Comic actor Keegan-Michael Key earned critical and audience praise for his sharp-witted sketch comedy work on two popular series: the long-running "MADtv" (Fox 1995-2009) and "Key & Peele" (Comedy Central 2012-15), which teamed him with former fellow "MADtv" castmate Jordan Peele. A celebrated figure on the Detroit and Chicago improvisational comedy scene, Key earned his big break by joining "MADtv" in 2004; there, he quickly established himself through turns as a slew of eccentric, hotwired characters and finely tuned impersonations. When Peele left the series in 2008, he followed suit in 2009 and the pair teamed for their own sketch comedy show, which debuted to near-universal acclaim in 2012. Key's success as an ensemble player and as the co-leader of his own series underscored his status as a rising major star in the comedy field, solidified by the duo's first hit movie, action comedy "Keanu" (2016). After the duo split amicably in 2016, Key went on to success on his own, starring in Mike Birbiglia's acclaimed film about improv comedy, "Don't Think Twice" (2016) and co-starring in films ranging from animated hit "Storks" (2016) to James Franco's "The Disaster Artist" (2017) while also starring on Broadway in Steve Martin's play "Meteor Shower" and playing Horatio opposite Oscar Isaac in a Public Theater production of "Hamlet." Key also co-starred in the sitcom "Playing House" (USA 2014-17) and the ensemble comedy "Friends from College" (Netflix 2017- ).
Born in Southfield, Michigan on March 22, 1971, Keegan-Michael Key was adopted and raised by biracial parents in Detroit, Michigan. By his account, Key's childhood was a difficult one, due largely in part to having a white parent - his mother - in a predominately black neighborhood. The experience would have a profound influence on his comedic viewpoint, which often addressed issues of racial identity and perception of racial stereotypes within popular culture and society as a whole. Key attended the University of Detroit, where he performed in numerous classical dramas, before earning his master's degree in fine arts from the Pennsylvania State University School of Theatre. In 1996, he returned to Detroit, where he joined the famed Second City troupe before moving to the Chicago ensemble the following year. There, Key earned not only two Joseph Jefferson Awards for performances in Second City productions, but also a reputation for excellence that launched his screen acting career. Minor roles on "ER" (NBC 1994-2009) and other series preceded his first major project: a five-season run as a main cast member on "MADtv" that began in its ninth season in 2004.
Key soon established himself as one of the show's more talented performers through a series of offbeat characters, including the hot-blooded Coach Hines, the obtrusive Jovan Muskatelle and Eugene Struthers, a celebrity-obsessed delivery man. These roles, as well as impersonations of figures ranging from Barack Obama and Bill Cosby to Eddie Murphy and Charles Barkley, earned him praise from critics and fans alike. His work on "MADtv" led to opportunities in other series, including "Reno 911!" (Comedy Central 2003-09) and features like "Due Date" (2010). More importantly, the series introduced him to fellow comic actor Jordan Peele, who had joined the program in 2003. Peele departed the show in 2008 shortly before Key followed suit in 2009, and the pair reunited for their own Comedy Central sketch series in 2011. "Key & Peele" launched on the network in 2012 and immediately drew critical praise for the smart, irreverent performances of its leads and the show's biting satire of racial and social morays. Sketches included Peele as an inordinately calm Barack Obama who utilized an "anger translator" (Key) to express his emotions to viewers and both leads as movie theater hecklers whose comments are actually insightful observations. For his work on the series, Key earned a 2013 Writers Guild Award nomination for Outstanding Comedy/Variety (Including Talk) Series, as well as an invitation from producer Judd Apatow to bring his work with Peele to a major feature film. While continuing to focus on "Key & Peele," Key also co-starred with Lennon Parham and Jessica St. Clair in the sitcom "Playing House" (USA 2014-17), and joined Peele in recurring roles as FBI agents on the first season of "Fargo" (FX 2014- ). On the big screen, Key provided voices for "The LEGO Movie" (2014) and "Hotel Transylvania 2" (2015), as well as support roles in "Let's Be Cops" (2014), "Horrible Bosses 2" (2014), "Pitch Perfect 2" (2015), "Tomorrowland" (2015), and "Vacation" (2015). In July 2015, Key and Peele announced that the fifth season of their Comedy Central show would be its last, as the duo wished to work, together and separately, on other projects. While continuing his role on "Playing House," Key reteamed with Peele for the big-screen action comedy "Keanu" (2016), in which the duo played a pair of friends who infiltrate a violent street gang on the trail of a stolen kitten. After the success of this film, the duo amicably separated as each went on to his own projects.
Key's first major solo success came in the lead role in Mike Birbiglia's comedy-drama "Don't Think Twice" (2016) as a member of an improv comedy troupe who is tapped to join a late-night comedy sketch series. Along with voice roles in the animated films "The Angry Birds Movie" (2016) and "Storks" (2016), Key next appeared in the James Franco/Bryan Cranston comedy "Why Him?" (2017) and in Joe Swanberg's "Win It All" (2017). Along with starring in the ensemble comedy "Friends from College" (Netflix 2017- ) and appearing in a small role as himself in Franco's "The Disaster Artist" (2017), Key spent most of 2017 doing stage work, appearing with Oscar Isaacs in a New York Public Theater production of "Hamlet" and starring opposite Amy Schumer in Steve Martin's Broadway play "Meteor Shower."
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Began performing with Second City in Detroit and Chicago
Feature debut, "Get the Hell Out of Hamtown"
Television debut on NBC drama "ER"
Landed recurring role on Comedy Central's "Reno 911!"
Hosted "The Planet's Funniest Animals" (Animal Planet"
Co-starred on short-lived CBS sitcom "Gary Unmarried"
Performed voice work on animated hit "The LEGO Movie."
Appeared in Brad Bird's fantasy "Tomorrowland."
Voiced the Fourth-Dimensional Being in the animated series "Rick and Morty"
Played a small role in "Vacation," the 2015 sequel to the hit 1983 comedy "National Lampoon's Vacation"
Voiced Judge Peckinpah in "The Angry Birds Movie"
Played small role in holiday comedy "Why Him?"