Keegan-Michael Key (born March 22, 1971) is an American actor, comedian, producer and screenwriter. He and Jordan Peele co-created and co-starred in the sketch series Key & Peele (2012–2015) for which he received one Primetime Emmy Award from ten nominations. He also acted in the sketch series Mad TV (2004–2009), sitcom Playing House (2014–2017), the comedy series Friends from College (2017–2019) and the series Reboot (2022). He also appeared alongside Peele in the first season of the series Fargo in 2014, and had a recurring role on Parks and Recreation from 2013 to 2015. Key later starred in the musical comedy series Schmigadoon! (2021–2023).

Keegan-Michael Key
Key in 2020
Born (1971-03-22) March 22, 1971 (age 53)
Other namesKeegan Key
Alma mater
  • Actor
  • comedian
  • producer
  • writer
Years active1999–present
  • Cynthia Blaise
    (m. 1998; div. 2017)
  • Elisa Pugliese
    (m. 2018)

Key has had supporting roles in several films, including Horrible Bosses 2 (2014), Pitch Perfect 2 (2015), Don't Think Twice (2016), Dolemite Is My Name (2019), The Prom (2020), and Wonka (2023). He has provided voice-work for The Lego Movie (2014), the subsequent films of the Hotel Transylvania franchise (2015–2022), Storks, The Angry Birds Movie (both 2016), The Star (2017), Chip 'n' Dale: Rescue Rangers, Wendell & Wild (both 2022), The Super Mario Bros. Movie, Migration (both 2023) and IF (2024). He has also voiced roles in Disney's Toy Story 4 (2019) and the live-action remakes of The Lion King (2019), and Pinocchio (2022).

In 2015, he appeared at the White House Correspondents' Dinner as the Key & Peele character Luther, President Barack Obama's anger translator. Key and Peele produced and starred in the 2016 action-comedy film Keanu. In 2017, Key made his Broadway debut in the comic play Meteor Shower. He hosted The Planet's Funniest Animals on Animal Planet (2005–2008), and hosted Game On! in 2020.

Early life edit

Key was born in Southfield, Michigan, on March 22, 1971,[1][2] the son of an African-American father, Leroy McDuffie, and Carrie Herr, a woman of Polish and Flemish descent.[3][4] He was adopted at a young age by a couple from Detroit, Michael Key and Patricia Walsh, who were both social workers. Like his birth parents, his adoptive parents were a black man and a white woman.[5][4] Through his biological father, Key had two half-brothers, one of whom was comic book writer Dwayne McDuffie.[6][7] Key discovered the existence of his half-siblings only after both had died.[8]

Raised Catholic, Key attended the University of Detroit Mercy as an undergraduate, earning a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in theater in 1993,[9][10] followed by a Master of Fine Arts in theater at Pennsylvania State University in 1996.[11] While at the University of Detroit Mercy, he was a brother of Phi Kappa Theta.[12]

Career edit

Key in 2012

Mad TV edit

In 2004, Key joined the cast of Mad TV midway into the ninth season. He and Jordan Peele were cast against each other, but both ended up being picked after demonstrating great comedic chemistry. Key played many characters on the show. One of his most famous characters is "Coach Hines", a high school sports coach who frequently disrupts and threatens students and faculty members. On the penultimate episode of Mad TV, Hines revealed that he is the long-lost heir to the Heinz Ketchup company and only became a Catholic school coach to help delinquent teenagers like Yamanashi (Bobby Lee). During seasons 9 and 10, Key appeared as "Dr. Funkenstein" in blaxploitation parodies, with Peele playing the monster. Key also portrayed various guests on Real **********ing Talk like the strong African Rollo Johnson and blind victim Stevie Wonder Washington. He often went "backstage" as Eugene Struthers, an ecstatic water-or-flower delivery man who accosts celebrities. There was also "Jovan Muskatelle", a shirtless man with a jheri curl and a shower cap who interrupts live news broadcasts by a reporter (always played by Ike Barinholtz), annoying him with rapid-fire accounts of events that have happened frequently exclaiming "It was crazy as hell!" Celebrities that Key impersonated on the show include Ludacris, Snoop Dogg, Roscoe Orman (as his character Gordon from Sesame Street), Matthew Lillard, Bill Cosby, Al Roker, Terrell Owens, Tyler Perry, Keith Richards, Eddie Murphy (as his character James "Thunder" Early from the movie Dreamgirls), Sherman Hemsley (as his character George Jefferson on The Jeffersons), Charles Barkley, Sendhil Ramamurthy (as Mohinder Suresh), Tyson Beckford, Seal (originally played by Peele until Peele left the show at the end of season 13), Sidney Poitier, Lionel Richie, Barack Obama, Kobe Bryant and Jack Haley (as the Tin Man from The Wizard of Oz). He also played female celebrities, including Phylicia Rashād, Robin Antin, and Eva Longoria (as Gabrielle Solis on a Desperate Housewives parody).

