To Joel McHale, revenge is not a dish best served cold, but one dealt out weekly with a healthy ladle of percolating Soup.
For nearly a decade, the 41-year-old comedian — armed with little more than a green screen, a video monitor and a boyishly wicked smile — has delivered his brand of payback on E!'s The Soup against Jersey Shore, The Bachelor franchise, all things Kardashian and a host of other outrageous reality programs.
The series, known as Talk Soup before McHale took over in 2004, has become one of the most durable comedy vehicles for the cable network, the home of the Kim Kardashian TV empire and Chelsea Handler's late-night talk show.
The program, which showcases McHale's sharp wit and charm, helped catapult him into a lead role on NBC's cult-favorite sitcom Community and a role in Seth MacFarlane's Ted.
Wednesday marked an impressive milestone for The Soup when the show, which pulls in a weekly average audience of about 1 million viewers, aired its 500th episode — live.
The live performances are a departure for McHale and crew. Although it is tightly scripted, the production inside its small studio is a loose, no-frills affair played out in front of a small but loudly exuberant audience.
McHale and his guests, who have ranged from female wrestlers on E!'s Total Divas to NBC News anchor Brian Williams, pointedly read their lines from a TelePrompTer.
McHale's current favorite targets for derision are ABC's reality-murder mystery Whodunit ("where contestants are fake-murdered and the other contestants have to be fake-scared ... while audiences have to pretend to be brain-dead to enjoy it") and Fox News anchor Shepard Smith, who McHale maintains appears to be obsessed with the HBO vampire series True Blood.
Six writers and 11 others on the production staff scour the airwaves, looking for appropriately shocking clips to feature on the show. One reason for the show's longevity, said executive producer K.P. Anderson, is its deliberately low production values. "We're so incredibly cheap, they don't drop us."
Even though the show skewers reality stars and other celebrities, McHale delivers his lines good-naturedly without flavoring the barbs with snark or nastiness.
And he has earned good will from past victims. In fact, instead of ducking The Soup, "every single reality star I've ever met has wanted to be on," McHale said.
He even has a warm spot in his heart for the Kardashian clan, although fans of The Soup might not be able to tell from the show's almost routine skewering of the family. Kris Jenner used to complain to then-network head Ted Harbert about some of the barbs: "She really didn't like me bringing up that Kim had a sex tape."
But he said, "The secret weapon of the Kardashians is that they're very nice people. And they are not dumb."
Apparently, he said, the family is not as sensitive anymore: "I think after they made their first billion, they stopped caring."
Although previous hosts of the franchise — Greg Kinnear, Aisha Tyler and Kentucky native Hal Sparks left when their careers took off — McHale, who is about to go into production on what is expected to be the last season of Community, has no plans to exit.
"I have a 50-year plan — not going anywhere," he said with a smile. "It's too much fun."
10 p.m. Wed. on E!