Donald Glover’s character on “Community,” former football prodigy Troy, isn’t the show’s pop culture almanac — that title belongs to his socially inept friend Abed (Danny Pudi). But just because tonight’s episode is a half-hour homage to “Apollo 13” and other outer-space media, that doesn’t mean Glover has to sit out the fun. In a conference call interview on Monday, Glover explained how Troy fits into the geeky referential joy of “Community.”
“Nerds and jocks actually have a combined love of a lot of cool things,” Glover said. “Anything with robots and explosions and time travel and stuff. … Jocks just don’t want to know the ins and outs of it. I think that’s the only thing that separates them.”
Troy plays a major role in tonight’s episode, as Greendale Community College’s most loveable study group gets stuck in a flight simulator and must find a way home.
And how, one might ask, does a humble community college end up with its own flight simulator?
“We’ve made it pretty clear at this point that Greendale doesn’t spend their money wisely,” Glover admitted. “They have like 20 dances a year. It’s ridiculous.”
Now in its second season, “Community” has been gearing up for a space spoof ever since last spring’s “Modern Warfare” — a combination of to-the-death paintball war and wide-ranging parody of the action genre.
“Everybody loved the paintball episode. How are we going to beat that?” Glover said of the mentality that inspired the episode “Basic Rocket Science.”
“Maybe we send (the cast) to space … that was the joke.”
And while chances are good that Shirley’s prayers, Jeff’s last-minute leadership and Abed’s plot dictation will be enough to bring the study group home in one piece, Glover doubts any of the characters would be able to make it as real astronauts.
“(Abed would) be able to memorize and know everything better than anyone else,” he said. “But I think his lack of emotions … they’d be like, ‘Well, we can just put a computer in his place, and that’d be just as efficient, and cheaper.’ ”
Ultimately, the point is moot, Glover said.
“NASA is probably not going to hire anybody from a two-year community college.”
Glover’s own college experience was more fortuitous — though he never heard from NASA — but somewhat less exciting than a Greendale education.
“There wasn’t as much adventure, you know, unless eating Ramen noodles and watching ‘The Chappelle Show’ on DVD is an adventure.”
While still a student at NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts, Glover was hired to write for NBC’s “30 Rock.”
“My name got tossed in the ring for writers when they were starting a show,” Glover said, “because I was doing a lot of work at the (Upright Citizens Brigade) Theater and around. And a lot of people knew that I was a writer.”
From there, Glover made the leap to stand-up comedy, and then to network television. In his spare time, he also raps under the name Childish Gambino and does sketch videos with DERRICK Comedy. But while Glover himself has gathered an impressive following, the same can’t yet be said for “Community.”
“It’d be nice to have more people watch the show, just because I feel like they’d enjoy it,” Glover said.
Still, Glover is more than pleased with the enthusiasm of the fan base, comparing “Community” to a large, enjoyable dessert.
“If you make a great cake … a special cake with crust and sprinkles and it’s delicious, and only two people eat it and they love it — that’s enough for me,” he said.
The theme of “Community” is one that anyone can relate to; like a long airplane trip or an hour in the doctor’s office waiting room, the show puts a bunch of people in one room who might never talk otherwise.
“The great thing about community college and especially, specifically this group, is that none of them were supposed to be there,” Glover said.
The same could be said about outer space in tonight’s episode — certainly, none of the characters are supposed to be there, but the clever jokes, petty fights and life lessons they’ll take from each other will make it worth their while.