Key & Peele edit

Key and his Mad TV castmate Jordan Peele starred in their own Comedy Central sketch series Key & Peele, which began airing on January 31, 2012, and ran for five seasons until September 9, 2015.[13]

Key was introduced by President Barack Obama at the 2015 White House Correspondents' Dinner as Luther, Obama's Anger Translator, one of Key's characters from Key & Peele.[14]

Friends from College edit

Key played the most prominent male character, Ethan Turner, on the Netflix ensemble comedy Friends from College, about a group of Harvard University graduates and friends now in their late 30s living in New York City. He plays an award-winning fiction writer who is being encouraged to start writing for young adult fiction audiences.

Other work edit

Barack Obama and Keegan-Michael Key at White House Correspondents' Association Dinner 2015

Key was one of the founders of Hamtramck, Michigan,'s Planet Ant Theatre, and was a member of the Second City Detroit's mainstage cast before joining the Second City e.t.c. theater in Chicago. Key co-founded the Detroit Creativity Project along with Beth Hagenlocker, Marc Evan Jackson, Margaret Edwartowski, and Larry Joe Campbell.[15] The Detroit Creativity Project teaches students in Detroit improvization as a way to improve their communication skills. Key performed with The 313, an improv group formed with other members of Second City Hollywood that appears around the country.[16][17] The 313 is made up primarily of former Detroit residents and is named for Detroit's area code.[18]

He made a cameo in "Weird Al" Yankovic's video "White & Nerdy" with Peele. Key also hosted Animal Planet's The Planet's Funniest Animals.[19] In 2009, Key hosted GSN's "Big Saturday Night", and has co-starred in Gary Unmarried on CBS. Key was a panelist on the NPR comedy quiz show Wait Wait, Don't Tell Me... on March 27 and July 24, 2010. Key has been in several episodes of Reno 911! as the "Hypothetical Criminal".

Key and Peele were featured on the cover and in a series of full-page comic photos illustrating The New York Times Magazine article "Is Giving the Secret to Getting Ahead?" on March 31, 2013. A live-action video version was also featured on the Times' website.[20] Key co-stars in the horror-comedy Hell Baby. Key is one of the rotating "fourth chair" performers in the 2013 revival of Whose Line Is It Anyway?.

In addition to Key & Peele, he also co-starred in the USA Network comedy series Playing House, which began airing in April 2014.

Together with Peele, Key played an FBI agent in a recurring role in the 2014 FX crime drama Fargo.

Key at the 2018 San Diego Comic-Con International
Key has portrayed and rapped as Indian civil rights leader Mahatma Gandhi (left) and American basketball player Michael Jordan (right) for Epic Rap Battles of History.

