“Make stuff that no one else will make. Part of the reason I do what I do is because I’m the only one who can do it.”
There’s no being objective about Glover—
not for me, anyway. I realise that his success means that Glover belongs to the world.
But for a young black nerd like me, Glover has always been something else, too. His career in show business started in the mid-2000s, and some of his earliest fans were the self-identified weirdos who felt they couldn’t relate to the world as it was then. (That was a time, remember, when Abercrombie & Fitch was hot and the Internet was a maze of bizarre forums and LiveJournal posts.) As he began to make a name for himself in New York’s improv scene, you had the sense that he got it. He looked like us and talked like us, and seemed to be speaking for a segment of young people who were geeky and quirky and mostly ignored. We loved him for it.
Glover made such an impression doing improv that when he graduated from NYU, Tina Fey offered him a writing job on 30 Rock, his first big break. He stayed there for three years, appearing in front of the camera in the occasional episode (once as a young Tracy Morgan), until he told Fey he wanted to move to LA and try stand-up. In 2009, Glover quit 30 Rock and was unemployed for a grand total of six days before he was cast as Troy Barnes on Dan Harmon’s oddball NBC sitcom Community. Troy was the resident dumb guy, the character who sold the show’s concepts and writing with his personality; he made Harmon’s universe believable by playing a believably relatable role. Glover’s comedic instincts made him perfect for the job and he quickly became the heart of the series. By the time he left, during the fifth season, Glover was no longer a quirky unknown quantity with a few side hustles. Now Facebook wine moms and Tim Taylor-esque dads knew him, and Hollywood was starting to realise that he might be a bankable commodity.
Just before we reached
the Landmark Diner Jr, in northeast Atlanta, which bills itself as the place “where the stars meet at night”, Glover looked out the window of our SUV and idly pointed to a strip club he’d once been to. So when we sat in our booth at the diner, I asked him about the city’s famous strip clubs, which are said to function as third places, no more louche than a Starbucks in Irvine, California.
Glover didn’t visit one until he was well into his 20s. “I knew what it was,” he said, “and I also didn’t have that type of money.” You can’t be broke in a strip club; that might as well be against the law. “I grew up knowing that you go to the strip club to have a good time,” he said. He stopped himself, then added: “Although I don’t know how much fun women have in there.”
In 2012, after a broken foot forced him to postpone his first big tour as Childish Gambino, Glover went to Magic City. “People wanted me to stop being depressed. They’re like, ‘ Give us that smile.’ I just don’t want to do it all the time. That’s not me. I’m not going to lie and say: ‘That feels good, you’re my girl.’ ”
Glover’s resistance to the pressures that come with his fame—when people want either a piece of your success (read: money) or something from you that you can’t give, like your
. . . STA ND- U P
ACT love—is balanced by the fact that he is, fundamentally, an open person. Until he signed off social media a few years ago, he maintained a Twitter account that was hardly typical for a celebrity of his stature. Glover’s tweets were openly emo and they often seemed to offer a peek inside his brain. “lets all get crushes,” he’d tweet one day. “learn to code. god codes,” on another.
Glover quit social media because “I realised that connection was too powerful for a person like me,” he said. “I just would get hurt.” When he goes online now, “I try and find subcultures. I try and find communities. I talk to people as a regular person. It’s the only place you can be anonymous.” (As of press time, he began tweeting again—his first tweet, since deleted, was in response to Oprah’s fiery speech at the Golden Globes; his second was a promo for Atlanta’s second season.)
‘I WANNA BE
TOLD MY AGENT:
THE MOVIES A
R E A D Y.”
L A N D O .’