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Capone talks to COMMUNITY's Donald Glover about music, movies, and the loose definition of 'cool'!!!

Hey everyone. Capone in Chicago here.

After several years of making very funny video shorts (please check out "Bro Rape" if you haven't seen it already) and appearing in small roles on shows like "30 Rock" (for which he was a writer in its early years), Donald Glover made a little movie called MYSTERY TEAM that has earned itself a solid cult following for good reason. The same year that film was released, Glover was cast in "Community" as Troy Barnes, a former football player who quickly transformed into a geek icon by fans who desperate wanted him to be cast as the new Peter Parker in the upcoming Amazing Spider-Man. It's kind of interesting to watch how Troy has evolved from the pilot episode, and now he and Abed (Danny Pudi) are arguably one the greatest comedy teams on television.

An interesting aspect to this interview, which took place in July at San Diego Comic-Con, is that a couple of days before it occurred, I was contacted by someone representing the show asking if I wanted tickets to see Glover perform at the House of Blues the night before our interview. I had assumed this was going to be a comedy show, but little did I know that he was there to perform under his hip-hop alias Childish Gambino. I had never heard Glover's music, and I was shocked to watch him perform a top-notch music show with a screaming audience that seemed to know every word to every song. It was a great time.

As was I, Glover was still a bit tired from his energetic performance, so our interview began with us co-miserating about our level of exhaustion. Still, he was a great interview. Please enjoy my talk with Donald Glover…

Capone: Forgive me if I seem a little out of it, but I was up late last night watching Childish Gambino perform, so I'm a little tired.

Donald Glover: [laughs] You’re tired? I don’t know where I am.

Capone: That’s what you said last night. You said you were in a daze.

DG: Dude, that’s never happened.

Capone: Did you just hit the wall on stage?

DG: Well I hit a wall, which was fine, but it was just like I’ve hit the wall before just like that, but I think it was just like my brain just started remembering everything but the words to my songs. I had just been in the studio writing and doing all of this stuff and I’m redoing the website. I’m redoing everything, like the whole thing is being revamped, and this was the first performance I’ve had in a while that that’s happened, so it just felt like… It was weird, I was doing the song, and then I kind of saw myself from outside doing the song and I was like, “This is not good.” And in my head, I was like “Donald, relax.” And then all of the lyrics like from my new songs just started coming into my head and I just let it go.

Capone: It was like a traffic jam.

DG: It was like a traffic jam, and I felt really bad like, “Oh God, you guys are great, but I’m so sorry.” I felt really shitty, but the show was great other than that.

Capone: I knew that you did music, but I had never heard it, and it was wild being at a show where everyone around us was singing every word to every song.

DG: It’s really cool. My parent’s are like, “You’re not on the radio, so you’re not like a real artist.” But it’s great to go to a show, and people always freak out when everybody knows the words, which is really cool. It’s like a really cool cult following.

Capone: So, I don’t know what you guys are going to be talking about in the panel. The first season and the second season are very different in that the second season seems a little more focused on doing these homages to either specific films or types of films; each episode was sort of focused on one theme. Are you going to continue along that line? Is that what were you guys found your stride, by doing stuff like that?

DG: [Harmon] writes the shows--and this isn’t just saying it--he literally has a structure that he goes through with the writers on how to write the show, and most sitcoms are like “A story, B story, C story,” like they go like that. His is a circle, and it’s written like a movie, so all of the episodes are mini-movies essentially, which is why they fucking take so long and they are hard to do.

Capone: It does seem like more work.

DG: They really do take more time, so I think the thing is we did do more homages last year, but the reason was because I think it’s just easier to do an homage, because the movie is already made for you, so you already know how the movie works.

Capone: You’ve got the template for it.

DG: Yeah, you’ve got the template already there, so you can set the story. Also I feel like we knew the characters more, so it was easier to put them in an APOLLO 13 homage, because it’s just like, “Okay, Troy is going to say the dumb thing, and Britta's going to be on her high horse about it.” We knew how those things work as opposed to people you don’t know in a movie that you sort of remember.

