Recently, Danny Pudi who plays Abed on the NBC hit comedy, Community took the time to chat with us. He was hilarious. I love his character on the show and I enjoyed this interview. I hope you enjoy reading it.
So what would you consider the most Latino thing about you?
Danny : I’m a good dancer. I think my hips I would say. I’d say my hips are pretty Latino.
More after the jump
We wanted to know if you are as knowledgeable about pop culture as Abed is?
Danny Absolutely not. Abed’s an encyclopaedia. He’s kind of a genius. I mean I grew up with a lot of this – a lot of the same movies and music and stuff. Even like the like the Starburns: El Star Prince was the minute we started working on that I just was having flashbacks to Starman back in the day; Jeff Bridges and the TV show.
So a lot of these things I did grow up with, but Abed is a type of guy who he didn’t just grow up with it but he remembers word for word every scene, character, what they worked on prior to that, cinematographer, he gripped. And not only that, he’s able to apply it to everyday world situations and see, you know, where I guess similar situations are taking place and learn from it.
So it’s kind of the fun, challenging thing about this role is that I’m often given scripts with references that I don’t necessarily remember or get until then the next thing you know, you’ll see me Googling My Bodyguard for instance and being like what was this movie about? Or going to Blockbuster and renting all these movies just to make sure I know what I’m talking about.
And then there’s certain ones I definitely know because like Goodfellas last week, that was you know, it’s definitely one of my favorite movies or like when we referenced Indiana Jones. Indiana Jones is probably one of my top five movies that no matter where it’s on, I have to watch it.
So even if I’m at Best Buy or Radio Shack and it’s playing on a sample TV, I’ll sit there and stand until it’s over. There’s a little bit of that in me. But I think Abed’s a little bit -he’s a little bit more of an encyclopaedia.
[Note from me: Abed always makes me laugh and occasionally it amuses me because he’s a pop culture nut like me. Although my knowledge leans more towards TV. :D]
Have you found any new personal favorites from the stuff you’ve discovered that you didn’t know before?
Danny: That’s a good question. I’m trying to think of what are some of the references that I really like. I mean it’s fun going back and like watching all the movies. There’s actually a brief bio and I think it’s on the Web site maybe and also on so flyers that said what are my favorite – my favorite movie is and it’s a list of like thirty movies, including Ghost Busters, Goonies, Blade Runner, Indiana Jones I through III, Back to the Future and I did go through before and while we were shooting, and just kind of re-watched all of them. And I do have a re – I guess a re-appreciation for Goonies. I love that movie. Man that movie’s fun. You know. Gosh that movie is so fun.
So that’s – that was kind of one of those that I wouldn’t say I forgot but I kind of did maybe a little bit forget how fun that was to watch as a little kid. And then of course all the John Hughes stuff going through and re-watching Breakfast Club and, you know, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. Especially Breakfast Club II I think just because it is such – I feel like, you know, instead of our theme song, it’s kind of our theme movie and re-watching that a number of times, you know, my appreciation for all of John Hughes films definitely has grown.
[Note from Me: Who doesn’t love The Goonies and John Hughes films? I love all of those 80’s films. I have to give credit to Curt from Show Patrol for these next questions because frankly they were very comical together.]
Curt : Hey Danny. Nice talking to you again.
Danny: Curt is in the house. What’s up? Hey.
Curt : How are ya?
Danny: I’m great man. It’s fun to have you in the queue.
Curt: Yeah. So congrats. I was wondering if you had been given this assignment in high school back in Chicago back in the day and you can choose the language and the theme, what would you have done?
Danny: Well, I think definitely it would have been Polish because I speak Polish and it’s something I connect to. I feel like I can reference. What I would have probably done back in the day would have been something about the solidarity movement and I think kind of like the shipyards of (Kanash) would have been in the house and there probably would have been a little bit of heavy metal in there because it would probably have been like, you know, late nineties. Kind of a good heavy metal time. Maybe some Pantera or something would be in there with maybe some hip-hop.
I would have probably tried to use some Wu-Tang Clan with a little bit of Polish solidarity and existential like Polish poetry in there. It would have been weird. It would have been like waiting for (Gadel) to hip hop version; something like that.
