Chris Rock Convinced Donald Glover to Give Stand-Up Another Try
Donald Glover isn’t just an artist. The Atlanta creator is a cultural touchstone, a multimedia mogul, the defining voice for a generation of creatives, and according to GQ, a shitty stand-up comic.
Glover graced the cover of the latest issue of GQ as the men’s magazine celebrates their 2023 Global Creativity Awards, and the profile on Glover is as expansive as the not-just-an-artist’s body of work. Glover and his interviewer touched on every era of his staggering 18-year career, up to and including the modern day — for instance, Glover’s production company, Gilga, is responsible for the short film currently being created by former First Daughter Malia Obama. Glover recounted the ominous advice he gave to Obama, telling the aspiring filmmaker, “You’re Obama’s daughter. So if you make a bad film, it will follow you around.”
According to GQ, Glover’s equivalent of a presidentially putrid film debut was his relatively short-lived stand-up comedy career, which interviewer Mark Anthony Green openly called “god-awful.” GQ’s derision, however, may be premature, as Glover isn’t done reinventing himself through stand-up — not if Chris Rock has anything to say about it.
In the interview, Green confusingly insisted to Glover that his stand-up phase from “2008 BA (before Atlanta) to 2014 BA” was the low point of his medium-careening career, calling Glover’s 2012 Netflix special Weirdo “heavy-handed — something that Atlanta artfully avoids.” Green opines of Glover’s stand-up persona, “When he’s onstage, it’s not his voice. Literally. He delivers obvious punchline after obvious punchline in a Richard Pryor key for the entire special. When he’s crude, it feels cute. And when he’s cute, it feels boring.” Said Green, “I say all of this and his eyes light up again, welcoming my critique.”
Despite his grace, Glover disagreed with Green’s assessment that stand-up was a crutch in his career as he told a story that hinted that his time on the mic is not yet finished. “So I was with Chris Rock,” Glover begins, “And he was like, ‘People aren’t good (at stand-up) until they’re your age. The only one who was better when he was younger was Eddie (Murphy). Why aren’t you doing this shit?’” The conversation sparked something in Glover, and he admitted to Green that he’s been seriously considering dusting off his stand-up spurs ever since.
To GQ’s consternation, Glover is, once again, writing jokes for himself and not for another adored TV show. Glover told Green that he was already planning to give stand-up one more shot, and Green’s criticism of his comedy career only made him more excited at the prospect — in fact, Green’s pushback might end up being his greatest weapon, as a chip on Glover’s acclaimed shoulder is what drove him to earn all his Emmys, Grammys and Golden Globes in the first place.
When GQ inevitably fawns over Glover’s critically commended return to stand-up, we hope that they remember that none of it could have been done without some encouraging words from Chris Rock — and some equally encouraging insults from themselves.