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Playing a junior-college underachiever on Community has made Danny Pudi TV’s Most Likely to Succeed. Now he hits the big screen in The Guilt Trip.


If you’re reading this at an altitude of 35,000 feet, Danny Pudi’s face might look especially familiar. That’s because Pudi’s show, Community, airs in American Airlines’ onboard entertainment rotation. Besides enjoying the perks that come with in-flight fame (“The flight attendants bring me cookies and tomato juice with a wink,” Pudi jokes), the 33-year-old is proud to be part of a show with some substance in addition to laugh-out-loud high jinks. “It’s pretty great that I get to work on a show that I really believe in,” Pudi says. “Everyone has those little quirks that we’re sometimes afraid to show, but our show embraces those things and says we can all be our true self.” With Community set to return to NBC in February and The Guilt Trip, a comedy about a mother-son road trip gone awry, hitting theaters this month, American Way talked to the Chicago native and new dad about life with kids and the upside of crossing the line.

AMERICAN WAY: You and your wife recently had twins. Have you suffered from a kid-induced Guilt Trip yet?
DANNY PUDI: All I know is that I am constantly reacting. My wife, she’s proactive. She’s a miracle. There are multiple moments when I look at her and say, “How do I do this?” I need to get her a gift — a gold shiny thing for the end of every single day of the year.

AW: You were working day jobs before your acting career took off. How much has your life changed?
DP: One dramatic change is flying on American Airlines and seeing your face on the screen. It’s also very strange having people say, “Do I know you? Did we go to high school together?” And you want to be like, “You may know me from a show called Community.” But then it turns out they don’t watch Community and you just remind them of Aziz Ansari on Parks and Recreation.

AW: Speaking of Community, do you ever feel like the show crosses the line from quirky to strange?
DP: We’re on that line always. I sleep on that line, live on that line. And I think we embrace that line. The only way to really approach our world is to fully jump into it.

AW: Community has an extremely passionate fan base. You must have some great fan encounters.
DP: I had people in an airport sing the “La Biblioteca” rap for me [from the Season 1 episode “Spanish 101”]. And, in L.A., fans put together an entire art gallery about the show. I bought a piece of all the characters as Wizard of Oz characters.