By now, you’re most likely familiar with the NBC series Community. If you’re a fan of the show, you’re aware of its genius. If you’re not a fan of the show, you’ve no doubt heard of its genius from the legions of fans working tirelessly to recruit their friends to the show’s league of fandom. Not only is Community brilliant and whip-smart, but it’s also incredibly funny and is certainly one of the most wholly original shows on television. Last week I got the chance to speak with Danny Pudi, who plays Abed on the show, in conjuction with Speed Stick’s “Handle It” campaign.
Guys are encouraged to tweet their most awkward or embarrassing stories to @SpeedStick with the hashtag #HandleIt, and Pudi will choose his favorite submission, develop the script, and star in a video based on the entry as the winner’s “inner voice.” During the course of our conversation, Pudi talked about his own worst/most awkward “Handle It” moments, what’s coming up on Community (including another video game episode and an Ocean’s Eleven caper), and I asked him about his blink-and-you’ll-miss-it appearance in The West Wing. Hit the jump to watch or read the interview.
The “Handle It” campaign is currently active and runs through May 14th. If you’d like to participate, tweet your awkward story to @SpeedStick with the hashtag #HandleIt. You can watch the interview below, followed by a full transcript of the conversation.
Danny Pudi: Yes, I’m the face of awkward stories! We’re asking guys to tweet any awkward funny stories to @SpeedStick with the hashtag #HandleIt between now and May 14th, and it’s all about weird, uncomfortable, funny situations that people have been in and how they handle it and manage to keep their cool. So we’re gonna pick one of these stories and turn it into a video that I’m gonna narrate. I’m excited to see kind of what happens, it can be anything awkward.
For me, I get into those situations constantly. I had to dress as Jamie Lee Curtis recently, and of course my wife’s mother came to set as I was dressed in drag. So that’s one moment that was awkward and normal for me in my life. It can be anything like that, people have tweeted some great stories already. A guy tweeted a story about how he was in an elevator and a stranger laid her head on his chest and he yelled, “I’m engaged!” I think that’s really funny, especially given the location of an elevator; cramped space. I wanna see that video. So these are all fun situations that I’m excited to hear about.
So is that the worst “Handle It” moment you’ve heard of so far?
Pudi: No, the worst one I’ve heard so far, I would say, a gentleman said that he was de-pantsed in front of his wife’s parents (laughs). I thought that’s pretty rough. So I would say that’s definitely up there. I mean I’ve been de-pantsed a few times in college. I went to an all-boys high school first of all, and then I went to college and that was definitely a theme; “Let’s de-pants Pudi.” It’s not a great feeling. That’s probably the worst so far, but I’m sure we’ll have a few more.
What kind of criteria are you looking for? I’m assuming you’re gonna be choosing the winning video.
Pudi: Yeah we’re gonna work together to pick out our favorite. There’s gonna be a number of criteria, 1. It’s gotta be funny, a funny situation, and then probably relatable that most of us has gone through, but I’m also looking forward to seeing what’s the creative way out of it? How have people handled the situation? How have they gotten out of it? What have they yelled? What instinct took over? One time when I was with my wife’s parents, we were driving through Milwaukee and at the time we were dating and it was one of the first times I had really met her parents, and we drove past a Hooters and it was very quiet in the car and I just yelled “Hooters!” That was not a good idea, but instinct took over and I just did that. So I’m curious to see what other people do when they’re caught in a very uncomfortable moment and they just follow their heart (laughs).
Do you have a go-to response that could work in any “Handle It” moment?
Pudi: I don’t because I think every person’s different and unique. What works for me—now I’ve gotten to the point where I just relish and kind of savor these awkward moments. My wife knows I get into them all the time, and she makes fun of me for them but it’s comfortable to me now and I’d kind of like to see how I’m gonna handle, and how I’m gonna get out of this situation. I also know it’s gonna be a good story.
I’m really nervous about haircuts, and my wife makes fun of me because of that because I’ll like cling to a chair. So I got a haircut not that long ago, and when I got home my wife started looking at me and she’s sort of looking at my head and she goes, “Huh?” and I was like, “What?” and she said, “Turn around” so I turn around and she’s like, “They didn’t cut the back of your head.” So I looked in the mirror and sure enough the whole back of my head was not cut, I had all the hair left over there with really short sides and the top was really short.
