Keegan-Michael Key is a writer’s best friend. It doesn’t matter if you need a character who’s broad and silly or subtle and genuine, Key has the uncanny ability to unlock the hidden potential within any given scene. He emits an easy charm; a laid-back everyman quality that makes you want to invite him to be the fourth member of your bowling team. But at the same time, he also possesses the unquantifiable gravitas of a leading man. Basically, he’s anything you need him to be, which is why he’s the Swiss Army knife of comedy.
Key’s prolific career in sketch comedy is well-documented. From Mad Tv to Key and Peele, the actor’s sketch background has provided the perfect foundation for the vast assortment of characters he’s portrayed over the last decade. It doesn’t matter if it’s a three-line bit part as a zany best friend or a substantial starring role in a feature, Key’s kaleidoscopic zest for comedy always finds a way to transform something good into something great.
Let’s take a look at Keegan-Michael Key’s evolution from sketch star to leading man.
You know that feeling of dread that sweeps over you when you randomly cross paths with an old acquaintance? Seeing KMK pop up on a series or film is the exact opposite of that. A Keegan-Michael Key guest spot is an unexpected surprise, like finding $20 in an old jacket or receiving an email from an ex with the subject line, “Hey…”
One of the reasons Key is one of the most sought after guest stars in comedy is his innate versatility. He’s as adept at playing absurd as he is at portraying the straight man. In Joe Swanberg’s fantastic new Netflix comedy Win It All, Key enhances the already terrific material by imbuing a solemn situation — a sponsor attempting to help a wayward gambling addict — with humor and heart.
The eclectic actor has appeared on a variety of shows including Fargo, Modern Family, and It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, but never forget that Keegan-Michael Key’s character on Parks and Rec made Ron Swanson’s face do this:
If there’s one drawback to our current golden age of Peak TV, it’s that some shows become a casualty of too much top-tier television. USA’s Playing House is one of the funniest shows on television. It’s a straight-up laser beam of comedy. It radiates an infectious humor that stems from the effortless chemistry of its stars: Jessica St. Clair, Lennon Parham, and, hey wouldn’t you know it, Keegan-Michael Key.
Portraying the ex-boyfriend of St. Clair’s Emma, Key deftly balances sitcom shenanigans with genuine emotional beats to create a well-rounded character you desperately want to see succeed. We already knew Key’s comedic chops be bangin‘, but Playing House proved that the actor possessed the innate leading man gusto needed to continue his inevitable ascent to the top of the call sheet.
It didn’t take long for Key to cement his status as a leading man. In 2016, the actor starred alongside Jordan Peele in the feline action comedy Keanu and showcased his knack for drama in the evocative indie Don’t Think Twice. Mike Birbiglia’s unflinchingly honest film is an emotional exploration of aspiration, jealously, and friendship as one member of a NYC improv group (Key’s character Jack) lands a role on a Saturday Night Live-esque show. Key tackles the emotionally complex role with nuanced aplomb, bringing a genuine sense of authenticity to the character.
Sitcoms, sketch, drama, Keegan-Michael Key can do it all. Up next, he’ll star in Netflix‘s highly-anticipated comedy series Friends from College and will also appear in Shane Black’s 2018 Predator sequel. Classic Swiss Army knife move.