Make no mistake, Danny Pudi is as hip and enjoyable as the character (Abed) that he plays on NBC’s underdog hit TV show Community.
Hopefully you’ve read my initial reaction to the Danny Pudi interview I partook in, if not: Danny Pudi Interview: His Uncontrollable Charm is a Joy (he’s amaaaaaaaaazing!) In this companion piece, we have a transcript for you guys to read.
On what we can expect from the Community Christmas episode:
Danny Pudi: The episode is Abed’s Uncontrollable Christmas and it’s pretty incredible. It was written by Dan Harmon and Dino Stamatopoulos and Dino has done some previous work with stop motion with Moral Orel and Frankenhole and I think the episode starts off sort of like a typical Community episode.
(Cold) open, we’re in the cafeteria, Dean Pelton is over the speaker and I guess the only difference is that its stop motion and I think Abed notices it and he thinks it’s a very special Christmas this year because he says that we’ve gone to a new medium, which is stop motion.
And I think all the other characters then are a little bit like, “Okay, what’s going on here, Abed?” But they come along on the ride for me and Abed believes that they all need to figure out why we’re in stop motion is because there must be – he has to find the meaning of Christmas.
And so they go on a journey and it’s Abed’s journey and with the aid of Professor Duncan, who decides that he needs to help in order to figure out what’s going on in Abed’s mind and I guess he even says at some point and time, “What emotional crisis did you go through to have this delusion?” And Abed’s like, “It’s not a delusion.”
And then we go on this magical journey through a Winter Wonderland, including a trip down Gumdrop Road, which I have always wanted to go down, and a number of other places, and I think we all learned a little bit about the meaning of Christmas to us as a study group.
And I think the really special thing about this episode is, it starts in this place where something has triggered this – I guess this new perspective from Abed because every year, he has a special thing with his family on Christmas, but something’s a little bit different this year.
And through it all, with the study group’s help, of course at the very end, we all come together and we discover really the meaning of Christmas individually and as a group and I guess (ending) in true Community fashion, there is our moments of absurdity, but it’s all really grounded in reality and in logical and I think Dan and Dino really strove and found that in the writing.
And the script is really, really funny and really sharp, but also kind of goes to these places where I think with the stop motion, we’re able to go a little bit further in terms of, you know, even emotional depth and some of the sadness of the characters, too, and yes, I think it’s going to rival Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer for our generation, at least that’s our hope.
On religion in Danny’s life, and in Abed’s:
Danny Pudi: In both cases – well, in Abed’s case, specifically as addressed in this episode, religiously, he is Muslim, but he was always a big fan of Christmas and his mother is Polish, so I think there was aspects of Catholicism and the Christian traditions from the Polish perspective as well as, you know, being Muslim and that kind of thing.
I think Abed also just overall being a fan of pop culture and stuff, he’s very aware of Christmas and what it represents around the seasons and in terms of movies and all that. He’s probably a big fan of Chevy Chase’s National Lampoons Christmas Vacation.
And as far as me, Danny, I also grew up Polish and Catholic and so we definitely celebrated the Polish traditional Catholic and, you know, Christmas traditions, which is Wigilia, which is celebrated on Christmas Eve, which includes a lot of different fish dishes and oplatek, which is a very interesting tradition where you go around breaking a host that’s been blessed by a priest and you give people wishes for the next year.
It can be uncomfortable when you bring new people into the fold. And it’s also – it can be uncomfortable for people who don’t like to communicate much, but it’s always interesting.
On if he saw Chevy Chase in the Christmas Vacation movie in a movie theater:
Danny Pudi: I saw it later on VHS, the only way to see Chevy Chase.
On what it’s like working with a legend like Chevy Chase:
Danny Pudi: You know, it’s very bizarre, I mean, the whole experience is bizarre where, you know, you’re doing all this kind of stuff. One day, you’re working with Chevy Chase and the next day you’re going to visit a claymation studio where they have a doll of you.
This – none of this really makes sense in this world, but that’s the really fun and beautiful thing about this job that I love is that every day is so different and unique and once they presented this script to us about this episode and said that we were going to be in stop motion, I was – I mean, we were all so excited.
But for me, literally, there are so many dreams coming true that sometimes it’s really hard to put into perspective until summertime when we’re on hiatus and then after a month of being away from people, I’m like, “Holy crap, I just spent a year working with Chevy Chase.” So to me, it’s just very fun, interesting, always, always interesting and I love that.
What it was like seeing himself animated, and as a doll:
Danny Pudi: It’s very bizarre because you’re looking at a version of yourself and in my case, it’s definitely an enhanced and better looking version, I’m very excited.
