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Depending on your age, you either know Danny Pudi from his comedic turns on the beloved sitcom Community or his current series, Mythic Quest, or from his voice work on cartoons including the DuckTales reboot, Mira, Royal Detective and Smurfs: The Lost Village. The latter group will be delighted to learn that the Chicago-bred actor is once again lending his vocal talents to kids' entertainment, voicing the eponymous lead character in the new GoKidGo podcast Bobby Wonder.
Pudi plays a 10-year-old on the podcast, but in real life he and wife Bridget are parents to 9-year-old twins, James and Fiona. Here, he opens up about trying to impress his "littlest critics," introducing the twins to Community and passing on cultural traditions as a half-Polish, half-Indian dad.
What's it like having twins?
It's just full of joy and wonder — and bananas at times, but it's just amazing. It's a chance to see everything again in a different way. They're both very different, too, so it's really fun because we get to explore different worlds with that and share all these experiences with them. I guess in some ways that's very much the silver lining over the last year, that when schools were closed and the world is going through this incredibly difficult time, it's been nice to at least have these moments where we are spending a lot more time together. They get to see me work more. We're going on long walks with our dog. We are all trying to not snack too much. We're all just sharing more experiences together, so that's been really, really wonderful. It's cool just to see what they take in and what they find entertaining, what they find amusing. I like to watch them watch shows and see what they find entertaining and amusing and what makes them laugh. That's always interesting to me.
It's been just the best gift in the world, being able to share experiences with them and to see the world through their eyes again.
As a parent, do projects like Bobby Wonder have a certain appeal?
This came to me during this time when a lot of us are home and still looking to create... so it was an opportunity to do something at home with my kids. I just thought that it was really appealing. It's always, for me, about finding balance; there are some projects that my kids can't listen to [laughs] and some that they can. This one falls into that camp, where it's something that I could share with them and they literally have heard me working on it and they've heard it put together. It's been fun because it's one of those unique projects where they get a chance to watch me work when I'm upstairs in my office, screaming and pretending I'm getting hit in the face with a baseball. They find that, I think, even more enjoyable [laughs] than the finished product. Just like, "What are you doing, Dad?!"
In terms of the project itself, it's a podcast, so it's unique; I haven't worked on anything like that before for kids. I thought it was really exciting to get into that space. And the character itself, Bobby, he's this curious cat who really looks at the world in a beautiful way, filled with wonder. And then on top of that, he wakes up on his 10th birthday and he has superpowers where he doesn't feel pain, he can fly and do all sorts of cool things. That to me was really exciting. He has blue hair... I had a ponytail in college, so I can kind of relate to that as well.
In addition to this, you've done so much cartoon voice work, including DuckTales. Does that give your kids any street cred at school? Are they impressed?
I don't know if they're impressed at all. I think they're just so used to me being goofy with them. I think they do love having these cool worlds around them. But I think in some ways that they're actually my biggest critics — or I should say my littlest critics [laughs]. My daughter will say like, "That character sounds a little too similar to other characters you've done," or "I think you've got to sound younger." But I think they do appreciate it, and every once in a while I'll hear my kids say, "So-and-so watches DuckTales" or "so-and-so has heard of that character that you did." They'll kind of whisper it to me, so I'm hoping eventually it'll give me some street cred. That's part of the reason why I'm doing this — I'm really just trying to impress them.
You posted about homeschooling your kids in social studies. Did your Community background help out in any way?
I definitely didn't teach a class about Who's the Boss to my children. But yeah, we actually watched Community during the break. We started watching some episodes and started sharing that with them, and that was really fun to see. A lot of people will stop me on the street and they'll say things about DuckTales or Community or sometimes Mythic Quest. Some of those things I can share with them, some of them, I can't. Things like Bobby Wonder, I can definitely share with them; that's really nice. Things like DuckTales, I can share with them. But now they're interested in that sort of "what's that thing that's inappropriate that we're not ready for yet, Dad?" And so I'm starting to ease them into that, and Community has been some of that.
And I guess that's been some of my responsibility as a social studies teacher, just determining what is developmentally appropriate for my kids. They're smart, and they quickly realized that their mom — my wife was a fourth-grade school teacher and she's incredible — is way more equipped to handle their questions and figure out what is appropriate. So she's handling most of them; she's doing most of the heavy lifting while I'm figuring out, Is this appropriate? I'm not really sure, and showing them clips of episodes. In the moment, all of us are discovering it together, so it's been fun. It's been really cool to put on a new hat as a teacher. I will say my appreciation and admiration for teachers everywhere — and it's always been high — but it's gone to another level during this time. I really just think that they are true heroes in every way.
You're both Polish and Indian. You posted about Polish fairytales on your Instagram — are there any other little things you've passed on to teach your kids about their heritage?
We're trying. My mom is probably going to be disappointed because I'm not doing it enough. My family's in Chicago, and my mom was born in Poland and my dad was born in India. That's a big part of my identity, so it's definitely something I want to pass on to my kids and they're very aware of that. I wish they had more Polish speakers around. We read some books; there's some Polish books around on the shelves. They'll hear me singing songs. For every birthday we always sing "Sto lat," which is our Polish birthday song. We celebrate a Polish tradition called Wigilia every Christmas. We hang on to this tradition called the opłatek where we go around the table and exchange this wafer and exchange blessings. And there are some Polish tongue twisters I like to do around the house that I'm trying to teach [the kids]. They are incredibly difficult, but a great vocal warmup. It's a great exercise for everyone. [Recites Polish tongue twister] It's impossible to do, but it is a great exercise for your face. I'm hoping that we can pass on some things, but I definitely should be doing more, according to my mom [laughs].
I have to bring up your infamous "Larry, I'm on DuckTales" moment with Larry King. What is a luxury to you as a parent? Obviously not a private jet.
I mean, you know, my two big ones are coffee and running socks. As a parent, a luxury would be finding an activity that all of us can succeed and thrive in. We did an escape room together over quarantine, and that was amazing. It was this escape room that was like an abandoned mine. It was one hour of all four of us having the best time... So that to me is a luxury, anything where I'm like, OK, this is something that all of us can have fun doing together. I'm saying escape rooms [laughs]. We need more escape rooms in our life.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
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