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
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.”
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