In Praise Of ‘The Jeff Winger Speech’ On ‘Community’

Community - Season 5
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You know the trope: the smartass whose coolness washes over the fact that he’s a womanizing dick with a terrible work ethic suddenly sees the light and assembles his gang of followers and lights their burners with an inspired bit of oration, cementing himself as the group’s de facto leader and the hero of our show, film, whatever…

Look at Bill Murray in Meatballs or Stripes for examples, or look at Joel McHale’s work on Community and the many speeches he delivered to his study group, inspiring unity and action. In essence, McHale’s Jeff Winger is the spawn of so many Murray characters. A point of origin that Community creator Dan Harmon has made known he wanted to make literal on the show before the “Gas Leak Year” and the casting of James Brolin as Jeff’s dad put the ultimate kibosh on that.

But while we’ll never get a Winger/Murray moment (or maybe we will. Who knows with that show), we can still celebrate the very best Winger speeches, especially today as McHale readies to host The ESPY’s, an awards show dedicated to athletes — a group of people who thrive on Winger-esque locker room speeches, albeit ones with a bit more profanity.

“I hereby pronounce you a community”

This is Pullman in Independence Day-level speechifying. This is the moment the Avengers stopped squabbling and assembled.

“I want to say some names to you…”

Jeff’s way with words is clearly a leftover benefit of his years as a lawyer. Here, he takes an obviously flawed defendant and tries to spin him as a safer option to the group due to his hatred for Rich, the always smiling kettle-corn having monster. Basically, the crux of Jeff’s speech is, “The devil you know, am-I-rite?” but if that was all he said, it wouldn’t be a Winger Speech, now would it?

“I think we’ve evolved beyond reliance on a group at all. Aren’t we just actual friends now no matter where we are. You know what’s magic about this table? It magically keeps our books from falling on the floor. The table’s for studying, but as friends we’ve evolved. And let us use that first breath of crisp, new, super-evolved air to declare proudly and in one voice: Pierce! We’ll see ya when we’ll see ya.”

As easily as Jeff can build something, he can tear it apart. It’s kind of off-putting how easily he moves to con his friends, banking on their gullibility to get what he wants. Here, he wants nothing to do with Pierce.

“Beer should be cold”

I would vote for this man, wouldn’t you?

“You’re just stomping around trying to prove you exist. Well, mission accomplished. But here’s a question I’d like to pass to you from every son of every crap dad that ever lived: “So what?” I’m done with you. He’s done with you. The world is done with you.” 

Jeff and Pierce had a relationship that ran hot and cold, but while it’s easy to see his defense of Pierce (which led to the death of his ivory-headed father) as a heroic act, this speech is all about Jeff’s own daddy issues. Which he addressed head-on in season four with another speech, albeit one of the more genuine ones of the show’s run. Probably too genuine, considering.

“Without each other, we’ll go extinct”

I should end with something from season five or six, but I love the above line and this is one of those times when Jeff realizes his less-than-ideal parts and tries to get the group back, not as a scheme, but because he really needs them. It’s the beating heart of these Jeff Winger speeches — a tender recitation of words that are meant to mend and keep close that “Community” he first spoke of in the pilot.