At the dysfunctional heart of NBC's Community is a series of love-hate relationships between Jeff (Joel McHale), Senor Chang (Ken Jeong)—and the rest of Jeff's ragtag study group, for that matter. The freshman comedy had Ivy League standards to meet when scheduled to air before upperclassmen like The Office and 30 Rock . Halfway through the first season, the students of Greendale Community College have already made going back to school the most hilarious it's been since Rodney Dangerfield tried it in the '80s.
McHale—who's pulling double duty as host of E!'s The Soup —headlines the talented ensemble cast that includes comedy legend Chevy Chase. "It's like working with Nolan Ryan. He's older than everybody; he's got the best stories. He has worked way more than any of us, but he still throws it harder than any of us," he says. "We have a lot to learn from that guy, and it's so weird to be walking around with this kind of icon and legend that you grew up with."
But the show's secret weapon is newcomer Jeong, who's developing a reputation as a Hollywood scene-stealer. A real-life doctor before his breakout role as an big-screen doctor in Knocked Up , he's best known for baring it all as a kidnapped drug dealer in The Hangover . "Ken just makes everybody step up their game, that's the thing," McHale says. "He's touched by God or something."
A huge fan of the pilot, Jeong says he was thrilled to have been made a cast member after Community 's second episode. "It's the only set that I've worked on where the director gives me notes and then immediately right after that Joel McHale is kind enough to give me pages of notes," he jokes. "I carve out like 15 minutes between each take and I just accept it."
But don't believe everything you see on TV. Frenemies on screen, McHale and Jeong have bonded in real life over balancing a hit show and fatherhood. McHale has two boys at home, and Jeong is the proud dad of twin girls. "He epitomizes grace under pressure, and it's just great for me to watch that," Jeong says. "I mean, I'm being polite to him at this very moment so I hope you edit this out. I don't want the media knowing how much I admire him. I really think it will ruin the relationship."