After a few weeks in reruns, "Community" is, like the rest of NBC's new Thursday sitcom lineup, back with a new episode tonight, guest-starring Malcolm Jamal-Warner from "The Cosby Show" as Shirley's oft-discussed ex-husband. So when I was trying to navigate NBC's overpacked press tour party last week, I made sure to talk to Yvette Nicole Brown about getting to work with Theo from "The Cosby Show." And as luck would have it, she was hanging around with co-star Danny Pudi, who had his own Theo memories to share.

(FYI, one of my questions gives away one joke from tonight's episode, so if you don't wanna know, don't click. But if you do read, you'll see that the question inspires Pudy to drop some amusing "Cosby Show" knowledge.)

So when last we saw each other, you (Yvette) were still speculating on who your husband might be. And it wound up being Theo.

Yvette: And I was saying that I hoped it was Theo. 

I believe you were saying it should be Isaiah Mustafa.

Yvette: No, no, no.  I said I wanted my love interest to be Isaiah Mustafa.  I said if he was my husband and we reconciled I wanted Malcolm.  That’s what I said.

How does it feel playing scenes with Theo Huxtable exactly?

Danny: it’s amazing.

Yvette: He’s the nicest man.

Danny: He’s probably the nicest guy ever.  The very first thing he said to me - it was a scene with me, him and Joel - and he’s like, "Damn, you guys work a lot of hours."  It was a great scene that’s in this next episode.  He’s great.

Yvette: He has a really nice heart-to-heart with Joel’s character.

Danny: He’s a musician.  I didn’t know all this about him.

Yvette: I did.

Danny: Yeah, she knew. But it’s fun for us to be like that’s Malcolm Jamal-Warner!  This is Theo right here! 

Growing up, were you a Theo-phile?

Yvette:
Oh my God. We did press calls together on Wednesday, and they asked me how does it feel to have Malcolm on the show. I said to Malcolm, "Can you mute your phone or put it on hold for a second?" Because I didn’t want him to know what I really think about him, because I’ve loved him since I was 13 years old. So literally, as a little kid, I was like, "One day I’m going to marry Theo Huxtable," and now I’ve married Theo Huxtable!

Danny: I think we all geeked out.  That’s the good thing about being an ensemble, too when someone shows up because we can all be like, "I’m going for it." 

Yvette: Right, we’re all going for it together.

Danny: When John Legend came to set one time to visit, we...

Yvette: Totally geeked out.

Danny: Geeked out!  I mean like…

Yvette: Betty White - geeked out! 

Danny: And with Malcolm, I told him how instrumental that show was to me. Some of the scenes I still remember, like  but also like some of the scenes like I still remember, like "Night and Day."

I’ve seen in the promo pics that he’s wearing a Cosby sweater.

Yvette: Yeah, it’s like an inside joke. On Thursday at 8 p.m. on NBC.

Danny: It’s not a Gordon Gartrell.  No.  We’re talking wooly. It’s wooly.

How was it doing the religion episode? Because you two don’t usually do a lot together on the show.

Danny: We talk about this.  We have so much fun working together, and we’re always kind of like, "How about Abed and Shirley do an episode together?"

Yvette: I think Abed and Shirley, it’s so funny. Abed let Shirley hug him and he let Shirley hold his hand and I think - and I’m not just saying this because I just adore Danny - but I think they really have a connection...

Danny:
I agree.

Yvette: ...that if they were ever to delve into I think it would be really sweet.

Danny: I get it.  I think Abed gets that she is working her butt off to raise her kids and her husband is  out of the picture. He gets the sort of struggle, you know?  He gets that she’s got a really beat up mini-van. That makes sense to him because his falafel restaurant is beat up. And there’s that sort of connection, so that’s still one of my favorite episodes in many ways, when she comes in with that baseball bat and knocks the shit out of everything.

Yvette: And I just loved the ending, you know, "You humble me."

Danny: "You humble me," I know.  That was like…

Yvette: Because they both met each other at a place they could understand.

Danny: And that episode’s directed by Tristram Shapeero who is one of my favorite directors.  He’s so good.

Yvette: He is one of my favorite directors as well.

Danny: He directed our chicken fingers episode and the mean girls episode, he’s just really great.

Alan Sepinwall may be reached at sepinwall@hitfix.com