Now the 27-year-old is hitting the road as a headliner on his IAMDONALD tour. The show fuses stand-up, video and music “to convey the personal experience of being me,” Glover says. But he’s quick to caution that this isn’t an arena-sized production. “It’s not like a Meatloaf concert. I don’t come out on a devil’s back and say, ‘Are you ready to rock?’ or anything.”
As Glover gets ready to rock the Black Cat Sunday, we’ve put together a guide to his many talents.
While studying dramatic writing at NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts, Glover wrote, scored and acted in a series of Web videos with the sketch troupe Derrick Comedy. “We all learned sketch comedy together,” Glover says. “It really showed me how important it is to have people who have your back who really believe in your stuff because it’s priceless in the business.” Derrick Comedy would go on to self-produce the 2009 film “Mystery Team,” a send-up of the “Encyclopedia Brown” kid detective series.
Glover was still working as a resident assistant in his college dorm when he started writing for “30 Rock.” And though fans associate him with Tracy Morgan’s trademark non sequiturs, Glover also wrote some of Alec Baldwin’s early material. “I did like to write for Tracy,” Glover admits. “It’s almost like Mad Libs with him.” Glover also helped pen the infamous “Werewolf Bar Mitzvah” song.
Fey may have supported Glover’s decision to quit “30 Rock” in 2009, but his mother sure didn’t. “She was kind of livid,” he says. “To her, it was: ‘So, you’re leaving this stable job that’s respectable to go do something that doesn’t guarantee money, where you’re traveling by yourself and you tell stories about how bad of a mom I am.'” To her relief, Glover was a quick stand-up study: By 2010, he had his first half-hour special on Comedy Central. Much like his music, Glover’s stand-up is rapid-fire, nerd-friendly and quick-witted, with occasional Tracy Morgan and Chris Rock impressions. In March, Glover taped a new hour-long special, “WEIRDO.” It’s “gotten more storyteller-y,” Glover says of his act. As “I’ve gotten more comfortable … I guess it’s gotten more me.”
Even on “Community,” a fast-paced meta-comedy about a group of small college misfits, Glover’s character bears shades of himself. Glover’s Troy Barnes, a former high school quarterback, has evolved over two seasons from a cocky jock into a lovable, nerdy man-child. “I think [the writers] had to adjust him to me,” he says. “I couldn’t pull off that guy forever … and Troy couldn’t pull off that guy forever.”
Though he got his rap name from an Internet Wu-Tang Clan Name Generator, Childish Gambino is no joke. As an MC, Glover packs plenty of swagger, boasting about his success and sexcapades with clever punch lines. For his “I Am Just a Rapper” mixtapes, Glover layers verses over tracks from indie bands such as Grizzly Bear and MGMT. But he’s nerdy, too: “EP,” a free five-song release that dropped in March, references “Dragonball Z,” “The Office” and E.E. Cummings. In other words, getting backstage with Childish Gambino is kind of like being home with Donald Glover. “I’ll probably be drinking whiskey and hitting on a girl,” he says. “And the nerdy stuff. I like to be able to say, ‘Oh, I got away with that.'”
» Black Cat, 1811 14th St. NW; Sun., 8 p.m.; sold out; 202-667-7960. (U St.-Cardozo)