The eyebrows are fuller, the forehead is smaller, what else? I’m just – I think I’m more handsome; I got a nicer jaw line. I probably have the same, actually, the same size legs, which, I don’t know if that’s a good thing, as my doll is in real life. That’s true to life.
But it’s very weird, it’s very bizarre and – but it’s, I mean, it’s just really fun, you know? I thought, the first time I met one of the animators and there was, I think, eight different animators working on ten different stages there and I met one of the ladies who was making the doll.
And she saw me and she was like, “Hey, I recognize…” Actually, I saw her away from set – I saw her, actually, at a random bar I believe or some place in Los Angeles, she’s like, “I recognize you because I’ve been working on your doll.”
And she came up to me and I was like, “That’s definitely another first.” There’s a lot of firsts I’ve been experiencing and that’s the first time someone’s recognized me from a doll they’ve made of me. So I’m very thankful and very excited about all this.
Will we be able to buy these dolls from the NBC store?
Danny Pudi: If there’s a way to make money, I am sure they’re looking into it. I do know one of the things that they’ve started to do is sell the Troy and Abed In The Morning mugs – coffee mugs. And I’ve gotten a number of people who have sent me pictures and – on Facebook and Twitter of them drinking coffee in the Troy and Abed In The Morning mug.
And I always think that’s really humorous just knowing that in some office right now, a CPA is looking over somebody’s taxes while drinking some Folgers out of my mug. So I think that’s just really interesting.
As far as the dolls, I don’t think we have any dolls out yet, but I do know that you can get Ken Jeong’s Hangover doll at Urban Outfitters – his bobble head.
So I don’t know. I think that right now, it’s definitely something that they’re probably going – if there’s a way to make money, I think they’ll find a way to sell it and I’m hoping it ends up in people’s living rooms, but, you know, I’m still kind of freaked out about all this. I’m just happy to have a mug.
Is there a lot of Abed in Danny, and vice-versa? Or is it like putting on a costume?:
Danny Pudi: There’s definitely a little bit of putting on a costume, except in my case, it’s putting – getting into skinny jeans. And definitely after Thanksgiving break, when I came back this week, it was a little harder to get into them.
But I think there is also, you know, there is sort of a convergence of both Abed and Danny, you know, as over the course of time, you know, working with the writers, there are aspects of me that they’ve worked into the script, you know.
I don’t think Abed was half Polish until I got the role, you know, and so there are things like that, and you know, I think Abed definitely has a larger encyclopedic knowledge of pop culture. I think he’s probably more observant and aware of what’s going on constantly, he’s sort of a detective.
You know, there’s definitely aspects of Abed that I wish I had. I wish sometimes I was as sharp and I could notice as much as he does. You know, I think in my life I’m probably a little bit more aloof, but there, you know, like I said, there is – there’s sort of me is coming into the character, but at the end of the day, I think Abed is definitely his own unique person.
On whether he gets all of the pop culture references in the Community episodes. Does he research them?:
Danny Pudi: Definitely a lot of research. I think that’s Abed’s unique talent, you know, he is an encyclopedia and, you know, every script I get, I’m constantly looking and talking to people, being like, “Don’t know this one, don’t know this one.” Googling – my Netflix queue is always full of Community research – movies like Meatballs and, you know, whatever it may be, a Farscape for this week’s episode.
You know, Abed definitely has the encyclopedia knowledge, although I am a big fan of ’80s movies and stuff, so there is certainly a good crossover, like Indiana Jones is my favorite movie of all time, so when it came to talking about that and wearing Indie’s whip in an episode, that was very natural for me.
You guys look like you’re sweating blood to kind of carve out a niche on Thursdays, then CBS moves Big Bang up against you, Fox is about to move Idol up against you. Is there like a…
Danny Pudi: Wait a minute. What? Did you just say Idol’s going against us?
Danny Pudi: And Big Bang is against us, too?
Yes. Is it…
Danny Pudi: Oh, how do we – do we even have a chance?
Is there a sense of like, what’s next, like, “What else could they possibly do to us?”
Danny Pudi: There is and it’s almost comedic in terms of like – it’s become sort of comedic for us because we’re just like, “Oh, what the heck what is next?” You know? Pretty soon, it’s going to be, you know, that we’re going to be running just in local outlets, you know, it’s not going to be national anymore.
Or it’s going to be only airing on Hulu or, who knows? And for us, we’re just really thankful and I think that they found such a – I think with Dan and the writers, they’re just so ambitious and full of like, really, “Let’s like really cherish this opportunity to do something really interesting.” And it’s kind of fun, too, for us because there isn’t as much pressure, I feel like, for us, in terms of like, you know, Big Bang and Idol are very numbers oriented and driven shows, you know.
