Abed) and Alison Brie (perky Annie) are bright and polite.
The sitcom about an eccentric group at a low-rent college averages only 4.5 million viewers against American Idol and The Big Bang Theory. Still, NBC renewed it for a third season, thanks to an avid and demographically desirable audience who appreciates its beyond-meta comedy, skewed but dead-on characterizations and inspired and ambitious genre parodies. The April 21 episode satirizes the prime-time staple known as "the clip show" — "It's flashbacks to things that never happened," Jacobs explains. Winningly supportive of one another, the cast dissects the Little Show That Could.
TV Guide Magazine: Community has changed a lot since the pilot. How would you describe its evolution?
Jeong: It was initially a show about the Korean War, right?
Chase: [Creator] Dan Harmon has lost his mind. He needs some sort of psychiatric treatment.
Glover: The show has become more Dan. Dan is a loving guy who is awkward about it, and so the show is very awkwardly loving.
Jacobs: This was the only pilot I ever did where the script got better from the day I was cast. Every other pilot got worse and worse as the writer had to deal with studio and network notes.
Brown: Dan tends to take bits and pieces of all of us and sprinkle them into the show. He has us play off each other the same way we play off each other in real life. They're writing to our individual quirks, and that's why the characters feel more real.
TV Guide Magazine: What's been your favorite description that you've read of the show?
Brie: It's nice when people say it's obvious that our real-life chemistry is spilling onto the screen.
Jacobs: I found this Craigslist posting where someone said, "I want to start a study group like on Community — I've already called dibs on Abed. I'm looking for a Jeff, Britta, Pierce, Shirley and Annie."
Glover: I thought it would be funny for me to show up and say, "I want to be Abed." What would he do? I thought the best compliment we ever got was when someone said we were like The Simpsons. That means longevity, like you can do anything.
PUDI: Anytime someone says, "I know someone exactly like you." It's a very cool thing to give someone a voice, particularly someone who doesn't have many characters representing them on television.
MCHALE: My favorite was after the Claymation Christmas episode, one reviewer [said], "Those a--holes made me cry."
TV Guide Magazine: The characters, especially Abed, are so aware of sitcom conventions. Will someone address the fact that Shirley having a baby is a potential jump-the-shark moment?
McHale: That's probably why Dan did it. We approach things like that like a battleship — we go right into the storm. [To Glover] What was that line you had about the words "Jump the shark?"
Glover: "There was an episode of Happy Days where the Fonz jumps over a shark, and it was the best episode ever!"
McHale: I wonder how many times they think we've jumped the shark on the jump-the-shark website?
Brie: Every episode.
TV Guide Magazine: Where will your characters be at their 20-year college reunion?
Chase: You'd be around my gravestone [imitating incessant weeping].
McHale: But then you'd walk up behind us and say, "Hey, I just bought a plot, a--holes!"
Chase: I'm the luckiest guy, because I'm with a very talented, funny group of youngsters. I've been doing this a long time, and I've been with some very funny people, but these talented kids bring out the best of me.
Brie/Brown: [Just as they would do on the show] Awww!
McHale: [To Chase] Can you follow that up with a d--- joke?
Community airs Thursdays at 8/7c on NBC.