A decade after he gained notice as the pop-culture-obsessed film student Abed on NBC’s Community, the Polish Indian performer still makes time for his first passion: sketch comedy. Born here and raised in Jefferson Park, Pudi returns to his hometown (he now lives in Los Angeles) on January 9 to perform at the Chicago Sketch Comedy Festival with actor Parvesh Cheena, his longtime friend, in their duo Parv and Pudi.
What’s changed for you since being on Community?
I’m used to being looked at, but I always thought it was because I was a person who grew up mixed race. It’s different now because they recognize me as that guy from that one thing. A man in a restroom saw me as I was going toward a urinal — “Oh my gosh! Dude, I’m a huge fan” — and stuck his hand out to shake. Then he said, “It’s cool, I haven’t touched my penis yet.”
How has Parv and Pudi evolved?
The last few years, it’s been more personal. There’s been a bit more exploration of each of our personal stories, dealing with family, struggles in the industry, perception, and identity. We definitely find ourselves dancing more. I don’t know if that’s a good or bad thing.
What is distinct about Chicago’s comedy scene?
I always think about the ensemble vibe of working together. In Chicago, we’re all smushed together in one place trying to laugh about the fact that once we step outside, I can’t feel my toes anymore. My skin feels dry and it’s bleeding. I definitely will be having lotion in my pocket for this show, just because my ankles and everything else will be so ashy.