Curt : All right. All right. Great. Could you sort of wrap up your year; like how’s it been for you this entire year going from the butt dialer to everybody’s favorite college student.?
Danny: I think that says it all. I mean it’s – I don’t really know what’s happened this year. It’s been so bizarre. You know the last eight to nine months of my life have been really kind of been an incredible time where, you know – I was on a flight not too long ago and the flight attendant came up to me and grabbed me both of my shoulders and looked me in the eyes, got really close to me and said Asperger’s. She yelled it in my face and that’s all she said. And then she proceeded to bring me two like drinks that were pretty much pure vodka.
After that she sprayed some Binaca in her mouth, kissed me on the lips and said that was for Joel McHale. So these are the scenarios that happen now that like eight months ago, that wouldn’t have happened.
Now, you know, eight months I would probably have been considered maybe a potentially dangerous person on a flight and now people come up to me and say nice things to me and, you know, it’s crazy. You know. It’s a crazy thing working – when you look at your refrigerator and you see a Christmas card with Chevy Chase right next to a Christmas card with (Matt O’Grady), right next to a Christmas card with Joel McHale.
And last year it would have just been (Matt O’Grady) and possibly my sister and my cousin but now I have like those two Christmas cards on my fridge. That’s a weird thing to accept as real and not as a stocker. I didn’t steal them.
[Note from Me: That’s all of Curt’s questions, and I loved the interaction between them, seeing as they obviously know each other, it was a blast to listen to!]
Now I was going to ask you, why do you think it is that they chose to pair up Senior Chang and Abed for these Webisodes?
Danny: You know I think that this was kind of the perfect – the perfect pairing in many ways. A couple of episodes back we had movie night in Abed’s dorm room and Senior Chang was there and we’re Netflix buddies, we briefly mentioned that, and I just think it’s kind of a perfect thing where Senior Chang is all about drama.
He loves – he’s like (TMP). He loves drama and Starburns is just such an interesting character that’s become kind of his fan favorite so I think pairing these characters who are a little bit off their kilter, you know, slightly off but also kind of these like kind of cultish pairs. You kind of want to just see how they’d react in terms of these films.
And obviously Senior Chang would want to be involved in anything that’s a little bit crazy. So to me it just made perfect sense.
How do you think Abed has evolved as a person?
Danny : You know I think I’m very fortunate, because I think the writers have given me so much rich, rich stuff to work on and expand on. And I think, you know, it’s – you kind of never know in a comedy, you know, how things are going to kind of roll out in terms of like being a side character, you know.
Because I’m technically kind of one of the ensemble, you know. And to be given all these great, rich kind of things to work on and I think if you just look at it and think like, oh he’s a pop culture (bum) and that kind of thing. But the thing about Abed is that he uses all these pop culture references and in terms of – it comes from a real place because it’s how he views the world and it’s how he connects things.
So they’re not just gratuitous references for the sake of references. It’s because he piecing together something that he’s noticed going on around him. And I think last week’s episode was very – a great example of that in terms of it being a parity of Goodfellas and some of the mob movies but at the end, I think there was a very heartfelt scene with Joel and I which actually was one of my favorite scenes that I’ve done this season.
Yeah. And I think it’s – that scene really kind of typifies what’s special about our show because it really kind of gives you in a very brief moment what makes these characters tick and they’re very honest about it. And then, you know, we go right back to a Sixteen Candles moment but there was something very – I think that’s very genuine and sweet about that where it’s fun for me to be able to play this character who has such a fun time in the world.
It’s very much a video game in some ways but he’s also a real person on the inside who’s challenged and trying to connect with people and I think that really resonates so it makes the comedy that much better.
Speaking of connecting with people and you mentioned this earlier, you know how you’re on Twitter, why do you think that is an important aspect – and social media is an important aspect for you to be able to connect with your fans and for the promotion of the show?
Danny: It’s a fun thing, you know. I mean I think that, you know, technology – it’s one of those things where technology has come a long way, you know and for me, as an artist, it’s just another outlet for creative expression. And to be able to kind of, you know, walk around and notice things and be like wow! That was weird. You know, I just saw a sign for – this was a (unintelligible) for a while back. I just saw a sign that said $3 and it didn’t say $3 for what.