Capone: Yeah, I’ll probably talk more about Joel about it, because the MY DINNER WITH ANDRE episode might have been, for film geeks, that was…

DG: For film geeks, right? Wasn’t it crazy? When I heard that I was like… first of all I got really excited, and I was like, “Who knows MY DINENR WITH ANDRE other than kids who went to film school?”

Capone: I found out about it from watching Siskel and Ebert reviewing it and thinking, “I’ve never watched a movie of just two people talking before, how interesting would that be?”

DG: Yeah, it’s really funny, because I was worried about people not getting, but it’s like the film nerds who do get it will be lik,e “Holy shit, this is totally MY DINNER WITH ANDRE,” but also the people who don’t know MY DINNER WITH ANDRE will be like, “That’s a fucking movie? People talking to each other?”

Capone: You’ve probably answered this question a bunch last year when you guys were here, but I didn’t cover this event last year, so to hell with it. The little tags that you and Danny [Pudi] do at the end of the show, where did the idea come from to sort of exit each show with that?

DG: The studio.

Capone: Did you guys put that together, or is that written for you as well?

DG: The studio was like, “We need tags.” Dan was like “Okay,” and we had done the rap thing. He wrote a rap, and we did the rap thing, and then that got so popular we just started doing it more. It just become the thing. I don’t know, it just kind of naturally grew, me and Danny just started doing that together.

Capone: It feels like a riff, like you two just get an idea and go with it, or is it more scripted than that?

DG: Some of them are riffs. The one from two years ago, the Halloween one where we are sitting down, none of that is scripted, that’s just us talking. The Ernie and Bert one, the whole ending of that is just like totally improv. Most of the time what will happen is they will write something, send it down, and the writer/director on the script who is down there will be like, “Okay, we will do it once the way it’s written and then we’ll just fuck around.” So we'll just fuck around until it feels funny and right and until we're having fun. We usually just improv it or write it on set. I like doing them, because they feel like the YouTube videos I used to do. Sometimes we shoot them the week of the episode.

Capone: The week it airs you mean?

DG: Yeah, because usually the episode will shoot, and then two months later they’ll come on. Sometimes we will shoot the tag the week the show is coming on, so it really does feel like I’m hanging out with my friends, and we're shooting a YouTube video, and it just comes up.

Capone: You can make them really timely by waiting until the last minute too.

DG: Yeah, it’s really awesome.

Capone: I live in Chicago, and the MYSTERY TEAM screenings they were doing at the Music Box there a couple years back, they did a were fantastic. I can’t remember if you ever made it out for one of them. I know some of the…

DG: I didn’t think to go, which sucks.

Capone: I love that damn movie.

DG: Thanks man.

Capone: That movie is funny as hell. It seemed like also in the second season that there was more of a sense of how the group is very protective of each other and who kind of looks out for who. Forming those bonds a little more tightly, was that something that was done intentionally.

DG: Well something I realized last year was like none of them really have a family. None of them really have a family they trust.

Capone: I was going to say that. This is the family that they get to choose.

DG: Yeah, and its weird, because it works like a family, because some of them I think in a vacuum they wouldn’t want to hang with. Shirley and Pierce don’t want to hang, they don’t like each other, but that’s what family is. It’s people you have to be with, and they make you grow, because you learn how to deal with the outside world, because you are having to live with this person or be around this person. The sense of trying to take care of people and trying to take care of each other really grew last year, because we know the characters more, everybody kind of knew their role.

And yeah I think they're really realizing, and we talk about this at the beginning of the first episode, it’s like this is special, it’s a special place. “And the reason it’s special is because we say it’s special.” It’s kind of like the Christmas episode where it’s like “The reason Christmas is awesome is because we say it’s awesome. It’s not really a great time of year, it’s very cold. It’s not a great time of year at all, but because we want it to be, that’s what makes it special and that’s magical in its own sense.”

Capone: You and Danny tend to do that in a few episodes, where you just declare something awesome and by the end we're like, “Of course it’s awesome, I have to go buy t-shirts with that on the front of the t-shirt.”