And, you know, they both do great, you know, I don’t think we have a chance of ever beating them. And so for us, I think many of, you know, the writers and stuff are really just focusing on making a really fun, smart, interesting show and just seeing what we can do next, exploring where we can go further.
So I think there’s – that’s kind of the fun of it and you know, who knows? All that other stuff we can’t really control and I don’t know about any of that kind of stuff because I – this is all, like I said, this is pretty new to me in terms of like, you know, ratings and that kind of stuff.
I never even thought that I would be actually worrying about that, the fact that I’m on a show itself is kind of a wonderful thing. So yes, who knows what’s next? So that’s why I think we’re just happy we’re getting the stop motion episode done.
But it seems like the underdog role kind of suits you guys.
Danny Pudi: Yes, I think so, too. And that’s – I think that, you know, in a lot of creative things, a lot of great, creative things come out of times where there’s a little bit of a struggle, you know? And I think for us being sort of that underdog is, I really don’t mind it and I think some of the people here, I think if you asked them, they probably would actually say that we kind of enjoy it.
Because, you know, like I said, there is a little bit of room for like, “Hey, we can try stuff here.” We have a little bit of room for experimentation, which I always think is a fun thing, especially with comedy and especially with our show, which can go in a lot of different places, you know.
It all starts very grounded and very real, but the fact that we’ve already gone to outer space this year, we had a zombie episode, we had a bottle episode where – and then – and now we’re actually going into stop motion and we’re only halfway through Season 2 really excite me and terrifies me at the same time that I don’t know what’s next, but I think that’s kind of the fun thing about this show.
Is he constantly surprised by the scripts?
Danny Pudi: I love it. For me, it’s my – and my mentality and how I work I love kind of the spontaneity of not really knowing what’s going to happen next. I guess that quality – the same quality that didn’t make me the best office employee probably suits me for this job. I like not knowing what’s going to happen next, and I think all of us here are so excited to see what’s in the next script.
I mean, when we get to a table read we’re all like flipping through eagerly and it’s the quietest you’ll ever see our cast at one table because everyone is reading the script so, you know, just getting into it, you know?
And I think that’s a testament to the writers because they’re really always surprising us, but always, you know, trying to find, you know, new things for the characters and growing.
And also I just love the fact that our show, as bizarre and as absurd as it can go really there’s a lot of good lessons being learned constantly, characters are growing and learning from mistakes and there’s always, you know, we get to do a lot of different things, you know, which is for regular comedy that’s only 22 minutes I always think about that.
To be able to go to the places we’ve gone in a 22 minute comedy with an ensemble that includes Chevy Chase, Joel McHale, Donald Glover, you know, Ken Jeong, you know, Alison Brie, I mean everybody, it’s like with all those people and giving us a little piece of that pie it’s really exciting.
So to me I love it, and like I said, this year has been really interesting, too, like the whole episode where we end up – I was in the background delivering the baby and now we’re doing this. The attention to detail with this show is also awesome. Like just Ludwig who’s doing the composition and the scoring for our show. He’s doing stuff with a full orchestra just for this Christmas episode.
The music is incredible, you know? And there’s that and then there’s, you know, the props and the sets, I think if you look around everyone like really cares, and I think that probably goes back to a little bit of like, you know, the other question about us, you know, worried about having competition like Big Bang and Idol against us.
You know, I think there is a little bit of that, you know, we never know when this is going to end, and I think because of that it’s sort of like, “Let’s work really hard and see what we can create.”
What’s going to happen with Farscape in the next episode?
Danny Pudi: Oh, there’s a little bit of Farscape stuff going on in there. There – I do have conversations with someone regarding Farscape and the differences between Season 1 and Season 3. And I think Abed is just very excited to be able to discuss Farscape with someone because there’s not many people in Abed’s life that can actually speak about it.
And so again, it’s Abed’s yearning to communicate with someone. And I think tomorrow night’s episode is very – it’s a really sweet episode. It’s actually Troy’s 21st birthday party. So the gang goes to celebrate his 21st birthday party. Which I always think is interesting because I don’t think we’ve done that very often where you see our group interacting with people outside of Greendale.
And while we’re still together, and that’s always kind of interesting to see like, “Oh, okay, how would Abed and Troy interact with a regular customer at a bar?” Or, “How would, you know, a regular customer at a bar perceive this group of knuckleheads.” So you get to see a little bit of that tomorrow night, which I think is fun.
Did he end up enjoying Farscape?