And you know to be able to just take that picture, send it out and be like, isn’t this weird and then comment on it. It’s kind of a fun way to really develop your point of view and also really work on, as a comedian, as an artist, being concise about a joke or about something you notice because you only have, I don’t know how many characters; 140 or something on that.So it’s kind of a great little exercise too to be able to be like, okay, how concise can I do this. How many times do I have to backspace in order to make sense of this statement, you know.
On top of that, it’s just a great way to stay connected with people in the world about your show and about what’s going on, you know. And our cast, who is incredibly busy and talented, it’s a nice way for me to know what everybody’s doing and be like oh, Joel’s in Las Vegas or (Dell)’s in Chicago. Or Alison’s episode of Mad Men’s airing now. Or Gillian just did this show. It’s a heck of a show. Or, you know, I love it for that reason too.
What’s it like working with, you know, kind of like with that many comedians in one show. Usually it’s kind of like they ration you guys out. It’s like one comedian per show but you guys kind of have a full slate there?
Danny: We do and I think that well, a couple of things. There are a lot of comedians on this show but what’s great about this show is that the writing is so rich and balanced and also the people who are comedians on this show, I mean everybody in terms of the ensemble, are really excellent actors, you know.
And I think people have sometimes overlooked that the range that some of these people have, you know. I mean like Gillian Jacobs for instance has done a lot of drama. When I first met her I actually had seen her in a movie that was pretty dark and to be able to see her in this role is kind of, it’s really a testament to the range that people have.
And Alison’s working on Mad Men this week. And it’s just all these people are incredibly just able to shift, you know, from doing comedy to drama, to doing something absurd and I think because of that, where everyone’s able to adapt and move together as a funny ameba I guess. That’s what we’re doing.
Your character has certainly kind of had a little bit of an arch and a lot of range in there. What’s been kind of your most – your favorite part about playing Abed?
Dannyi: You know, it’s – this is – it’s one of those things where I feel so fortunate because every week I feel like I get to work on something new and different, you know. And I think that is so – it’s so rare in terms of any kind of project, you know.
I feel like I’m in an acting class every week because I’m given like in this episode, oh my goodness, I have to master a Christian Bale impersonation. And in the next episode I have to – after that I have to work on doing an African American police chief impersonation.
And that was super fun for me because I grew up with all those movies; Beverly Hills Cops and Axel Foley, get your ass in here. I mean that every once in a while, like when I see Cops, that just pops into my head.
But beyond that, you know, I get to do things like in actually last week’s episode, which is one of my favorite scenes of the season, was when I was with Joel’s character, Jeff and making tater tots and it was like a really heartfelt scene at the end of the parity episode about chicken fingers; talking about why, you know, I guess how power really can kind of take over both of our characters.
And so there’s – the nice thing about this show is I’m able to do really like honest, earnest scenes and then, on top of that, do some crazy things like playing an African American police chief and then in an episode I might be tap dancing on a stage.
And so I’m constantly working on a wide variety of things which definitely keeps me challenged and fresh and that to me is the most exciting thing is I get to really just work on so many different things and improve. And then also just learn from all the amazing artists around me who are all I think smarter than me and funnier than me.
I was wondering where would you like to see your character Abed go in the next few months or maybe even next season. What would you like to see when the screen editors give you a script and you read it, where would you like that character to end up?
Danny : You know, I don’t know. And it’s hard for me to – I’m really open about this. I feel so already challenged and fortunate in terms of what I’ve been given and I’m just thankful that my character is not just a one dimensional character. There’s a lot to him, you know.
I think times have changed a lot from the days of, you know, of back in the early 90s when I was growing up and you had (Mel Siemen) Street Fighter or Abu on the Simpsons or, you know, magic rocks protecting Indian villages in Indiana Jones. And the fact that I get to play a character that’s really well rounded and kind of odd and quirky and exploring the world, it’s just so wonderful because I always feel like every week is going to be a fun, new adventure.
So I’m excited to see what happens. You know I think one of the cool things that we’ve been exploring is Abed’s progression as a film maker, including these Webisodes. And in the episode, I don’t know if you recall, the Valentine’s Day episode where I help Joel’s character, Jeff Winger, make a really, a really believable drunk (dial) to Britta and I think you get to see a little bit more of Abed’s directing skills there.