Key and Peele starred in an episode of Epic Rap Battles of History, with Key playing Mahatma Gandhi and Peele playing Martin Luther King Jr.[21] The pair returned to Epic Rap Battles of History with the "Muhammad Ali versus Michael Jordan" battle, with Key portraying Jordan.[22]

Key was involved in audio episodes for the marketing campaign, "Hunt the Truth" on the website for the video game Halo 5: Guardians, voicing a fictional journalist and war photographer named Benjamin Giraud, who investigates the Master Chief's background.[23]

Key has had roles in numerous films, including 2014's Horrible Bosses 2, Let's Be Cops and the animated The Lego Movie, as well as Pitch Perfect 2, Tomorrowland, and Wonka in 2023.[24] Key and Peele are currently working with Judd Apatow on a feature-length film for Universal Pictures.[25]

Key is one of several hosts of the podcast Historically Black by American Public Media and The Washington Post.[26]

Key voices the character Murray the Mummy in Hotel Transylvania 2, Hotel Transylvania 3: Summer Vacation and Hotel Transylvania: Transformania. The character was originally voiced by rapper CeeLo Green in the first movie.

In the summer of 2017 Key returned to the theater after what he characterized as a "19-year detour into sketch comedy" for a production of Hamlet at New York's Public Theater, playing Horatio opposite Oscar Isaac in the title role.[27] Key, who is a Shakespearean-trained actor, fulfilled his lifelong dream to play Horatio and received rave reviews for his performance.[28] The Hollywood Reporter's David Rooney noted that Key's comedic skills were on full display, "...but his ease with the verse and stirring sensitivity [was] a revelation."[29]

Key voice acted in The Star, the animated film based on the Nativity of Jesus.[30] He later went on to voice Ducky in Toy Story 4 and Kamari in The Lion King.[31][32] Key voiced "Honest John" Worthington Foulfellow in the live-action film adaptation of Disney's Pinocchio[33] as well as Toad in The Super Mario Bros. Movie and a scarlet macaw in Migration both from Illumination.[34][35][36]

In 2017, Key made his Broadway debut[37] in Steve Martin's comedy Meteor Shower.[38][39] His hosting stint on Saturday Night Live on May 15, 2021, marked the first time a MADtv cast member has hosted SNL.

Key currently hosts popular science show Brain Games on National Geographic, which was renewed for a ninth season, his second, on January 17, 2020.[40]

On May 14, 2020, he hosted an online event by the Jazz Foundation of America to support its emergency fund for COVID-19.[41]

Personal life edit

Key was married to actress and dialect coach Cynthia Blaise from 1998 until 2017. They were legally separated in November 2015, with Key filing for divorce the following month.[42][43] He married producer and director Elisa "Elle" Pugliese in New York City on June 8, 2018.[44][45]

Key is a Christian and has practiced Buddhism, Catholicism, and Evangelicalism in the past.[46][10] Being biracial has been a source of comedic material for Key, who told Terry Gross in an interview for NPR, "I think the reason Jordan and I became actors is because we did a fair amount of code-switching growing up and still do."[47][48]

Key is a keen football fan and an avid supporter of English Premier League club Liverpool,[49] and has also been a fan of the NFL's Detroit Lions.

Philanthropy edit

Key has worked with the Young Storytellers Foundation as an actor for their annual fundraiser alongside Max Greenfield, Jack Black and Judy Greer.[50]

