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Breakout star Danny Pudi was a hit at Marquette first

By Nicole Sweeney Etter

Danny Pudi, Comm ’01, had just received Holy Communion at Mass when someone asked for his first autograph.

As a cast regular on NBC’s new hit show Community, such moments are becoming Pudi’s new reality. Danny Pudi plays Abed, a socially awkward pop-culture buff who joins a study group of other oddball classmates (played by Chevy Chase and Joel McHale, among others) at Greendale Community College. Pudi is one of the show’s breakout stars who steals the scene more often than not.

Pudi says it was Marquette and then-performing arts director Phylis Ravel that put him on the path to acting. Pudi was the first winner of the Chris Farley Scholarship, which is awarded to students who show creativity and a good sense of humor. Marquetters remember Pudi hamming it up on stage at the
Helfaer Theatre.

After Marquette, Pudi honed his comedic chops at Chicago’s Second City and then through improv troupes Stir-Friday Night and Siblings of Doctors. Once in L.A., he got bit parts on E.R., The West Wing and Gilmore Girls, then starred in a national T-mobile commercial as “the butt dialer.”

But Pudi didn’t give up his day job as an actuarial recruiter until a few months after he landed the Community pilot last March. Then the show was picked up by NBC, and it snowballed from there. “Next thing you know we were on the Thursday night comedy block with The Office and 30 Rock,” he says. Then he was hobnobbing with Tina Fey, Conan O’Brien and other NBC regulars. “It’s especially amazing when you show up to these cocktail parties and people have heard of your show ... when you talk to Tina Fey and she’s like, ‘I loved your pilot.’ You want to turn around and tell everybody, ‘Tina Fey just said she loves my show!’”

But the ultimate validation might have come when he showed his mom around the Community set. “I could finally be like, ‘See, Mom, all that stuff has paid off.’ Especially because she still shows up with medical school applications,” he quips.

His wife, Bridget Showalter Pudi, Comm ’01, helps keep him grounded. “She’s the best critic of my comedy,” he says. “She’ll give me the most honest reaction to anything I do. She’ll just say, ‘Dan, that’s not funny.’ If she does laugh, then I know, this one’s a good one. This one will work for the masses.”

Want to read more?

Read 10 things you don’t know about Danny Pudi or Abed.


Comment by David Casper at Jan 26 2010 01:56 pm
Didn't realize he was a Marquette alum. It should be noted that the creator of the show, Dan Harmon, attended Marquette as well.
Comment by Diane Munzenmaier at Jan 26 2010 02:21 pm
I do vaguely remember his name and face from past Marquette Theater productions. Could you list the plays he performed in at MU to assist my recollection?
Comment by Nicole Sweeney Etter at Jan 26 2010 05:24 pm
Diane: Danny tells us his MU theatre credits include "Godspell," "Into the Woods," the winter dance shows and a few children's shows, including "Alice in Wonderland," directed by Phylis Ravel, and "The Fir Tree," directed by John Schneider.
Comment by Diane Munzenmaier at Jan 27 2010 02:24 pm
Thanks! I was thinking it might be Godspell!
Comment by Tracy at Feb 09 2010 08:18 am
Wow, I had no idea he attended Marquette! He is one of our absolute favorite actors from Community. We always get together with friends and watch it every Thursday evening!
Comment by Bryan Miguel at Feb 17 2010 01:22 pm
Wow, I had no clue he was a Marquette alumnus. I love the show community and he was always my favorite character. Funny we're struggling with a very similar situation split between a medical family and my strive for entertainment, but I'm ADPR '12.
Comment by Charlotte Tisdale at Feb 19 2010 09:41 am
Great story, love that show. Maybe I''ll listen to my accounting major son who wants to be a comedian!!
Comment by Marcelle Benedicta at Oct 28 2010 01:02 am
Had the honor of being casted alongside Pudi in Godspell. He's super funny, extraordinarily talented, and very entertaining. Ran into him several months ago and Pudi's still the most down to earth, fun loving person. He truly deserves this break!
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