Demi Adejuyigbe is known in many corners of the internet as “the ‘September’ guy” for the videos he’s been making of himself singing, dancing and defying the laws of physics to the famous Earth, Wind & Fire song for the last few years. He sees the videos and the money they raised for charity as a major point of pride — “Finally, I get to tell you about the cool things I’ve been doing!” he says to Variety. In equal measure, though, they became a burden. After spending years of his life (and more than $40,000 of his own money) on the projects, the director, writer and actor finds himself ready to move on to other things.
The phenomenon began in 2016 with a low-key clip, not unlike the many other sketches Adejuyigbe has posted online over the years. He wears a gray t-shirt that reads “SEPT 21” on the front and “THAT’S TODAY” on the back while dancing in his apartment to a goofy edit of “September” where Earth, Wind & Fire lead vocalist Philip Bailey sings only the first words of the song over and over again: “Do you remember the 21st night of September?”
More from Variety
Adejuyigbe upped the ante in September 2017 with balloons, confetti, another custom t-shirt and a saxophone. 2018 took it further with an appearance from the West Los Angeles Children’s Choir and a call to action to buy one of the “Sept 21” shirts, with 100% of proceeds going toward RAINN, RAICES and the National Center for Trandgender Equality. 2019 followed suit, as Adejuyigbe collaborated with Mariachi Ausente and donated t-shirt proceeds to the Climate Mobilization project. The videos went increasingly viral each year.
“After I did the second one, I had this sense of, ‘Okay, this is a thing with expectations behind it. After preparing for the 2019 one, I was like, ‘Oh, God.’ I wasn’t going to do it anymore,” Adejuiygbe says. But he changed his mind when his friend, writer and producer Marina Shifrin, offered to help out. Together, in 2020, they blew the previous videos out of the water with optical illusions, a “THAT’S TODAY” banner flying through the sky, and a trombone performance from Adejuyigbe on top of a U-Haul truck.
Adejuyigbe began to hint at his fatigue with the videos with an added clip at the end: “Well, gang, we did it. Five years, five ‘September’ videos. And that’s such a nice round number, I think it’s the perfect place to stop. Alright, bye!” But after a pause, he continued: “However, one of the best things about doing this video every year is that I get to use it as a platform to raise money for organizations that could benefit from the intention, and I don’t wanna give that up. So I’ll make a deal with you guys.” He promised that he’d make one last video in 2021 if 2020’s video raised $50,000, this time to be split between Street Watch L.A., the Selah Neighborhood Homeless Association, the Blackroots Alliance, the Trans United Fund and the National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum. Donations poured in, reaching the goal in just three hours.
So, in 2021, the month of September began on June 13 for Adejuyigbe. After months of planning, on Sept. 21, he uploaded the biggest video yet.
“It was done at 5:28 a.m. on Sept. 21,” Adejuyigbe said. “I’m always burning the midnight oil on these, which is stressful, and I always think, ‘Well, this year, I’ve had a little more time than last year, so it won’t be that bad.’ And then I’m a little too meticulous when editing and doing the effects and focusing on things that I know a lot of people don’t see. But it’s important to me to fix little things.”
He’s likely right about the audience missing the little things, as there is no shortage of fanfare to fixate on, like the “Grease” reference in the beginning that comes full circle with a flying car at the end. The rotating room illusion, inspired by “Inception” and “Royal Wedding.” Another fun detail that most fans may not know is that the joyous party scene was shot at Willis Wonderland, the home of the late “September” co-writer Allee Willis.
This year’s call to action featured Adejuyigbe (joined by a puppet of himself) revealing a painting of a “September” jersey that he promises to hand deliver to a raffle-winner anywhere in the world. The million dollar donation goal he set (and later achieved) will go to Imagine Water Works, West Fund and the Sunrise movement.
And yes, it really is all over.
“I don’t know where anyone’s getting the idea that this was a joke,” Adejuyigbe said. “My attitude around these videos for the last couple of years has always been [that] I don’t want to do them anymore. I don’t want to have this weird amount of attention on me all the time.” He’s proud of the money he’s raised, but remains confident that he can do good in other ways. What’s important to him now is relating to his work and creativity more healthily.
“I have a very nervous attachment to the song itself. Last year, I was in a Home Depot and just imagined if the song came on in public and people started looking at me. And I just had a panic attack. It didn’t come on, but I just imagined it. And I was like, ‘I need to stop doing this. I need to move on to other things,’” he says.
So what’s next?
This year, Adejuyigbe received his first Emmy nomination as a writer on “The Amber Ruffin Show.” He then moved on to join Dan Harmon’s upcoming Apple TV Plus animated series “Strange Planet” as a writer and supervising producer, with a few yet-to-be-announced projects in the works.
“I am in development on a show, an animated series somewhere. And I’m working on a live-action series of my own as well as a feature [film] that I’m writing and hope to direct. I’m really trying to focus on telling stories and getting to use the craft and stuff that I do in the ‘September’ videos in a more narrative way,” he says.
And he’s got more on the back burner. He has two ideas for movie musicals, one set in the era of ‘70s and ‘80s funk and the other a comedy. Most notably, he has a completed script for a heist comedy he’s been dreaming about for almost a decade.
“It’s just a very silly comedy that I’m really proud of, honestly. It’s based on two counterfeiters who, 11 years after Abraham Lincoln died, were part of this counterfeiting ring in Chicago,” Adejuyigbe explained, with the historic details memorized beat by beat. “And when their head counterfeiter was arrested, they wanted to prove themselves, and they came up with a plan to get him out of jail. And their plan was to steal Abraham Lincoln’s dead body and ransom it back to the city of Chicago. It’s a true story that happened in 1876.”
“I’ve just been obsessed with it since college, he continued. “I’ve always been like, ‘Someone’s gonna write this movie, and I’m gonna be fucking pissed when they do. So I’m gonna write it myself.’ And I finally had the time [at the start of the pandemic] to sit down and do it.”
He’s shopped the screenplay around, but hasn’t managed to sell it yet. The “September” videos seem to have taught Adejuyigbe the upsides of not having to rush his work or set exaggerated expectations for himself. “Maybe someone will let me direct it one day,” he said, “but I’m just happy to have it done.”
Best of Variety