Indie rap phenom, star of NBC’s hit TV show Community and rising comedic virtuoso — how did Donald Glover ever find time to make his way up to Ithaca? Glover somehow made time from his busy upward trajectory to grace the stage of Statler Auditorium this Saturday, his 27th birthday. The event was sponsored by Cornell University Programming Board (CUPB) that, in addition to Glover, fills out its comedic schedule with Louis C.K. later this fall.
Joe Mande provided the metaphorical lubricant as Glover’s opening act. A comedian hailing from Brooklyn, New York, Mande has earned such distinctions as Time Out New York’s “Best Comedian of 2009” and Heeb magazine’s list of 100 Jews to Watch, which he declares on his website is “the second best list a Jew could ever hope to be on.”
Mande’s style features a laid back delivery and frequent references to pop-culture. He discussed the new phenomenon of people calling themselves “foodies,” a term meaning that they were really into their food. He joked that literally everyone on earth was a foodie or they would die, saying that he was also a sleepie and a breathie. Mande delivered a solid set in which he touched upon a lot of issues pertinent to Cornellians and then made way for the headliner.
Glover then took the stage and began over an hour of solid, captivating material. Although he got off to a bit of a slow start, worsened by microphone issues, Glover’s likeable persona and energetic storytelling drove the performance until he got to his best material midway through the act. He and the audience seemed to come to an unspoken mutual understanding of Glover’s rising superstar status. The crowd hung on the comedian’s every word with a patience that allowed the comic to really hit his stride comically.
Glover began by admitting that he didn’t really know too much about Cornell, although the crowd seemed to be familiar with his entire body of work. He joked that there was really “nothing to do” in Ithaca if students had time to listen to his rap albums, see his stand-up and watch Community.
A major theme over the course of the night was Glover’s astonishment with his rising popularity. He frequently riffed on rumors that he was a popular candidate to play the first black Spiderman, as well as bringing up the heavily downloaded album Culdesac he put out earlier this year as Childish Gambino. Glover mentioned that despite his success, he feels a bit strange enjoying his work too much. He cited a time that he was listening to his own album and a friend of his derided him, calling him conceited. Glover joked that being an entertainer is the only profession where you can’t enjoy your own work and that if he worked at Subway making sandwiches and went home and made himself a sandwich no one would tell him to “leave it at work.”
Glover also peppered in some of his impressions, although he didn’t do the fantastic Obama impersonation that earned him an audition for Saturday Night Live. His acting talent was apparent throughout, using various voices and expressive comedic interjections across the entirety of the stage. Glover joked that acting was the only career in which one needs to continually prove him or herself by auditioning. If he were working at Staples, he would not be constantly quizzed on his knowledge of office supplies.
Throughout the performance, issues of race and identity were a major theme. Glover frequently discussed being raised by his birth parents in a house with foster siblings, telling stories about the differences between people who are new to foster care and those who have been in the system for a while. He closed with a great piece detailing a trip he took to Home Depot with a younger foster sibling on his first day with the Glover family. Another topic that peppered his set was his association with black identity. The comic did multiple jokes on issues of race in Hollywood and the use of the n-word. Despite the light-hearted setting, Glover expounded his views on many serious subjects including infidelity, HIV, parenting and homelessness. Rarely one to avoid controversy, Glover made his opinions on each of these subjects known through his brutally honest material.
Finishing the night with a raucous ovation, Glover gave a memorable performance that showcased many of his various talents. After this stop in Ithaca, it is unclear what may be in store for this rising superstar.
Original Author: Adam Lerner