Danny Pudi has easily become a fan favorite on NBC’s new sitcom hit Community, as Abed, a Greendale student with an interest in film studies and an encyclopedia of knowledge about pop culture in his brain, who may or may not have Asperger’s. Due to Pudi, Abed has become so much more than just a character pushed to the side, lost in a sea of louder, more veteran comedians.
"I'm very fortunate," Pudi admitted on a phone interview with Starpulse, "because I think the writers have given me so much to work on and expand on, and you kind of never know in comedy how these things will work out being a side character. I'm just one of the ensemble, you know? [But I've been fortunate enough to have] been given all of these great, rich things to work on.”
Great, rich things that usually involve film references from Goodfellas to The Breakfast Club, which Pudi calls the show’s “theme.” "That’s what’s so challenging about [playing] Abed,” Pudi said, listing even more movies like The Goonies and Indiana Jones to the roster. “I mean I grew up with a lot of the same movies and music and stuff...[but] Abed is the type of guy who didn't only grow up with it, but he [also] remembers word for word every name, character, what they worked on prior to that, cinematographer, key grip…[and] I'm often given scripts with references that I don't necessarily remember or get, so the next thing you know, you'll see me Googling!"
Pudi, an actor and comedian but someone who never went to film school, said he is learning a great deal by working with the greats who have come through both Community and the subsequent web spin-off videos of Abed, Troy, and now even Senor Chang. The newest one debuted on NBC.com on April 29th (“Spanish Video Assignment”) in two parts. In fact, he is even considering following in his character’s footsteps and maybe directing a project of his own someday. Memo to NBC: get this kid a FlipCam, stat!!
"Technology has come a long way," Pudi acknowledged, when asked why do a web series when he is already so busy with the television show. "For me as an artist, it's just another outlet for creative expression."
Pudi continued: "I think what's great about these webisodes-- or even the tags at the end of our episodes-- is that they're designed for our generation. They're thirty seconds of fun that people can pass on, and they may not tell you what the show's about, but they give you a sense of the show, these characters, and the world in a quick, funny way to grab your attention."
After all, attention spans seem to be dwindling these days, and more and more people are taking to watching content on their computers anyway, so why not produce new, original programming made exactly for the medium?
"I think that there's a sense of freedom that comes to the web stuff that we're shooting. We're able to "go for it" a little bit more," Pudi explained what's most fun about the new medium. "We're not really constricted to the story, per se, because as long as you have pretty specific characters and points of view, you can kind of go anywhere."
However, he has found at least one pitfall of the shorter clips format: "You also don't have a lot of time for really honest, slow, patient moments. Like in ["Contemporary American Poultry," the April 22 episode of Community], when Jeff (Joel McHale) walks in on me, and he's going to sabotage the fry machine, there's probably a good ten to fifteen seconds of silence. That's something that's tricky in terms of web stuff because with those slow beats, I think people will tune out."
Luckily for Pudi, though, he gets to do both-- television and the web-- right now. It's like having his cake (or chicken fingers, if you will) and eating it, too!
Story by Danielle Turchiano
Starpulse contributing writer