Filmography edit

Film edit

Denotes works that have not yet been released
Year Title Role Notes
1999 Get the Hell Out of Hamtown J
2000 Garage: A Rock Saga TV Studio Manager
2003 Uncle Nino Airport Stranger
2004 Mr. 3000 Reporter
2006 Alleyball Curt Braunschweib
Grounds Zero Arch Short film
2007 Sucker For Shelley Michael
2008 Yoga Matt Matt
Role Models Duane
Land of Arabia Dwayne Short film
2010 Welcome to the Jungle Gym Mike McKenzie
Due Date New Father
2011 Just Go with It Ernesto
Bucky Larson: Born to Be a Star Guinness Man
2012 Wanderlust Marcys Flunkie
2013 Hell Baby F'Resnel
Afternoon Delight Bo
2014 The Lego Movie Frank the Foreman (voice)
Teacher of the Year Ronald Douche
Let's Be Cops Pupa
Horrible Bosses 2 Mike
2015 Pitch Perfect 2 Sammy
Welcome to Happiness Proctor
Tomorrowland Hugo Gernsback
Vacation Jack Peterson
Hotel Transylvania 2 Murray the Mummy (voice)
Freaks of Nature Mr. Keller
2016 Keanu Clarence, Smoke Dresden Also producer
The Angry Birds Movie Judge Peckinpah (voice)
Don't Think Twice Jack
Storks Alpha Wolf (voice)
Why Him? Gustav
2017 Get Out NCAA Prospect Uncredited cameo
Win It All Gene
The Disaster Artist Himself Cameo
The Star Dave (voice)
2018 Hotel Transylvania 3: Summer Vacation Murray (voice)
The Predator Coyle
2019 Toy Story 4 Ducky (voice)
The Lion King Kamari (voice)
Dolemite Is My Name Jerry Jones
Playing with Fire Mark Rogers
2020 All the Bright Places Embry
Jingle Jangle: A Christmas Journey Gustafson
The Prom Tom Hawkins
2022 Hotel Transylvania: Transformania Murray (voice) [51]
The Bubble Sean Knox/Colt Rockwell
Chip 'n Dale: Rescue Rangers Bjornson the Cheesemonger / Frog co-worker (voice)
Pinocchio Honest John (voice)
Wendell & Wild[52] Wendell (voice)[52]
2023 The Super Mario Bros. Movie Toad (voice)
Wonka Police Chief
Migration Delroy (voice)
2024 IF Slime (voice)
Transformers One Bumblebee (voice) In production[53]
TBA Dear Santa TBA Post-production
Play Dirty TBA Filming

Television edit

Year Title Role Notes
2001 ER Witkowski Episode: "Quo Vadis?"
2004 I'm With Her Orderly Episode: "Poison Ivy"
2004–2009 Mad TV Various 107 episodes; also writer
2005–2008 The Planet's Funniest Animals Host 30 episodes
2007 Frangela DeShawn Television film
2008 Chocolate News Woodsy 1 episode
2008–2009 Reno 911! Hypothetical Criminal 8 episodes
2009–2010 Gary Unmarried Curtis 17 episodes
2010 Sons of Tucson Eric Episode: "Pilot"
2010–2015 Childrens Hospital Cop, Captain Tripper 3 episodes
2011 A Series of Unfortunate People Ted Episode: "Family Secret"
Love Bites Drew 2 episodes
Wilfred Dick Barbian Episode: "Identity"
The League Steve / Carmenjello Episode: "Carmenjello"
2012–2015 Key & Peele Himself, Various 54 episodes; also co-creator, writer and executive producer
2013 How I Met Your Mother Calvin Episode: "Something New"
Super Fun Night Slade Episode: "Pilot"
2013–2021 Whose Line is it Anyway? Himself / Fourth Seater 11 episodes
2014 The Middle Reverend Deveaux Episode: "Hungry Games"
Hell's Kitchen Himself Guest diner; Season 13 Episode 14: "5 Chefs Compete"
Fargo FBI Special Agent Bill Budge 4 episodes
2014–2015 Parks and Recreation Joe 5 episodes
BoJack Horseman Sebastian St. Clair (voice) 4 episodes
2014, 2016 Robot Chicken Various (voices) 2 episodes
2014–2016 Bob's Burgers Various (voices) 5 episodes
2014–2017 Playing House Mark Rodriguez 21 episodes
2015 The Hotwives Ace 7 episodes
TripTank King Lhoga (voice) Episode: "Dirty Talk"
It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia Grant Anderson Episode: "The Gang Goes on Family Fight"
White House Correspondents' Dinner Luther Television special
W/ Bob & David Traffic Cop Episode: "Episode 3"
2015, 2019 Rick and Morty Fourth Dimensional Being (voice) 2 episodes
2015–2019 SuperMansion American Ranger, Sgt. Agony, Blue Menace (voices) 38 episodes
2016 Modern Family Tom Delaney Episode: "Playdates"
Angie Tribeca Helmut Fröntbüt Episode: "Ferret Royale"
The Muppets Himself Episode: "Swine Song"
House of Lies Devin Townsend Episode: "Johari Window"
American Dad! E-Money (voice) Episode: "Criss-Cross Applesauce: The Ballad of Billy Jesusworth"
Mack & Moxy Admirable Keegan Episode: "Buckle, Buckle, Seatbelts and Chuckle"
2016–2017 Archer Detective Diedrich, Floyd (voices) 6 episodes
2016, 2018 Last Week Tonight with John Oliver Crazy Jimmy, Faux BitConnect Carlos 2 episodes
2017 The Simpsons Jazzy James (voice) Episode: "The Great Phatsby"
Son of Zorn Grobos the Great (voice) Episode: "All Hail Son of Zorn"
Detroiters Smilin' Jack Episode: "Smilin' Jack"
Samurai Jack Da' Samurai (voice) Episode: "XCVII"
2017–2019 Friends from College Ethan Turner 16 episodes
2018 Impulse Michael Pearce 2 episodes
Sesame Street Himself 2 episodes
2019 Veep Jordan Thomas Jr. Episode: "South Carolina"
The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance The Ritual-Master (skekZok) (voice) 9 episodes
No Activity Charles Brock 2 episodes
2019–2022 Green Eggs and Ham Narrator 23 episodes
2020 Brain Games Host 8 episodes
Game On! Host 8 episodes
Home Movie: The Princess Bride Inigo Montoya Episode: "Chapter Eight: Ultimate Suffering"[54]
2021 Saturday Night Live Host Episode: "Keegan-Michael Key/Olivia Rodrigo"
2021–2023 Schmigadoon! Josh Skinner 12 episodes
2022 The Pentaverate Dr. Hobart Clark 3 episodes
Reboot Reed Sterling Main cast
2024 Abbott Elementary Superintendent John Reynolds 3 episodes
Elsbeth Ashton Hayes Episode: "Something Blue"

