In the DP: 'Community' star Danny Pudi discusses mixed ethnicity

By Allison Bart | November 4, 2011 at 12:13 am | via the Daily Pennsylvanian There are three things NBC Community star Danny Pudi wants you to know:Indiana Jones is his favorite movie, he has abnormally large irises so you should feel free to stare deeply into his eyes and he may or may not be left-handed.

This was the message that was announced before Pudi ran in yelling and giving high-fives to the large group of students last night in the sold-outARCH auditorium. He took a short amount of time to set up his slide show, taking a break to yell “Pokémon!” to the cheering audience.

College freshman Laura Doherty was ecstatic about Pudi’s visit. “When I saw the email, I peed in my pants and knew immediately that this was the event of the semester,” she said.

To begin Penn Sangam’s Chai House event — co-hosted by the Asian Pacific Student Coalition — there were performances by Bloomers and Simply Chaos while students chowed down on pad Thai and cups of chai tea.

“Sangam is an organization that raises awareness about Asian-American issues,” Penn Sangam President and College senior Mansi Kothari said. “The reason we brought Danny Pudi is because he has an Asian-American background, so he sort of represents a minority.”

After Pudi took to the podium, he imitated his mother’s Polish accent and his father’s Indian accent. “Both of those voices are part of my identity,” he said. From a complex math equation to explaining how rare he is to dancing along to a traditional Polish dance, he was able to describe how he always felt a bit out of place growing up.

After his dad left when he was 3 years old, Pudi lacked exposure to his Indian heritage. “I realized when I was older that even though I identified myself as Polish, I was perceived as Indian.”

However, Pudi realized that there are a lot of benefits to his unique identity. “I have also been given excellent material for racist jokes,” Pudi said before jumping into a few.

Kothari appreciated Pudi’s integration of comedy and his ethnicity. “I guess what’s great about what he did is that we were expecting him to do comedy, but he made it really personal and he brought in aspects of his mixed heritage into his act,” Kothari said.

With such a diverse upbringing, Pudi met many characters throughout his life. As he stuck on a fake mustache, he explained how these characters made him fascinated with impersonations.

After imitating Batman to prove his range, he explained how he tries to avoid stereotypes. “But I have played four Sanjays,” Pudi said. “Maybe when people look at me, all they see is Sanjay.”

“That’s my show,” Pudi said after screening a video of him asking people to guess his ethnicity.

Moving into a question-and-answer session, many people asked Pudi about life on the set of his show. “I just try to get into Abed’s world for a little bit,” Pudi said. “Then Ken Jeong comes in naked and I’m like, ‘This is work?’”

One of the highlights of the night, which got the crowd roaring, was his “¿Donde está la biblioteca?” rap, one of his favorite segments as Abed with his best friend on the show, Troy.

“I thought it was hilarious, as he usually is,” Engineering freshman Hamza Qaiser said while waiting in line for the meet-and-greet. “I thought having him here as an intercultural speaker was a good idea because that’s a side you don’t really see of him.”

Kothari was similarly pleased with the turnout and the event as a whole. “Danny Pudi was great,” she said. There was an overwhelmingly positive response from the audience, which resulted in two hours of laughter and interaction with Pudi. Many students identified with his humorous stories of his unusual upbringing.

“I’m brown, I sing Polish Christmas carols and my parents met at a YMCA,” Pudi said. “That is my identity.”

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