Joel McHale Takes On the CFDA Awards: ‘Everyone Should Be Ready’


Photo

Joel McHale, the master of ceremonies for the
Council of Fashion Designers of America awards, in an appearance at the White House Correspondents’ Association Dinner in Washington in May.


Credit
Gabriella Demczuk for The New York Times

The Council of Fashion Designers of America awards, a.k.a. the Oscars of fashion, taking place Monday night at the Hammerstein Ballroom in New York, can feel like Groundhog Day, with the same names nominated over and over again. This year, every nominee for women’s wear designer of the year has already won that accolade at least once. And one, Marc Jacobs, has already won a lifetime achievement award.

However, there will be one wild card: the host, Joel McHale. Unlike past hosts — like James Corden, star of “The Late Late Show” and select Burberry ads, at last year’s event, or Seth Meyers, “Late Night” supremo and Vogue subject who hosted in 2012 — Mr. McHale, formerly the host of “The Soup” on E!, is not famously an F.o.F. (Friend of Fashion). On announcing the choice, Steven Kolb, chief executive of the CFDA, specifically identified Mr. McHale as “someone who comes from outside the fashion industry” and noted that it would “keep the night lively, topical and unexpected.”

Unexpected, eh? Fashion, an industry that likes to control its image above all else, is not famous for its love of the unexpected.

And Mr. McHale’s last two hosting gigs, the ESPY Awards in 2015 and the White House Correspondents’ Association dinner in 2014, were notable for their acerbic tone and close-to-the-bone zingers. Which is putting it mildly. New York magazine’s Vulture blog categorized the ESPY appearance as “very, very, controversial” (Bill Cosby was one of the targets), and The Washington Post called the correspondents’ show “brutal” and said Mr. McHale was “out for blood” (especially when it came to Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey).

So how afraid should fashion be? After all, it is a pretty big potential target. Mr. McHale let slip a few clues during a phone interview on Friday before the awards.

How the job came about: “I don’t know. It’s a logical next step after the ESPYs, right? I met Anna Wintour once at the Met Ball in 2015. I got invited because Yahoo was a host and they were streaming a show I was on. I said, ‘Hi, can I come back next year?’ and she said, ‘It depends how you behave.’ ”

What to expect at the CFDAs: “Everyone should be ready. If you don’t have a sense of humor about yourself, you’re not going to enjoy it. It’s a pretty short monologue, so it has to be packed. I’m not going to be like, ‘Now I will take this person out for the next two minutes.’ On the other hand, it would be very strange for me to do a lot of jokes complimenting my subject. I went after [Robert] De Niro at the White House dinner. Of all the people to go after, you go after the national treasure? But he got it. It shows power and maturity. The job is not to be first mean, then funny. Then I’ve failed. But if you are pointing out truths, hopefully people laugh.”

Pointing out some truths about him and fashion: “It’s pretty impossible to out-absurd some of the fashion that exists. But I think it gets unfairly made fun of. People care deeply about what they wear, and they spend a lot of money on it. Clothes are certainly something I care about. Like sports. Growing up, it mattered to me very much what I looked like. I always wanted some jeans my parents would not buy me. As soon as I had some money, I went out and bought five pairs of Air Jordan 5s. My wife doesn’t buy any clothes for me now, because I am very picky.”

What he wears now: “When we did ‘The Soup,’ I was very concerned about what we were wearing; I thought we needed cool suits. When I am not on camera, I wear a lot of workout clothes. I like John Elliott — the clothes are very comfortable, and I can wear them on stage when I am doing standup. A Japanese denim line called Prospective Flow. Public School, Burberry, Zegna. I am wearing David Hart for the CFDAs. They offered a number of designers and he seemed cool, and lived up to his coolness. He made the suit for me, and I was as excited as a six-year-old. My wife is wearing Prabal Gurung.”

On the relationship of clothes and fame: “I wore Burberry to the White House Correspondents’ dinner. They offered. They also dressed my wife, and threw in some of those cool Burberry trench coats. You can almost measure the growth of your profile by how many big brands start offering to dress you.”

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