Stage edit

Year Title Role Notes
2004 The People vs. Friar Laurence[55] Romeo Chicago, Second City
2017 Hamlet Horatio Off-Broadway
2017–2018 Meteor Shower Gerald Broadway

Video games edit

Year Title Role Notes
2003 NFL Blitz Pro Commentary/Additional Voices [56]
2018 Hotel Transylvania 3: Monsters Overboard Murray the Mummy [57]

Music videos edit

Year Title Role Artist
2006 "White & Nerdy" Black Gangster "Weird Al" Yankovic

Podcasts edit

Year Title Role Notes
2020 13 Days of Halloween The Caretaker Season 1
2021 The History of Sketch Comedy Host

Books edit

Year Title Authors Notes
2023 The History of Sketch Comedy: A Journey through the Art and Craft of Humor Keegan-Michael Key and Elle Key Based on the podcast with new contributions from Mel Brooks, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Mike Myers, John Oliver, Tracy Morgan, Carol Burnett, Jordan Peele and more; as well as illustrations and photos.[58]

Awards and nominations edit

Year Award Category Work Result
2013 Writers Guild of America Award[59] Best Comedy/Variety (Including Talk) – Series Key & Peele Nominated
2014 NAACP Image Award[61] Outstanding Variety–Series or Special Nominated
American Comedy Award[62] Best Alternative Comedy Series Won
Best Comedy Actor–TV Nominated
Best Comedy Writing–TV
Primetime Emmy Award[63] Outstanding Writing for a Variety Series
2015 People's Choice Award[64] Favorite Sketch Comedy TV Show
NAACP Image Award[65] Outstanding Comedy Series
Outstanding Actor in a Comedy Series
Primetime Emmy Award[66] Outstanding Variety Sketch Series
Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series
Outstanding Writing for a Variety Series
Outstanding Writing for a Variety Special Key and Peele Super Bowl Special
Outstanding Short-Format Live-Action Entertainment Program Key & Peele Presents Van and Mike: The Ascension
2016 NAACP Image Award[67] Outstanding Comedy Series Key & Peele
Outstanding Writing in a Comedy Series
Screen Actors Guild Award[68] Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Comedy Series
Writers Guild of America Award[69] Best Comedy/Variety – Sketch Series
Primetime Emmy Award[70] Outstanding Variety Sketch Series Won
Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series Nominated
Outstanding Writing for a Variety Series
Outstanding Character Voice-Over Performance SuperMansion

References edit

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