So I’m excited to see more of that, you know, and to see kind of where that takes him. That’s always a – that’s a fun thing for me to explore. And also because I didn’t go to school for film, I feel like I really am learning a little bit more about film making so it’s kind of a great job.
How do you think Starburns would fair against other super heroes?
Danny: I mean if you saw his – if you saw Starburns: El Star Prince, I think being half mortal and half of the stars, definitely he’s got an advantage against anybody who is human.
The other thing is that no one’s really going to expect there to be laser beams coming out of his Starburns, out of his sideburns, so you can probably get through any metal detector. And I don’t know, also it’s like being able to have his phone and a laser coming out of the side of his face, it just also makes it easy in terms of like if you have to run or anything like that. He doesn’t have to carry too much baggage.
I would think Starburns over most super heroes out there, I don’t know, I’m trying to think if anybody mortal would beat him. I would be interested in seeing him versus Batman. I think that would be kind of just a cool match up. Even though Batman is human – kind of a fun thing to watch.
. So a lot of shows now are starting to do these Web spinoffs and Community obviously is one that’s doing it best. What are some of the most fun and maybe the most challenging aspects of shooting something for the Web versus television in your opinion?
Dannyi: Well, I think that I’ll start with fun. There’s a simple freedom when it comes to the Web stuff that we’re shooting in that you really you kind of just kind of go for it a little bit more. With a lot of the Web stuff, it’s really – it’s designed for our generation in terms of being quick, funny and let’s see if we can grab your attention fast.
So you know there’s a little bit of that there which makes it kind of freeing, you know. I kind of feel like it’s the same thing when we do our tags at the end of every episode. We’re not really constricted to the story per se but we’re able to kind of just – as long you have very specific characters and points of view, you can kind of go anywhere. So I love that.
The – I guess what’s tricky is that, you know, because they’re designed to be so short, you really have to – it’s almost like Twitter too. You’ve got to – it’s good practice in terms of let’s see how quickly you can condense a joke; give it a beginning, a middle and an end, but also it’s like you also don’t have a lot of time for really honest, slow, patient moments.
You know, like in last week’s episode, when Joel’s character walks in on me by the tater tot machine and he’s about to sabotage the fry machine, there’s probably a good ten to fifteen seconds of quiet – of silence, you know. And that’s something that’s tricky in terms of Web stuff.
You can’t have a lot of those silent, slow, you know, kind of beats because I think people will probably tune out. So I think those are I guess the challenges and it’s also kind of the advantage that we have is that we’re able to do both and I feel very lucky that I can do both.
Abed is directing. He directed the Spanish video. So is that something that you think you want to try your hand at.
Danny : As Danny Pudi? Yeah. I think someday yeah. More and more. I mean the more I work on – the more and more I work on the show, the more I’m fascinated and also just kind of blown away by everyone’s talents. I mean this – these Webisodes are written and directed by (David Sieger). He directed it and (Tom Kauffman) co-wrote it with him. And (David)’s incredibly talented.
And just watching more and more of these directors come through, I think that’s the really cool thing that people don’t realize about a TV show is that they’re not all directed by the same person. And so like the pilot and many of the other episodes were directed by the Russo Brothers who are amazing. They did Arrested Development among other things. And, you know, beyond that, we’ve worked with Justin Lynne a few times who directed Fast and the Furious. He did our Halloween episode. He’s also the one who directed our episode that airs next which I think is going to probably be my favorite episode of the season.
And, you know, we’ve worked just a handful of amazing directors. You know, Gail Mancuso and (Trishton Shapiro) who directed last week’s chicken fingers episode; a British director. And to be able to kind of like, you know, be working closely with all these people and seeing how they operate differently and how they work with, you know, actors as well as kind of their – in terms of shot composition and that kind of thing. This is all – that’s all new to me because I didn’t go to film school.
You know, I’m strictly an actor and comedian but it’s something that I’m definitely – my appreciation for it is growing and I could definitely see – I would love to get into that down the road. Yeah.
