Ahoy, squirts! Quint here. After seeing Dan Eckman’s great, underseen comedy Mystery Team I was sure we’d be seeing more of Mr. Donald Glover and so we did.
Glover plays Troy on Community, an-ex high school jock superstar whose childlike view of the world is both sweet and hilariously detatched. He was the first interview I had on my big set visit a week or so ago and it was a fun chat about working with his cast members, where we find Troy at the beginning of season 3 (which airs tonight) and became a hint at the craziness that was to come later on in my day as Joel McHale and Chevy Chase drop in towards the end of our talk.
So, here’s Donald and myself discussing Community, Childish Gambino, what makes comedy work and even more fun stuffs. Also, keep an eye out for a few Sound-O-Text audio clips sprinkled throughout the interview! Hope you enjoy it!
Donald Glover: Is this like a voice essay or something? Where I should just talk about everything? Like life in general? (Laughs) I’ll do it, but it won’t be interesting.
Quint: Sure. I’ll do the James Lipton and can ask you what your favorite curse word is.
Donald Glover: “BRO-RAPE. This amazing piece of work…”
Quint: “It’s transcendent.”
Donald Glover: “People call you ‘The Black Tom Hanks.’” They do not. No one has ever said that.
Quint: So, I guess we should just start talking about where Troy is at the beginning of the season.
Donald Glover: I think at the beginning of the season it’s just been like him and Abed have moved in together…
Quint: I was in their room. I saw the Kickpuncher posters. (laughs)
Donald Glover: Yeah. They’ve moved in together, they are pretty stoked on that. I think just this arc with John Goodman where Troy is really good at fixing stuff, he’s just naturally good at it and it’s this whole thing where John Goodman is trying to convince him to be an air conditioner (repairman), because they kind of run the world. They do! People need to be comfortable. You will pay a man good money, which I have done before, like “Yes, I will pay the extra 200 for you to come over here and fix this right now…”
Quint: “What? I need to replace the whole unit? $10,000?” I live in Texas, believe me I know.
Donald Glover: I know, it’s bad!
Quint: “I’ll sell a kidney, just get that air conditioner in here.”
Donald Glover: “Please get the air working!. So, Jerry Miner is trying to convince me to be a plumber, which is kind of like the good side of the force. So, yeah there is a whole Jedi thing where my Midichlorian rate is high because I’m really good at fixing stuff. There’s one part that makes me laugh so much, because it’s like “Oh, it’s so much STAR WARS” where he’s just like “He fixed a 500 coil spring over night. Not even I could do that” kind of thing, “Well he can!” It was really dope, but yeah that’s basically what’s going on with Troy right now, I guess following more of him trying to figure out what being a man is using his father as a great example and you know Joel’s character Jeff is a better example, but also just really fucked up.
Quint: I was about to say, “Yeah then your father is not a good example if Jeff is the role model!”
Donald Glover: I know, if Jeff is like what I have you know?
Quint: It’s like a foster father “At least he doesn’t beat me.”
Donald Glover: Yeah, like a foster father. He doesn’t beat me, but he does fuck everything and has a thing for a girl half his age. So, it’s a weird thing, but it’s interesting, yeah.
Quint: That’s cool. I’m really excited to see what the living together stuff with Troy and Abed produces, to see that evolution of their friendship. It’s such a ripe setting for Dan Harmon (and his writing team) to pick apart some sitcom clichés.
Donald Glover: Yeah, they are going to address, at some point, like splitting the house in half or something like that.
Quint: Where you’ve got to get the duct tape out.
Donald Glover: Yeah, just seeing the other side of that like “Yeah, we’ll just split it” and it’s like “Oh, but the bathroom is on your side. Hmm…” and just cutting to piles of shit in one corner. Like “Yeah, it kind of worked out great, I poop in jars!” (laughs) Yeah, I feel like Dan knows TV, he will do something way more interesting.
Quint: It’s funny you talking about STAR WARS… Last season, when the big Star Wars running joke was happening during the paintball two-parter, I have to admit… Star Wars jokes are an easy go-to now, but what I really liked with what Dan did is he completely takes such an easy joke and then turns it on its head.
Donald Glover: He’s really good at… He’s just as tired as you guys. That’s the thing, he gets it. He always gets it before me, he’s like “Yeah, I’m bored with it too” or “I’m tired of it, too.” If you are bored of it, he’s really bored of it. I mean the whole COMMUNITY thing was just about… He’s like “I hate referential comedy. I hate it, but I know I can do it better than everybody.” I’m just like “Yeah, you can.” He’s like “I hate that stuff, but I can do it really well and I get it,” so like “I’m tired of all of these tropes too, but I understand them and I can do them well and I want to flip them,” so it makes sense that he would do something as much as STAR WARS where people are like “Ugh, another STAR WARS thing?” Then it’s just like “Oh, yeah I’m tired of it too, but we are still going to do it!”
