For those that know NBC’s “Community,” Greendale Community College’s bumbling savant, Abed Nadir, is a student of many things. He has an odd knack for reading his fellow study group outsiders, however muffled in a haze of post-adolescent insecurity they may be, a “Rain Man” like ability to count spilled bagels and an encyclopedic knowledge of pop culture.
So it only makes sense that a similarly versed savant be the one to bring the character to life. No, he isn’t a round dough counting master or a fast-talking psychoanalyst but Danny Pudi, the man behind ‘Abed,’ is both a professional and real-life student that executes "Community" creator Dan Harmon's vision with expert curiosity.
Pudi describes the process of creating his character as a special derivative of nuances that transform Abed from freak to friend, outsider to all knowing. Like a living Mad Lib, Pudi’s ‘Abed’ is experimental and absurd but ultimately wildly rewarding in his thoughtfully crafted one-liners.
“What would happen in this scenario if I stare at this person too long,” Pudi explained of the character laboratory in his head. “What would happen in a scenario or world where I could become whoever I want to become, where I don’t just dress up as Batman for Halloween but I do his voice the entire time.”
But Pudi’s laboratory exists beyond his cerebral walls; it’s his character’s very medium of expertise in which he also constructs a classroom beyond the quip-ridden halls of Greendale -- where every stone-faced joke has a root in the extra-curricular study of the tube.
“To play a character that is so much quicker than you … it gives you a new way of looking at the world,” Pudi says.
When Pudi’s outsmarted by his on-screen twin he hits the pop culture gym, going pound for pound with his competition. But it’s tough when keeping up with the Joneses means keeping up with your alter ego: “What are some things that I haven’t heard of that I know Abed has definitely heard of,” Pudi asks himself. “I feel much more prepared if I find out as much about his world as I can.”
Pudi spends his free time brushing up on Abed’s classic library of inspiration. From “My Dinner with Andre” and “Star Wars” to “Heathers,” instead of calculating who Abed could be, he allows his character to teach him who he is.
And although Pudi could very well be running alongside the Emmy train for his portrayal of a character that likely borders on Aspergers syndrome, he doesn’t take his work too seriously. For every ounce of Abed's absurdist highbrow humor is a childlike curiosity and confusion that keeps his head in this atmosphere -- or at least when he's not playing Greendale's Luke Skywalker. This season Abed and best friend Troy (played by Donald Glover) will call each other roommate for the first time: "That way they can build forts and such," Pudi says of his new live-in buddy. "Like all best friend, grown men adults do."
Pudi's on-screen persona isn't the only one who's got jokes.
“If anybody’s looking for Aziz Ansari and Aziz is busy, tell them to give me a call,” Pudi propositioned, regarding fellow South Asian actor who also stars on an NBC comedy, “Parks and Recreation.”
Forget Ansari and his equally hilarious yet comparatively shallow “Parks” character, Pudi is a breath of fresh air for primetime comedy, flawlessly delivering Harmon’s vision to an audience who is eager for more than your average comedy’s silly excuse to chuckle.
Check out the season premiere of "Community” on Sept. 22nd and catch Pudi's guest starring role on the fifth episode of this season’s “Chuck.”