Danny Pudi: I did. I actually watched a few episodes. It freaks me out a little bit right away with some of the aliens and how – I mean, they’re not slightly alien, they’re very alien looking with very human qualities. But there is sort of a fantasy element that I really like because as a kid I always was like, “Okay, if it were possible for me to make out with or,” you know, I was a teenage boy, “to get with an alien woman, that would be an exciting thing.”
And so watching Farscape definitely rekindled some of those memories. Yes. I am human though, I just want everybody to be clear of that and married, so don’t tell my wife.
When he first got the script what were his thoughts, knowing that it was mainly about Abed?
Danny Pudi: I guess I was a little nervous because I, you know, just kind of wanted to know what’s this about and how to take it. And this was sort of an interesting and a different approach to a script because, you know, we’re not really acting as a group in this one. We were going into a recording studio with, you know, the Director and the writers and doing all this stuff in a voice-over booth, you know?
So it’s a little different because, you know, I’m not a voice-over actor. I’ve never really done any voice-over work. So trying to convey some of that, you know, some of the feelings and stuff, it was definitely a little bit more challenging for me. You know, I was definitely nervous about that and seeing – just making sure that would happen.
You know, because then what they did was take our voice-over looping and then they animate the characters based on that. So that was a whole new experience and really fun for me, too though, because again, it was a new thing for us to do.
But then regarding the script itself, I just think it’s perfect. There’s so much beautiful stuff in there and I think it makes complete sense that this is sort of coming out of Abed’s point-of-view because the claymation characters, I think the great thing about the writers and what they’ve been able to do is make it all come from a real honest place.
And I think coming from Abed it sort of makes it natural, like, “Of course, he watches Rudolf the Red-Nosed Reindeer every year, this makes sense that why not – why can’t his perspective be in this episode all stop motion?” That’s his, you know, Christmas.
And so I just thought that was really smart of them, but yes, I was also terrified because I was like, “Oh, boy.” I mean, there’s a lot of work that I’ve never done before.
Does it look the way that he thought it would look?
Danny Pudi: You know, it’s funny, we haven’t really seen – we haven’t seen the full episode yet. So I’ve seen bits of it, like a little – couple of short clips of it and we’ve seen our dolls. We got to go to the studio and check those out, and it’s way more incredible than I thought it would ever be.
Like I said, there was, I think eight different animators working right now. They’ve been working on it for over six weeks, and while we were there we actually got to see one of the animators, (Sarah), working the tag which is also going to be in claymation.
And she spent three days working on a 30 second tag. In my head I was just like, “Wow.” Okay, again, some of the people in there was quiet, they were behind a dark curtain, they were working alone, their hands were still, all the qualities that I don’t have. I was admiring them for being patient and stuff.
But the work that goes into it is really tremendous and it paid off. When we were watching it we were looking at the colors. It’s really beautiful looking and it really captures the spirit of Christmas and some of those things you see when you’re a kid like, “Nightmare Before Christmas,” and, you know, “Rudolf the Red-Nosed Reindeer,” there is that.
And I think they did a great job, just an amazing job and like I said before, with the music, too, adding that layer on top of this it just feels like a really fun special episode and I’m really proud to be involved in it. But I’m also excited because I haven’t seen the full thing yet. So it’s going to be a surprise for all of us.
On John Oliver’s costume:
Danny Pudi: So John Oliver is – he’s – first of all he’s one of the funniest people I’d ever met, but with him and a wizard in the Christmas episode I think is worth hopefully everyone watching because it’s great. And, you know, Ken Jeong also plays a really fun character, which I don’t want to give away, in the Christmas episode which to me makes complete sense. So I think…
Community is always doing holiday episodes, will they end up doing one on Purim?
Danny Pudi: I mean, give us enough time, give us enough seasons I’m sure we’ll hit them all. I think there’s a couple things that go hand-in-hand. I think with our group, the ensemble itself, and everyone having their own unique take on Christmas. Like Annie being Jewish, Yvette being Christian and very much Christmas was about the birth of Jesus Christ, and Troy being Jehovah’s Witness, you know, with all these people having their own take that also means everybody kind of grew up with different traditions.
And I think you really get to see that when there’s a holiday. You know? And then so when there’s a special holiday or a season or some kind of, you know, thing like that, even a birthday, you really get to see kind of how each person, where they came from, each character.
And I think some of the fun in our group is really just seeing where each person kind of came from and what they’re used to and then just trying to learn from the other – from the rest of the group, you know?
