Friday, December 9, 2011

Troy (And Abed) Around The Clock

I'm on a Donald Glover kick right now, and friends, it is wonderful. He's the mastermind behind Childish Gambino, he's a righteously funny stand-up comic, and he plays Troy Barnes on NBC's Community. He's also incredibly foxy, which, you know: bonus!

I cam late to the game on Community. It was half-way through the second season before I tuned in, and it took a couple episodes to really get the hang of the humour. Originally, Troy was supposed to be paired with Chevy Chase's character Pierce, and the two of them - grumpy old man and dumb/smart jock - were going to act as the salt in the sugar shaker. Fortunately, the chemistry between Troy and Abed, the autistic-y film buff played by Danny Pudi, outshone the odd-couple Troy/Pierce matchup. Troy and Abed have become this weird spin-off-inside-the-show: they have pretend breakfast television shows, they build elaborate blanket forts, and they have one of the most homosocial relationships ever depicted on TV. Chandler and Joey were friends; Troy and Abed are best friends. They elevate the normal friendships that we all have, which are equal parts gossip, in-jokes and rants - and which are totally necessary to live - and just, like, puts in on TV.

Childish Gambino and Glover's stand-up act are a different animal. His rap rhymes are thoughtful, personal and often hilarious, and he addresses race, loneliness, sex, relationships and all the other personal juggernauts the way "the only black kid at a Sufjan concert" really can. Listening to his new album, Camp, makes me laugh, because some of it is really funny. It also makes me a little sad - there's naked emotion in some of the rhymes: "I miss the sex when we kiss whenever we're done," gets to me, because it's not that he misses sex (dude is an exceptionally fine-looking man, I'm sure he gets laid on the daily), but he misses intimacy. What?! And then he talks about in public? Double what?!! This isn't an album about guns and drugs and fine-looking bitches; it's about growing up a little poor, having parents who worked hard, being black in an otherwise all-white school. In other words, feeling weird even if you're normal. Who can't relate to that?

In other times, Troy Barnes would have been the token black character, in the mix to give street cred to the other white-bread characters. One of Community's strengths is that it takes its diversity for granted. These people are sort of losers, having washed up at a fourth-tier community college, but nobody's a bigger loser because they're old, a woman, or a minority. Joel McHale is the sole straight white dude in the principal cast, and he's matched beat for comedic beat by everyone else. Troy and Abed have become scene-stealing imps, and the show's off-beat comedy is strange and addictive, like salted caramel chocolates. And if sitcoms aren't your thing, try the stand-up. If the comedy leaves you wanting, try the album. And if you can't into any of it, then take a seat - I'll be with you when NBC returns Community to the airwaves.

1 comment:

  1. I'm a big fan of salted caramel chocolates, and love it as a metaphor for this show. I'm really surprised by how many people I know who do not get Community. It's just so clearly perfect. I found this article today because I was looking at Troy and Abed, and thinking about how I had never thought in three years "of course the two non-white kids have to be friends with each other." but instead just "they're Bert & Ernie." who also were not technically white, insofar as they were yellow and orange, but basically no more than the Simpsons aren't white, which is to say, of course they are. One of things I love about the show is it's racy (no pun) blunt humor and conversation on race. It talks about race constantly, and at the same time totally makes you ignore it. Troy could so easily take a backward step into Buckwheat territory, with his constant, misunderstanding, naivety on the world, but the show is never stereotyping his behavior, he's just a goofy, sometimes childishly foolish guy who also happens to black. He's a college student, and man I remember some naivety in my college.