Quint: Well that’s kind of like saying any spoof movie is bad just because it can be done badly. You watch KENTUCKY FRIED MOVIE or you watch AIRPLANE or TOP SECRET and it’s like that’s what they could be and they’re just not.
Donald Glover: What you are really tired of is the stuff in it that isn’t the stuff that works. It’s just like people are like “Oh man, another MATRIX parody?” It’s like “No, you are tired of people slowing stuff down and then turning the stuff…” That wasn’t what made that movie, that was just a cool thing that was in the movie that everybody stole, but like the rest of the movie like the Bible element of it of like the chosen one, I could see 20 billion of those movies and still think they were dope, because they still work. That STAR WARS thing last year was like “It still worked…” The story elements… I was still invested.
Quint: Yeah, well it was the character focus, making Abed Han Solo and making that his personality is what made it work for me and how it worked with not just his personality, but how it influenced everybody else. Suddenly he became attractive and he became the rogue.
Donald Glover: Yeah, he becomes a rogue and it’s really cool to see, because you know Abed… I think he’s the key to this show, like he’s what makes everything okay because he’s with the audience of like “Oh, I know what this is. Let’s do it.” He’s the first to be excited about it.
Quint: Well, and he’s an innocent, too in a very odd way, so there’s no judgment.
Donald Glover: There is no judgment there. Like on the STAR WARS episode where he was like “I know, I wish it happened sooner, too.” That was like my favorite joke. It’s like “STAR WARS. Uhh…” “I know, I wish I had had them sooner, too.” Like he’s excited.
Quint: Before this you hadn’t really done TV before you got COMMUNITY, right? You had done MYSTERY TEAM…
Donald Glover: I did MYSTERY TEAM and I was writing for 30 ROCK, but I was on there like twice.
Quint: At this point you are three seasons in to a popular show. It seems like everybody is still in a groove. It must be really cool for you to have a show runner making a show that obviously you are a fan of and you like the people and you like the characters and it’s smart.
Donald Glover: Yeah. I joke that after I do stuff I can’t go back because usually I’m lucky enough… Like, I can’t write for any other show other than 30 ROCK because it was 30 ROCK and it was my first show with all of these like veterans, Tina Fey and Alec Baldwin, and it was like all of these perfect elements and I’m like “Am I supposed to just go write like Nickelodeon shows? I can’t go back…”
It’s kind of like that Chris Rock show where it’s just like women can’t move backwards in lifestyle and men can’t move backwards in sexual stuff. It’s like I can’t move backwards now that I’ve worked with these great dudes. I can’t be a writer for any show now. It’s the same thing with this, like it’s a great show and everybody likes each other. It’s fun, we hang out on the weekends, I love the directors, Dan… It’s a show I like. I don’t think I could do another show, unless I wrote it and it was a passion project, but just dong another show?
I am very fortunate and very lucky. (For instance) I write nasty tweets and my blog… there’s a bunch of shit that I’m like “If I was on another show, they would probably be like ‘Don’t do that,’” but Dan’s just tweeting back and retweeting. We get a lot of freedom. It’s cool.
Quint: He’s a captain that you can believe in. Can you imagine how miserable you would be if you were on a show, even if you liked the people around you and…
Donald Glover: And it was like run of the mill? Yeah, I mean the great thing about Dan is it does trickle down and he loves the show. He’s passionate about the show. He wants the show to be a work of art and that’s all I think a lot of us ever wanted where it’s like “We just want somebody who likes what they are doing,” because that trickles down. There’s a lot of things, like we are not allowed to have milk on set anymore, there’s a lot of crazy stuff going on with food and we are tired all of the time and as long as that comes down to like “But this is going to be so funny” and it’s like “Yeah, do it.” There are a lot of shows where it’s like I don’t give a fuck if it’s funny, I just want to go home… I never want to go home here.
Quint: one of my favorite things about the show… I’m a huge fan of the old screwball comedy stuff, Preston Sturges movies and BRINGING UP BABY and you know that kind of thing with rapid fire jokes. I know every episode I’m watching there’s going to be 15 jokes or character humor thrown in every minute and it keeps this continual investment in the show.
Donald Glover: Have you seen this scene at all?
Donald Glover: You should watch this scene because me and Joel (McHale) were talking “It’s like a comedy bullet ricochet,” because it’s really funny. It’s like Pierce does this whole monologue about his father dying and he’s like “I used to be scare of you, but now I’m not, because you are dead and I’m not.” Then he ends it with like “And you’re dead, so now I win. Suck it.” That’s the joke and then I do “Dude, just told his dad he could suck it!” That’s the second joke, and then Gillian goes “So Oedible” like the Oedipus complex, like “So Oedible” and then (laughs) the priest goes “You’re the fucking worst.” So it was like “boom, boom, boom.” There was so much and we were like “This is crazy how fast that plays!”
