Whenever Dean Craig Pelton appears on screen, "Community" fans know they're in for a treat.
Whether he's dressed like Lady Gaga for Halloween or trying to make Greendale Community College a better place by designing a gender-neutral mascot (The Human Being), the dean is a perversely hilarious character who often delivers some of the show's best lines.
It's hard to believe that actor Jim Rash (who plays the well-meaning dean) was actually one of the last people cast for the show. He also had no idea how crazy the character would wind up becoming when the show first began.
"I think he's this person who's trying so hard to make this school bigger and better and feel like he's accomplished something," Rash said. "He's so desperate to win that it would be nice to see him have a small victory in some capacity."
The actor is open to whatever the writers decide do with the character — over the course of the series, viewers have seen him don a number of outlandish costumes. But he is often surprised by the writers' choices for the character.
"We'll be at the table for the read and I'll be flipping through, getting a good idea of what's going on, and then there's always a great shock to the description of what I might be wearing as I approach," Rash explained with a laugh.
While the dean may just be a supporting character on the show, he's the star of the "Community" webisodes. The "Dean Pelton's Office Hours" series follows the dean when he's not interacting with the show's main characters. Set in his office, the webisodes showcase more of his well-meaning but inappropriate attempts to make Greendale a better place.
As strange as the dean is, Rash is no stranger to playing oddballs on television. He has previously appeared as a recurring character on television comedies such as "That '70s Show," "American Dad" and "Reno 911!" and guest starred on many more. However, he first got into comedy when he auditioned to get into The Groundlings Theatre in L.A. He has been a member of this improv troupe for 11 years. He credits his spot-on comedic timing to the improv he teaches and practices there.
"Within acting the key is to be ready for anything and sharpening your listening skills," Rash said. "Improv certainly has helped with honing comedic skills and feeling like you can be in the moment, which I think improv is always about."
And for all his work on-screen, the actor can now add screen-writer to his résumé as well. He and his writing partner Nat Faxon have adapted Kaui Hart Hemmings' novel "The Descendants" into a movie starring George Clooney and directed by Alexander Payne which will be coming out later this year. Both writers are currently working on a new pilot for HBO.
Until then, Rash is excited to continue playing the dean.
I love him. He gets some awesome lines. And I never realized how much he looks like Moby.