I think she thought I was trying to do a hipster statement or something. I don’t know what happened, but for some reason when I got my haircut they left all this in the back. So my wife was like, “You are going back there right now and demanding they finish your haircut,” and I was like “Ugh” tail between my legs. So sure enough I go there, but the woman that cut my hair was cutting someone else’s hair, so I had to ask somebody else to cut my hair. The whole time she’s cutting someone else’s hair right here, there’s a lot of silent negotiation like “We know what’s happening here.” I was really nervous and I didn’t really do much, I just said, “Can you cut the back of my head?” Some battles are worth losing and I don’t really like scissors by my head (laughs). That’s one of those where I don’t know if I handled it best, but that’s one of those awkward situations I got into that my wife makes fun of me for.
I’m assuming it must have been a bit crazy for you over these past couple of years with Community really taking off. I’m a big fan of the show, and the fans that are into the show really love the show. Do you get a lot of people coming up to you on the street and quoting Abed at you? And also, does anyone ever want to talk to you about The West Wing?
Pudi: (laughs) No, thank you for bringing that up! What was it? “Guess list for the Cleveland event.”
I’m a bit of a West Wing nut and when I was rewatching the series I caught you on there.
Pudi: Good eye. That was actually my first TV role, The West Wing, and it was the most terrifying. As you know, they did a lot of walk-and-talks, which are really difficult if you just have one or two lines because you have to be precise because they’re walking down a hallway. My whole exchange was I had to get to Brad Whitford and give him a piece of paper and say, “Guest list for the Cleveland event,” as he was walking past this one entrance. So it was terrifying because it was all about hitting your marks. But no, no one ever talks to me about The West Wing because I think I was in it for (snaps) that long. You are the first, good eye.
As far as Abed, yeah I get approached on the street non-stop. That is the cool thing about our show, is that people who like our show usually really like our show. It’s not really a passive show, it’s very active. I think part of the reason why is I do feel our show is very collaborative and interactive. It’s all about what’s going on in the world right now, not just with the study group but around us as well; I think that’s the sentiment. So yeah, people come up to me all the time and are like, “Hey man, donde esta la biblioteca?” and then they wanna rap. I get asked all the time from people who want to do the Troy and Abed handshake. It’s fun, it’s really cool to see it connecting with people.
These episodes following the “hiatus” have been phenomenal, so I’m assuming it must have been a little frustrating for you guys knowing you had gold just sitting there. Are there any other big homages coming up that you’re excited to have audiences see?
Pudi: Yeah it was really interesting because while we were on hiatus, we were filming all these episodes. So while it might have been just a little frustrating, it was also really liberating, too, because we knew we were doing something really exciting during that. And it was also just kinda confusing, because the whole time while we were not on the air, technically, we were still shooting so I felt like we were still working. Like I said, we really believe in the product; we really believe in what we’re creating.
Tonight’s episode is one of my favorites, it’s a Law & Order inspired episode. It’s very full, New York. It’s just super exciting. I think it was really well executed, Rob Schrab directed it, who’s a good friend of Dan Harmon’s, Megan Ganz wrote it. Everyone within the whole Greendale universe takes on the Law & Order theme, so I think people are gonna really dig that.
There’s an episode coming up where we have like an Ocean’s Eleven caper, that’s also really fun for me. I think that was a really exciting episode. There’s another video game episode coming up. There’s a lot of really interesting episodes coming up where we also deal with some deep things, not just in terms of the study group or relationships but the school itself, and so I think the stakes are a little higher. I think anytime the stakes are a little higher, the homage as well means more. So I think people are gonna dig it.
Have you heard the latest word on a renewal for season four?
Pudi: No. I tell people, it’s crazy, in three seasons on Community I’ve been one of the last people to find out each time we were either picked up or put on hiatus or anything. Even when we went on hiatus, no one told me. I had no idea, I was not onset. We find out last-minute because I think it’s such a fast-paced news cycle now. I’m sure you’ll find out on blogs or on Twitter or on Facebook sooner than we will, so please tell me.
Community airs on Thursdays on NBC at 8/7c.