How Donald Glover’s Short Film ‘Clapping For The Wrong Reasons’ Paved His Road To ‘Atlanta’

Donald Glover Clapping For The Wrong Reasons (1)

Donald Glover wasn’t made to be packed in boxes or painted in corners. I discovered him as both a comedian and a rapper on the same night during the summer before I returned to college in 2011; one of my friends had shot me a link to a sketch by his former Derrick Comedy troupe and suggested that I check out Culdasac, his fifth project as Childish Gambino. A year later, I was waiting on a winding line through Prospect Park to see Gambino play Camp with Danny Brown and ScHoolboy Q. Another year goes by and I’m standing outside Rough Trade in Brooklyn on a numbingly cold December morning to buy an album I could barely afford just to get a glimpse of his Tumblr IRL event for Because The Internet. I had seen the comedy sketches, laughed at Troy’s exploits on Community, and lost myself in punchlines from Sic Boi to Royalty, but it was clear that Glover was about to hit a hard career left. Clapping For The Wrong Reasons was the moment he steered himself onto the road that would lead to Atlanta.  

Filmed entirely in Chris Bosh’s rented-out house during the recording of Because The Internet and directed by Hiro Murai (who also directed the pilot for Atlanta), Clapping began life as a 49-second clip before graduating to a 24-minute “director’s cut” a little over two weeks later. It was a dry and bizarre film that gave equal time to Chance The Rapper getting beat at Connect Four, fireside conversations about childhood, Flying Lotus and Gambino dropping freestyles, and Glover fishing a tooth out of his nose. It also dealt with themes of detachment and isolation not unlike everything found on BTI, but Clapping was the fly on the wall perspective that served as the first example of Glover blending his love for hip-hop and film into one. “There’s so many screens that have to be filled now, between your television, your computer and your phone, that I think it’s the perfect time to make something that I see, a perfect opportunity to combine everything that media is right now,” he told the Television Critics Association back in January, and the first full-length trailer for Atlanta has the same vibes creeping through my soul.

The show – created, executive produced, and co-written/directed by Glover – will follow Earn (Glover) and Paperboy (Brian Tyree Henry), two cousins trying to make their way through Atlanta’s rap scene and has already drawn comparisons to Twin Peaks and ATL by Glover himself. Like Clapping, the first Atlanta trailer seems melancholy enough to warrant the straddling between drama and comedy, right down to the groovy Tame Impala music.  

Whether or not you can get on Clapping’s wavelength or are waiting on pins and needles for Atlanta’s drop next month, you can’t say Glover hasn’t kept his promise to the TCA since then. Glover used his unique Internet savvy to turn his return to Twitter into an app-based real time marketing ploy not just for a new album, but a two-day festival in Joshua Tree, CA this November which is supposedly his only plan for live concerts this year. Kanye West, Francois Truffaut, and Worldstar have all influenced Glover to compress his dreams into a calculated effort to push the culture further across the map, and I can’t wait to see what that push will show us in a couple weeks. For now, happy third anniversary, Clapping For The Wrong Reasons. I’ll never look at teeth or vaporizers the same way again.

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