March 15, 2012 at 9:46 AM ET
The long wait is almost over for fans who've spent much of the last three months petitioning, flash mobbing and hoping for more "Community." On Thursday night the comedy series returns to NBC's primetime lineup. For Joel McHale, the man at the head of the ensemble action, it's a chance to repay that fan loyalty.
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McHale visited TODAY on Thursday morning to talk about the show and the support it received during its absence.
"It was amazing," he said of the viewer response to "Community's" unplanned, mid-season break. "They had a flash mob outside here where people wore the Abed-evil-timeline goatees -- for those of you at home who have no idea what that is. They sang all the Christmas songs we had in our 'Glee' parody episode. They did it all around the country, and we couldn't believe it."
Especially when that response didn't die down after the first few weeks.
"I didn't realize it would continue," McHale said. "Again, it's only gotten louder. It's great. I can't believe it. I would kiss each and every one of them, if I could wash properly afterwards."
The busy actor -- seriously, as TODAY host Matt Lauer pointed out, McHale has little free time between "Community," his E! roundup "The Soup," and his standup career -- somehow still finds time for his own guilty pleasures on the boob tune.
"'Hillbilly Handfishin'!" he joked -- well, maybe it was a joke. "That's a real show -- hillbillies in a river, pulling catfish out of mudholes!"
Later McHale showed up for drinks and fun with Kathie Lee Gifford and Hoda Kotb.
For more laughs with McHale, tune in to "Community" Thursday night at 8 p.m. ET on NBC.
"Community" fans, what have you missed most about the show? Tell us all about it on our Facebook page.
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