Issues



January, 2011 Issue

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Donald Glover

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By Ian Kirby

We all seem to be captivated with the notion of a self-made man. Even more enchanting is the young go-getter becoming uber-successful based solely on their organic talents (and, okay maybe just a bit o' luck).

At just 27, Donald Glover has an impressive list of credits. Most recently he has been featured on NBC's prime time sitcom "Community" next to legend Chevy Chase and "The Soup" host Joel McHale. Having gotten the gig based on juice from being a writer on "30 Rock," alongside some other equally legendary figures, he even had his own Comedy Central special air March 19, 2010 and received the Rising Comedy Star Award at the Just For Laughs Festival in July.

Donald's talents go well beyond writing and acting, as he also has a blossoming career in both standup and music. He brings a unique hybrid of the two to the college market for his upcoming "I Am Donald" tour. For the first half of his performance, he performs standup, then he does a video bit with interactive aspects, followed by a fade into a music half scored by a live band, also with elements of comedy. Donald's music career is almost as impressive as his acting, as his persona "Childish Gambino" has sold out every performance he has booked.

"Community" was an incredible boost in Donald's career, putting him in front of millions of weekly television viewers. He describes the surreal experience of working on camera with someone as renowned as Chevy Chase. "It has been really fun. I never expected to get that job. I wrote for "30 Rock" for three years and stopped because I had fallen in love with standup. I was asked to audition by the Russo brothers, who also did 'Arrested Development.' I got the audition and the part and working with Chevy Chase and Joel McHale has been really cool. I mean, these are guys I have already watched; I was already into them. It reminded me lot of when I was writing for "30 Rock" and working with Tina Fey. We have all become so familiar with her through the years, when you start working with someone like that you feel like you already know them or least I did."

Rather than be intimidated, Donald says the level of talent and experience he has been surrounded with has only served to motivate him. "It made me work harder. With someone like Chevy Chase, most of us grew up with him. Now, I hang out with him and he sends me weird text messages," he says laughing. "It's pretty surreal, just to be able to hang out with those guys. It really makes me step up my game and work harder at what I love doing."

For some reason, the image of Chevy Chase doesn't conflict with a guy who sends out frequent, random and weird text messages. "He definitely does. He sends weird text messages all the time, in fact I am thinking about starting a blog called 'I think Chevy Was Drunk...' .com."

Never short on material or thoughts to share as an experienced writer (with a degree in dramatic writing from NYU) and sketch artist (as a member of Derrick Comedy), Donald has more recently begun to master the craft of standup. "I actually started writing in high school, working on plays and movie and television scripts all the way through college. I didn't start doing standup until about three years ago. I have no idea why it took that long...I think my plate was so full with improv, sketch and writing that I was letting myself get ready. That, and the opportunity for my theater work came about before I had a road into standup."

Donald and some friends got the chance to rent out an unoccupied venue and give it a shot. "We found this space in Queens, New York that no one was using. We decided to try hosting some standup shows there and I just loved it."

Despite the incredible opportunities of being a television writer at his age, Donald found the freedom of standup refreshing. "As a writer for '30 Rock' you can't just say anything you want, because it has to be screened by network television censors. I can't be at a writer's meeting for '30 Rock' and say 'Hey, let's just say 'penis' 20 times in a row.' That is against the rules (laughs), but the great thing about doing standup is that there is no censoring, you can truly say what you want. It is a really liberating feeling. Donald says to be sure to watch out for that particular segment in his show (sarcasm detectors engaged please). "I guess I can perform about 65 minutes," he says, "and probably only about 63 minutes of that is about penis (laughs). The last two minutes are, of course, about my family." That seems like a fair ratio. "I think it is," he laughs. "I want to let them know I'm a down-to-earth family man you know..."

Donald can cater his show for particular events, but his background deep in the roots of comedy have polluted his precious young mind to the humorous, if sometimes a little dirty side of life. "People think I am joking, because in my half-hour Comedy Central special I do a bit about how Tracey Morgan wanted me to get up and talk about gross stuff. I am not joking, he literally said 'Talk about penises!' I think that is the one thing about standup, my favorite part. Not talking about penises I mean, but I get to be myself and say what I feel. Of course it isn't all literally penis jokes, but I also hope people don't expect me to just walk out as Abed from 'Community' and just start rapping in Spanish although that would be awesome I know (laughs)"

For those experienced in the field of standup, one thing that jumps out from Donald's statements is his level of development in standup for such a short time in the game. There are comics who have been practicing the art for three years and are still stretching for seven minutes, while Donald is able perform an entire headlining set. "I think I got used to it really fast. At The Creek and The Cave in Queens, we had a show every week. It was a fun little upstart place and the Derrick guys and I had many return guests week after week. That forced us to write new jokes and come up with fresh material to keep our audience coming back every week. Every time I was like 'Oh crap, this same guy is going to be watching from the front row again.' I had to kick it up and keep it fresh."

Donald is a versatile performer, so schools or groups with somewhat more conservative bases shouldn't be scared off. "I know my audience, but I try to be as versatile as possible. The people who know me from my Derrick Comedy days, which is a huge portion of my fan base, know I can be a little dirty, but it's not crazy dirty. It is more like dirty with a point. But I can definitely change it for people. If they want it to be a cleaner set, it isn't a problem as long as they let me know in advance. In general though, I do try to be adaptable to as many audiences as possible."

His versatility is pretty apparent, considering the impressive career he has already built. Years of sketch, writing and improv experience with Derrick Comedy, a staff writing position on the smash "30 Rock," his own Comedy Central Special and his feature role in NBC's "Community" all add up to chameleon-like talent for a performer perfect to fit your campus demographic.

BOOK IT! For more information on Donald Glover contact Matt Blake at Creative Artist Agency or reach him through our website at www.campusactivitiesmagazine.com