Danny Pudi has had quite a whirlwind year. He went from being only occasionally recognized as the T-Mobile "butt dialer" guy to having flight attendants put their hands on his shoulders and stand inches away from his face exclaiming: "ASS-pergers!" in reference to his Community character of film and pop culture savant, Abed.
The thing about Abed, which portrayer Pudi is quick to point out, is that he doesn't just reference things in pop culture simply to reference them. In other words, the show doesn't just use Abed as a gratuitous one-line type of character in an attempt to stay topical. Rather, Abed really connects with pop culture, and that's how he sees the world, so he uses what he knows to his advantage-- and to learn.
Abed and I would be great friends, and sometimes I wonder if secretly Dan Harmon has been logging on here and picking through my old posts for inspiration for future quotes and references for the character (I know Harmon has publicly mentioned basing the character on a friend, but seriously, some of the similarities are just too eerie to be completely coincidental!). When asked if Pudi is the same pop culture prince, he excitedly answers: "Absolutely-- not!" What a tease! But Pudi elaborates willingly in the next breath: "Abed is an encyclopedia; he's kind of a genius. 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 he's able to apply it to everyday world situations and see where similar situations are taking place and learn from it."
Exactly. I rest my case. Abed and I are kindred spirits. For Pudi, that spirit is what is both fun and challenging about the role, though. "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!" He admits.
But Pudi shouldn't sell himself short because he is able to reference, too-- just maybe not to the same uber-fanboy nitpicky degree that Abed can. For example, when asked to describe Senor Chang (Ken Jeong), Pudi cleverly says: "He's like TNT. He loves drama!"
Community itself was early on compared to The Breakfast Club, a reference which the show embraced in more recent episodes. Pudi considers that movie to be, above all else, the "theme" of the show. He even considers it to be one of Abed's heavier influences when it comes to the world of pop culture. Others he would put on that list? "Goodfellas, The Goonies, Indiana Jones 1, 2, and 3!"
Two weeks ago the show greatly referenced the former (Goodfellas) in the episode entitled "Contemporary American Poultry" that had Abed taking over as fry cook in Greendale's cafeteria but using his position to obtain things that his friends wanted. Pudi points to Goodfellas as "definitely one of my favorite movies," so he is quick to say that was one of his favorite episodes. "Or, I don't know, the one that's airing [tonight] could be my favorite, too," he teases again, taking just a little too much joy in it.
"Indiana Jones is probably one of my top five movies that no matter where I am at the time, I have to watch," Pudi adds. "Even if I'm at Best Buy or Radio Shack. If it's playing on a sample TV, I'll sit there or stand until it's over."
Well, I guess we know where to find him now that Community has wrapped for summer hiatus!