Now I have to ask you, online, especially like in your Facebook profile, it has you listing your personal interests; things like running and stand-up comedy, things you’d expect, and vacuuming. Okay Vacuuming – can you explain that and I have to ask, would you like to do mine?
Danny :Depending on where you live I would love to. And also it’s like if you have a lot of pet dander or a lot of dust; like if you did something – for instance, if you just removed some acoustic ceilings, I would love to vacuum your place. If I would – I have to put on a mask probably which is a lot of assimilation that happens there.
There’s something tremendously gratifying about the – about the process of vacuuming, opening the windows and then just seeing a nicely vacuumed floor. It’s like to me one of my favorite things to do in the world because I grew up in Chicago and we always had a lawn that I would love to mow. I love mowing the lawn just because I like seeing the lines and I like, you know, cutting fresh cut grass.
I love the smell of it and I also just like kind of the process of going back and forth, back and forth and then finishing it and seeing your fresh product, you know. There’s just something very nice and (meaty) kind of focus on it. There’s a beginning, a middle and an end.
You put some hard work into it. You sweat a little bit. And then afterwards, you can just take off your shoes and run through it, you know; the same thing with a carpet.
[Note from Me: I don’t like vacuuming so he’s welcome to mine!]
What would you say are the main similarities and differences between you and Abed?
Danny: Okay. As far as, you know, I guess the similarities – you know there’s definitely certain things. You know, I have a little – some I guess neuroses like maybe the vacuuming and things like that. I tend to – I could I guess – I think Abed speaks a little bit more quickly and has a little bit more of an encyclopaedic knowledge of pop culture than I do definitely.
He tends to remember things and put pieces – he doesn’t miss much. Abed is very observant.
There was an episode – I don’t remember how long ago back but where some bagels fell off a table and it was a quick jump but I loved it where we mixed on Britta’s character for saying (begel). And we say “You say that funny.” but she drops the bag and I just say 13 because I was able to count those bagels so quickly, you know.
And I think that’s very Abed; like to be so observant and also to not let anything go by without acknowledging it.
I tend to miss things a little bit more. I think I’m a little bit more aloof than Abed. What else. I’m married and Abed isn’t married yet. Who knows, maybe in Season 2 that will happen? And you know I think those are kind of the I guess similarities/differences. I think as the season goes on, both of us tend to kind of merge together as the writers incorporate more from our personal lives into these characters which is equally frightening and exhilarating.
I wanted to know how do you feel about being part of team brown skin and body hair?
Danny: I’m cool with that, you know. I’ve never had body hair so I know I’m not going to be on brown hair. I’m not going to be body hair guy which is kind of unusual. Normally, if you – a lot of people who are I guess of Indian descent would be team brown skin and body hair one.
But I’m really team brown skin (unintelligible) the body hair. I don’t know why but somehow I missed out on that. I can grow a moustache but it looks really nasty. It looks like one of those 15 year old stashes; kind of a dirty stash and kind of creepy but I’m all about team brown skin. Love it. There’s a lot of that going on on NBC right now. I think each one of the shows on Thursday night has a brown skin member and what’s great about it is that we’re not all playing one dimensional characters. We’re playing very interesting roles and, you know, we just happen to be brown which I love.
I love the production value of Part 2. But there wasn’t much Spanish in it. Why didn’t Senior Chang push for more Spanish dialogue since he was the producer?
Danny : I think that is probably the most important point is that Senior Chang – I really don’t think he cares about Spanish but he is – and I don’t think he’s taught us very much. I’m going to say that Ken Jeong or El Tigre, he just likes being a teacher because we’re forced to listen to him is my impression of him.
So we’re the ones who want to learn but I think that, you know, Senior Chang isn’t really the – isn’t really teaching us very much.
He’s a teacher because he loves being on stage and being in front of an audience and being for us – it’s kind of a pedestal for him to really kind of I guess dish out his opinions on the female species largely; which he apparently has a severe problem with.
He compares women to targets which I think is one of the funniest lines on that Webisode and one of the dirtiest too.
Okay, that’s all for the interview, Danny was a great sport doing the interview and gave really great answers. He loves his job and it shows. Don’t miss Community on Thursday nights at 8 pm on NBC.