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Odds and Ends: Community’s Center
Odds and Ends: Community’s Center

Danny Pudi on TV uncertainty and why he was ‘study poison’ in college

Rick Tulka for CASE

Will Community return for a fifth season? If the show's devoted fans were in charge, the NBC sitcom set at the fictional Greendale Community College in Colorado would get at least six seasons and a movie. (Yes, that's an inside joke for fans of the show.) But Danny Pudi, who plays pop-culture obsessed, socially awkward Abed Nadir, is philosophical about the comedy's future. "I'm still shocked that we're still potentially on the air," says Pudi, who has become a breakout star for his portrayal of the character that is often the audience's guide to Greendale and the show's tight-knit study group. The quirky comedy launched the career of the loyal Marquette University alumnus, who was the first recipient of the Chris Farley Scholarship (named for the late fellow alumnus of the Wisconsin institution and former Saturday Night Live cast member). Community's season finale airs May 9.

Are you as well-versed in pop culture as your character, Abed?

I'm not. I'm a big comedy fan and I'm a history fan, so some of the things that I have to prepare for fall in line with my interests. I think my tendency toward doing things last minute lends itself to this role quite well. In college my friends would call me "study poison" because I'd wait until the last minute for papers and pull an all-nighter before tests. Honestly, that's kind of what I do now with Abed. There are frequently episodes where I'm not familiar with the material. … It's fun when your homework assignment is watching [the movie] My Dinner with Andre for a television comedy and trying to figure out how that's going to work.

What would a Greendale Community College reunion look like with this study group?

I think we'd probably do something where we just close ourselves off within the school and allow ourselves to go wherever we want. We've fought zombies; we've had paintball fights; we've crashed a Kentucky Fried Chicken SpaceBus. There are so many wild rides we've been on. I think it would all start in the study room.

Do you think there'll be a season five?

I don't know. I've always felt like our show is not a show that has the legs of some of these other comedies. It's not a typical CBS comedy that can run forever. I think our show thrives on being on the air one minute, off the air the next. I've learned to just accept that I will never know. Then it becomes a true surprise every time I find out if we're picked up.

You were a Marquette admissions tour guide, right?

I was. Best job I ever got.

Why? What kind of things did you tell people?

It was whatever was on my mind that day. I didn't know too much about the science buildings or who the buildings were named after, so I had to give it my own twist. You've got to mix it up and tell people which building has the best toilets, which building has the best vending machines. Thankfully, the building that has the best toilets also has the best vending machines.

What should we look forward to in the season finale of Community?

Each character faces a "what if this is the end" moment and has to overcome some inner demons. There's a lot of calling back to what's happened over the last four years. I think Community fans will appreciate it. Not everybody graduates. It doesn't have to necessarily be the finale of all finales, but in terms of the last four seasons, this one has the most sentimentality and possibility of closure. But it also has some open-endedness to it, so if we do get a season five it will allow us to go there.

—Interview by Theresa Walker




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