Quint: Do you find that it’s easier now that you have gotten to know everybody in the cast and kind of know your rhythms?
Donald Glover: We definitely know the rhythms and stuff and know what people should be doing, which is really great. I guess it’s just like every director is different and the stuff that they are trying to pull out is different even though it’s a TV show and it has to have the same look, but Joe and Anthony (Russo), they know the show really well, so whenever they are here it’s just like boom, boom, boom.
Usually his direction is either like “Pull back” or “Sell that joke.” That’s it. So it’s like either bigger or smaller, but just character-wise we all know what we are supposed to do like actually we are all pitching jokes yesterday. There’s this whole gay part of this episode where the guy is trying to like… like Hawthorn Wipes is like a gay icon and when he came up to the table we were like “He should definitely…” One of the gay guys when he was leaving he winks at Jeff, Joel’s character, and all of us were like “Joel needs to have a reaction, because he’d be really pissed if a gay guy did not think he was attractive. He’d be really upset.” All of us had that thought immediately which was “We all know each other pretty well and know what we would do and stuff and how dumb we are with each other.” It’s pretty good.
Quint: Nice, so how is your non-Community stuff going, Childish Gambino and all of that stuff. You mentioned Fun Fun Fun fest in Austin earlier. Has that happened yet?
Donald Glover: No, yeah it happens in November. I’m going to do that and you’ll be there I’m sure since you’re in Texas.
Quint: Austin is my home.
Donald Glover: Austin has a bunch of festivals.
Quint: Yeah, a lot. (Laughs) Fantastic Fest starts next week, a movie festival…
Donald Glover: That sounds like the best place to live ever.
Quint: Oh yeah, especially if you’re a movie geek or a music geek it seems to be the place.
Donald Glover: SXSW was really fun. When is that? Is that in March?
Quint: Yes, SXSW is in March, yeah.
Donald Glover: Yeah, well Childish Gambino I was actually listening to it and am working on the last verse of something and listening to mixes, like it’s pretty much the album’s done. I really, really am liking it. I’m at that part, and everybody says it’s normal, but just that thing where you are like one day you are like “This is the fucking worst piece of shit ever” and the next day you’re like “I love it” and the next one you are like “I hate it.”
So today I like it, but yesterday I was like “Oh boy…” It’s a cohesive album, like it’s got a theme, which I wanted. I just wanted to be truthful and the hour special comes out the same week as the album, so thanksgiving should be interesting. It will be very depressing… It will either be very joyous or I’ll be drinking Thanksgiving dinner.
Quint: (Laughs) It will be joyous, don’t worry.
Donald Glover: It will be joyous. I’m working on a movie. Hopefully that will be… I need to actually call somebody about that and then yeah 2011 will be very…
Quint: Sorry if you called them instead of doing this interview, that would have been the difference.
Donald Glover: Yeah, that was the difference. “I’m sorry, we can’t make the movie anymore, you were busy.”
Quint: “You were too late. You ignored the call.”
[Joel McHale walks by.]
Joel McHale: Fuck you, Donald !
Donald Glover: That’s Joel McHale. We don’t get along. Oh, have you not been following how much me and Joel McHale don’t get along? We fucking hate each other!
Yeah, but it’s all been going good… I’m sorry if I’m tired, but yeah it’s just been kind of constant, like I’m kind of looking forward to Thanksgiving because that will be it, like the album will be out and I’ll be able to rest for two weeks.
Quint: Yeah, you’ll give birth. The baby will be out…
Donald Glover: Yeah, the baby will be born and it will be good.
Quint: And out of the nest at the same time. I don’t know if that analogy works so well, but you know…
[Chevy Chase walks up.]
Chevy Chase: “Hello, I am Cybill Shepherd’s vagina.”
Donald Glover: Hey! You look a lot better than I thought you would.
[Quint and Chevy Chase are introduced to each other.]
Donald Glover: He works for Ain’t It Cool.
Chevy Chase: Is that tape rolling there?
Chevy Chase: Swell!
Donald Glover: (laughs) That’s the title of the article now, just letting you know…
Chevy Chase: “I’m Cybill Shepard’s vagina?”
Donald Glover: “I’m Cybill…” He said as he walked down the… yeah…
Quint: “You have to lead with that, right?” That’s what they taught us in school.
Hope you dug the chat. That little bit at the end, with the insanity of Joel McHale and Chevy Chase interview-bombing us, is but a small taste of the big craziness that’s to come in the full audio interview, which will post tonight. So keep an eye peeled over in the left hand column for that!
Community’s Season 3 premieres tonight on NBC!