Late last week, I got a chance to talk to Abed Gheith. While some of you might not know his name, he's worked on a ton of Channel 101 shows you've probably loved. Do you guy's remember House of Cosbys? Are you currently enjoying IKEA Heights? Abed has worked on both shows.
But recently, Abed Gheith has gained another claim to fame. Abed Gheith is the basis for the character on Community also named Abed. We had a nice long AIM chat about what it feels like to be immortalized in the form of a sitcom character, how that came to be and what he's doing now.
The first thing I asked Abed was what it felt like to turn on the television and see himself being portrayed in a network series. "I can't tell you how it feels because I'm still trying to figure it out," he said, "But it's poetic justice since I was raised on sitcoms."
Abed Gheith first met Dan Harmon, the creator of Community (as well as The Sarah Silverman Program and a bunch of other awesome stuff), through his work on Channel 101. "Dan Harmon, he really knows me pretty well. Better than me sometimes," Abed added, "I'm so enamored with Dan and think of him as a role model, so for him to put me in his show exactly how I am with some minor tweaks is unreal."
Speaking of those minor tweaks, I asked Abed how he thinks he's different from TV's Abed, "I think I'm a bit more aware socially. I can tell when people are uncomfortable… It seems like the one on the show has no idea that he's around other people. Like he's watching them on TV. So he's kind of a kid-like version of me."
"And it's such a great show. If it sucked I would be embarrassed."
Gheith apparently auditioned for the role of Abed. Ultimately, the supremely talented Danny Pudi snatched the part, but Gheith seemed thrilled to even be considered for a role in a network pilot, "[Dan Harmon] had me audition and I got very very close… Which was crazy cause it happened so fast I barely got a chance to breath… He did give me some acting classes with his old acting instructor but that was very last minute too."
Although he didn't land the role in Community, Abed has kept himself busy. Most recently with the very funny IKEA Heights, a Channel 101 series wherein he plays villain Frederico Baba. (Just an aside, the creator of IKEA Heights, Dave Seger, also created all of the behind-the-scenes Sarah Silverman Program extras).
"Ikea Heights is a very fun show. It's difficult to act in because I'm always afraid of getting caught so I can't be really that ruthless in my portrayal of the character. You gotta watch when you say 'fuck' really loud. You might upset a few Grandmas."
He's also got a new series coming up with the amazing Michael Kupperman, "We both started a joke with some characters and it became a script we wrote all on Twitter."
We talked about the internet phenomena that was the House of Cosbys, "We (Gheith, Justin Roiland, Sevan Najarian and Steven Chunn) were all sitting around working on Twissleton 2 and we started doing Cosby impressions and making each other laugh. And someone said, 'What if we got all our friends to do Cosby impressions and made a show like Smurfs but with a ton of Cosbys.' From there we just went nuts."
Here is a picture of Abed with a dog, "the dog isn't mine but her name is Pickle."
Like IKEA Heights, House of Cosbys was created for Channel 101, a monthly film festival in Los Angeles (now in New York too), where short pilots are shot and then voted on by the audience that can either renew or cancel the series.
"It was so competitive in those days. We were up against the Lonely Island and Tim and Eric, who were way funnier. We all knew they would go on to better things."
Right now, Abed is creating more content for Channel 101 and auditioning for acting work. Although not many people know TV's Abed is based on a real person, Gheith seems very happy knowing the character based on him is making people laugh.
"One of the best ways to write a character is write it in the voice of someone you know," he added, "[Dan Harmon] knows to take inspiration from what's around him because you can't just make up someone like me."