DG: [laughs] Yeah, like this handshake [demonstrates his half of the Troy and Abed special handshake], I can’t believe people think this is cool. People are like “Can we do the Troy and Abed?” I was like, “You do realize we are just going boom boom? That’s it, it’s not complicated.” But we just made it up really fast, and actually when we first started we were like, “Let’s do this, because it’s so stupid.” It was so quick, but now we love it. It’s like super Us you know?

Capone: From the second season, do you have like a favorite episode? Something that you got to really say, “That was a great idea.” “I’ve always wanted to do that”?

DG: There are so many. Last season was so great with the stuff. Man, I loved the documentary episode. That one I felt just did everything right. I really, really enjoyed it, and it worked on so many levels. We did all of the stuff that those documentary shows do and we called it out and we are like, “It’s easy to do that stuff,” but that’s the thing, it works. I had a good feeling when they cut to that kind of stuff and I love how he’s like, “We are not knocking on it, we are just saying that there are things that happen, and they bring these things out of you and that’s good.” I like the acceptance of that episode.

I like the “Troy turns 21” one. I thought that one was really dark. I feel there was a lot of stuff in that episode that people don’t do in a lot of stuff, like the whole the thing we were having with Shirley in that episode of like she was drunk and, “Well I hope you guys are happy laughing at me,” and we are like, “We don’t care, this is the cool part of you. You being drunk, we like that,” and we never really talk about it, both sides are wrong and both sides are right. I don’t think that happens in a lot of sitcoms. I like the Halloween episode, just because we got to run around.

Capone: And you have a new teacher coming in, they just announced. What a great actor. Will he be brining his own shotguns, or will they be supplying them?

[Both Laugh]

DG: I don’t know exactly what they have in store for him, but man I can’t wait to meet that dude. I love "The Wire" so much. I watched every episode of that thing. It’s just really cool and so it would be really cool to just even talk to him. It’s really cool that we get to have those people on. It’s the kind of show where we get to have those people on, and if they are fans they will come on. But also it’s always a comment on television by having them on there and it’s such a show about the love of television and its relationship with movies.

Capone: You’re not going to ignore what he is famous for.

DG: Now, that’s the best part. We never would, and I don’t think our fans would want us to. I think all of our fans are in on the joke, which is really cool. Dan always treats our audience like the smartest people in the world, which I feel like they sort of are.

Capone: Do you have any clue what’s going to be in store for your character?

DG: Me, Abed, and Annie move in together. Yeah, that’s all I know.

Capone: Do you know who’s place they move into or is it a new place?

DG: I hope it’s not Annie’s, because she lives in a shitty part of town. She lives right above a dildo store, so I hope it’s not Annie’s, but I really don’t know. That’s the only thing I know. They keep a lot of that stuff secret, and then we find out the Monday before we start shooting it. I mean I have a friend who writes fro the show, so sometimes he’ll be like, “You’ve got to hear this episode that I’m writing!” sometimes, but most of the time it’s all quiet.

Capone: Did you get a say in decorating the place where you guys live?

DG: No, our set dressers, like our props and set dressers, are amazing. You know that episode where Gillian is like, “I’m best friends with a lesbian, do you have something to say about that Pierce?” And Pierce is like “Nope, but I do have something written.” That 10-page thing is written out, and it’s funny. I was like “Who wrote this?” and she was like “Oh, I wrote it,” and it’s 10 pages long and it’s great. It’s funny, but it’s also smart and it’s like very accepting of her being a lesbian. I was like, “Where do you find time to write this?” Our people, I think everybody kind of really understands that the show is a labor of love, like everybody really wants it to be good.

Capone: Well it’s an awesome show. Thank you so much Donald. It was really great to meet you.

DG: Thank you so much, it was really great meeting you.

Capone And thank whoever got us those tickets for last night, because it was a hell of a lot of fun.

DG: I’m glad you had a good time.

Capone: It wasn’t too loud, so I could actually hear the words.