We’re all sort of kids in a sandbox in preschool except that we’re all adults at Greendale. But we’re essentially doing the same thing, we’re all learning from each other and being like, “Well, this is how I’ve done it. How do you guys do it?” And I think that’s largely the reason why we like to celebrate holidays, plus they’re just fun and there’s a dance.
On whether he took a picture with his doll:
Danny Pudi: It’s going to be very hard for me not to raid that studio and steal one of my dolls. But I’ve heard that the dolls can go upward of $10,000, the ones with the ball and socket, the silicone dolls that they use, and so – and then they actually gave me one to hold. And like I said before, I’m not the best at keeping things steady and I got really nervous.
So I put it down right away, but I mean, they’re really expensive and they’re really true to life, like I said. So I did get a picture of one of them with me, and I’m very happy about that. I think my mom and some other people are kind of weirded out that I have a doll.
And I think it’d be really weirded out if people came over and I had like game night with my friends and they came over and just saw my doll in the corner. I’d be too scared and it, I think, would probably give me flashbacks to Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom with the voodoo doll. So I’m going to keep it away from my house probably.
They focused on religion in an episode already, will the Community Christmas episode be focused on religion as much?
Danny Pudi: I think that one was a little bit more about – definitely a little bit more about, you know, the life of Jesus and that I guess, you know, the Bible. It was a little bit more Christianity based, and I think there was a little bit more about religion in that episode.
This episode I think, you know, the last Christmas episode we talked about, you know, different religions and stuff, and this episode we definitely talk about them a little bit, but I think in this episode it’s not as much about religious differences as it is a little bit more about our characters and kind of exploring the meaning of Christmas for all of us.
And so there is, you know, we definitely touch upon the religions and how we’re different, you know? We talk about even just Seasons Greetings versus Merry Christmas, saying it, you know? But I think what’s fun about this episode it is sort of – there is a little bit more of Abed’s journey into figuring out what is the meaning of Christmas and the study group kind of coming together at the end.
So I would say definitely less religious, but still very full of meaning in terms of like not only Christmas but other holidays as well.
Does the stop motion allow any opportunities to be more reflective?
Danny Pudi: You know, I think a little bit. You know, that one was definitely more meta, you know, film was in the film, about the film, about the film. And a little bit more about that concept, you know? I think in this episode there is a little bit of that about what we, you know, Christmas sort of what we make of it. There is a little bit of that, but I think it’s much more practical I think in this episode. It’s much more like, “Let’s just figure out what is going on, Abed needs to figure out what is the meaning of Christmas for him.”
And, you know, the study group kind of comes together on a mini-mission, I would say, you know, all within probably one day, maybe even one hour. You know? And I think it’s definitely a little bit more – I would say focused.
Especially also because a lot of it is coming from Abed’s point-of-view, one character’s point-of-view, and I think that, yes, so it’s a little bit less about the meta and more about just, “Oh, crap, let’s figure out why we’re stop motion.”
What other references will there be tomorrow night?
Danny Pudi: I’m trying to think. There might be another reference, but I think Farscape is kind of the big arc; it’s the one that’s looming over our heads. But, yes, tomorrow night’s episode, that’s another episode where I think Abed learns a lesson as well.
I think a lot of people learn a lesson from tomorrow night’s episode, it’s very interesting. And, you know, I think Farscape is just sort of the means to the end.
What else is he looking forward to?
Danny Pudi: A lot of things. I mean, we’re doing – we just did an episode where we get to put on a-drug play. So I’m exited about that.
Danny Pudi: Anti-drug play, sorry. Let’s be clear about that. I mean, like I said before, every script I get, I’m just really, really excited to see what’s next and where we’re going. You know, I get to be – I really am in many ways I feel like I’m turning back into a 5 to 10-year old and reliving all my fun childhood things and the fact that I get to do that as an adult with a bank account makes me really excited and my mom can’t be mad at me because this is my job.
But like, you know, you – when you get to play in a blanket fort and then do an anti-drug play at a school and then you get to, you know, be a stop motion character and play with a doll.
Again, these are things that, as an adult male who’s married, you know, probably wouldn’t be able to get away with or at least you’d be monitoring – you’d be monitoring his behavior. Some kind of law force would be.
But I get to do all that and I don’t know, I’m pretty excited, so we’ll see. Tomorrow we have a table read for the next episode and I don’t – I have no idea what it’s about, but I’m really excited.
Thank you for joining us, Danny. Thank you, you were brilliant and wonderful.
Danny Pudi: Oh, thank you, I don’t know about brilliant, but I’m – I hope I was able to answer some questions. I’m really excited. Thank you guys all for listening and being here and I’m really excited about this episode, so it’ll be cool.