Person of the Year – Donald Glover
We live in a society without many renaissance men (or women) nowadays. It’s understandable – human knowledge has expanded to the point where one person can’t know “everything” or be considered at the top of their field in a wide variety of subjects. Still, that doesn’t stop the occasional individual from surprising you, and in that spirit, my Person of the Year is Donald Glover.
I first became aware of Donald Glover as Troy Barnes on Community, a show that has, in the past year, rapidly become one of my favourite sitcoms of all time. It boasts a flawless ensemble of comedy talent in its main group of characters, but early standouts were the unlikely pairing of Troy, a high school quarterback of considerable stupidity, and Abed, a film and TV nerd who communicates almost exclusively through pop culture references. The two shared a child-like enthusiasm for fun, and their interactions often formed the basis for the post-episode, over-the-credits stings.
As the series carried on, all the characters developed considerably, and the second season is continuing this growth while also maintaining a ‘no weak episode’ run that is frankly intimidating. But Community isn’t the only place Donald Glover could be found this year. Glover got his start with the ‘Derrick Comedy’ troupe, whose online sketches are well worth checking out on YouTube, and as a writer on 30 Rock before leaving to concentrate on his stand-up. He joined Community shortly after, but that hasn’t stopped him from getting a special on Comedy Central this year and demonstrating that in addition to sketch and scripted comedy, he can kill on stage too.
Writer, actor, comedian – that’s three solid strings to his bow. But why not throw in a fourth? Because he’s also a pretty astonishing rapper in his spare time, under the name ‘Childish Gambino’. Not only has he put out EPs rapping over a variety of top shelf tracks (Animal Collective, Grizzly Bear, Sleigh Bells, The Very Best) but he’s also created an album, working with Ludwig Göransson, one of the composers of Community’s score. Culdesac (put out for free, just like his previous EPs) is a remarkably assured piece of work for what Glover claims is just what he does to relax. He wears his influences on his sleeve, with references to Kanye West and Lil Wayne, but Glover has made something all his own, with earworm-y hooks and witty, incisive lyrics.
More than anything else, I have to respect Glover’s work ethic – the sheer amount of places he can be found this year has been astonishing. He has managed to achieve what I like to call ‘The Swan Effect’ – appearing effortlessly graceful and cool, while working like hell underneath the surface. If I can spend 2011 working half as hard as he has, then I’ll be extremely proud of myself, and if I can look a tenth as good while I do it, then I’ll be very happy indeed.