DG: I’m really big into that, because the whole point of the show is like to not be a rap show, that’s why the beginning of it is just like, “Fuck rap cool,” because somebody was like, “Donald is not rap cool” and I was like, “I don’t want to be rap cool, I want it to be a rock show.”

Capone: That’s what it was.

DG: So I make sure that you can hear the lyrics, because I’ve seen a lot of rock and rap shows and it’s muffled. I wanted you to be able to hear.

Capone: Alright, thanks a lot. Take it easy.

DG: Nice to meet you.

-- Capone
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Readers Talkback
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  • Oct. 1, 2011, 4:26 p.m. CST

    I kinda liked the genre episodes better

    by BadMrWonka

    they felt more focused, and the jokes were really firing on all cylinders. the more general ones (like last night's episode) are funny, and Community is always great, but it feels like there is more filler, since they have to actually take you by the hand through the plot, the motivations, the resolutions. when they're just tearing down a genre, or a specific movie or what have you, they don't need to do that as much, and so it's much more just a barrage of jokes, virtually non-stop, which I personally like better. but really, we're talking about dropping from an A+ to an A-. Community is always awesome.

  • Oct. 1, 2011, 4:37 p.m. CST

    The format/font of these interviews

    by OutsideChance

    You guys should really consider putting the questions in red and the answers in black, not the other way around. Reading large blocks of red text is tiring. And since the questions are typically shorter it would make sense to put them in color.

  • Before he became such a nerd cult phenom, he got lambasted for wanting the role, now I hear from people that it would have been genius casting, and that whole Ultimate thing ain't exactly negating it.

  • Oct. 1, 2011, 4:57 p.m. CST

    Agrees with Outsidechance

    by Steve weaver

    Still a good interview.

  • Oct. 1, 2011, 5:02 p.m. CST

    you mean he wasn't interviewing Jesus?

    by Arcadian Del Sol

  • Oct. 1, 2011, 5:21 p.m. CST

    PLEASE, keep the Community coverage!!!

    by Ditko

    Ratings are bad. This show needs to be kept on the air. Tell your friends about it. Rent the DVDs, whatever. Just keep this thing going.

  • Oct. 1, 2011, 5:22 p.m. CST

    Besides, Annie is hot as all fuck.

    by Ditko


  • Oct. 1, 2011, 5:39 p.m. CST

    Needs one more season

    by Turingtestee

    The parallel U.N. gag would have been funnier had they not pimped it so hard throughout the episode.

  • Oct. 1, 2011, 6:45 p.m. CST

    Gambino is a mastermind

    by tlyel37

    fuck a bitch to pass the time, mass appeal, orange rind, smoke your green I'm spendin mine.

  • Oct. 2, 2011, 3:19 a.m. CST

    Mystery Team is horrible

    by Cobb05

    I watched it on Netflix because I am a fan of Community and I do find Donald funny, but it was bad. The idea was good. It just didn't work at all for me. Most of the actors were really bad and it just made it rough to watch.

  • Oct. 2, 2011, 5:35 a.m. CST

    RE: ditko

    by MaxTheSilent


  • Oct. 2, 2011, 6:54 p.m. CST

    Derrick Comedy was terrible

    by foreignerbelt

    It was so painfully unfunny that it made me angry at all comedians involved. This dude's work on Community has gone a long way towards the reparations that are in order for foisting that terrible embarrassing comedy group on the internet.

  • Oct. 3, 2011, 1:10 p.m. CST

    No mention of the Flashback episode.

    by StanGrossman

    I wouldn't mind seeing that format repeated in a future episode, much as the paintball concept was.

  • Oct. 3, 2011, 5:06 p.m. CST

    spoiler, you jerk.

    by meg

    i don't want to know that annie, troy and abed move in together before it happens. put a spoiler tag or something. also i completely agree about the red lettering. but i don't think any of it should be red lettering, its horrendous to look at. very cool to read about the 10 page letter to brita actually being a 10 page letter, and that the 2 best tags ever were improvised.