Keegan-Michael Key Biography

Comedian, Actor (1971–)
Keegan-Michael Key is an American comedian and actor who, along with Jordan Peele, headlined Comedy Central's 'Key & Peele' from 2012 to 2015.

Who Is Keegan-Michael Key?

Keegan-Michael Key (born March 22, 1971) is a biracial comedian who made up half of the duo that headlined Comedy Central's successful sketch comedy show Key & Peele (2012-15). Before this he starred on Mad TV from 2004 to 2009; since Key & Peele ended its run he's worked on numerous movies and television shows, including Netflix's Friends From College, The Predator (2018) and The Lion King (2019). Key also put his theatrical training to use by appearing as Horatio in Hamlet in the summer of 2017, and by making his Broadway debut in Steve Martin's Meteor Shower later that year.

Keegan-Michael Key Photo

Keegan-Michael Key arrives at the premiere of Sony Pictures' 'The Angry Birds Movie' at Regency Village Theatre on May 7, 2016 in Westwood, California. 

'Key & Peele'

With Jordan Peele, Keegan-Michael Key was a co-creator and co-star of the sketch show Key & Peele. An audience favorite was Key's portrayal of substitute teacher Mr. Garvey, whose years of working in inner city schools affected the way he approached white suburban students. Another notable Key character was Luther, President Barack Obama's "anger translator," who let fury and frustrations loose while the president maintained his trademark cool demeanor. Key even played Luther alongside the real-life Obama at the 2015 White House Correspondents' dinner.

Key used wigs, costumes and his skills as a physical comedian to breathe life into male and female characters of many different races. Some of the series' sketches used the power of humor and surprising juxtapositions to address serious topics such as race, bigotry and inequality. For this Key & Peele received a 2013 Peabody Award, with the citation noting, "They tackle racially charged issues and ideas like no one else on television."

Key & Peele also garnered multiple Emmy nominations, including two for Key as supporting actor; the show won the Emmy for variety sketch series in 2016. In addition, it was a ratings hit, and videos of its sketches reached more than a billion views online. However, making each season took up most of a year, and Key and Peele ended up mutually deciding to end the show in order to pursue other projects. But the two remain close; when Peele won the Academy Award for original screenplay for Get Out (2017), social media showed Key cheering for his friend.

Movies and TV Shows

Key was on Fox's Mad TV from 2004 to 2009, then on Comedy Central's Key & Peele from 2012 to 2015. In addition to sketch comedy, Key has appeared as an FBI agent on Fargo, had a recurring role in the NBC sitcom Parks and Recreation and played a love interest on USA's Playing House. He also starred in Netflix's Friends From College.

In films, Key's had supporting roles in productions such as Horrible Bosses 2 (2014), Pitch Perfect 2 (2015), Tomorrowland (2015) and Why Him? (2016). He starred, along with Peele, in the movie Keanu (2016), in which they went on a quest to recover their cat Keanu.

In Mike Birbiglia's Don't Think Twice (2016), Key portrayed a sketch comedian whose success upends the lives of his fellow troupe members. Other Key film appearances include Jill Soloway's Afternoon Delight (2013) and Joe Swanberg’s Win It All (2017). And Key, who's said he wants to play roles like Jason Bourne or James Bond, will get the chance to show some of his action chops in Shane Black's The Predator (2018).

Key's also voiced roles for TV's Rick and Morty, Archer and Bojack Horseman, and in films such as The Lego Movie (2014) and Hotel Transylvania 2 (2015). In addition, he's a part of the star-studded cast for the live-action feature The Lion King (2019).

In an NPR interview in 2017, Key revealed his philosophy for choosing projects, stating, "I want to make movies and pieces of television and pieces of art that crack everyone's assumptions." In the same interview, he also noted, "We live in a gray world, and I want to tell gray stories."

When Was Keegan-Michael Key Born?

Keegan-Michael Key was born on March 22, 1971, in Detroit, Michigan.

First Wife and Divorce

In 1998, Key married actress and dialect coach Cynthia Blaise. He filed for divorce in 2015, citing irreconcilable differences. The couple, who had no children, had their divorce finalized in 2017.

TMZ and People magazine obtained documents detailing the divorce settlement; according to these sources, Key has to pay spousal support of $34,000 per month, and he'll owe his ex-wife 21 percent "of his gross annual income from all sources in excess of $2,153,846" (however, he does not have to pay Blaise more than $700,000 per year). This support will last until either Key or Blaise passes away, or until she remarries.

Engaged to Elisa Pugliese

In 2017, Key announced via Twitter that Elisa Pugliese had said yes to his marriage proposal. Pugliese is a director and producer; talking to ET about his fiancee, Key once said, "She produces everything. She produces my life and my career! It's amazing."

Parents and Family

Key, the product of an affair between a white woman and her married black colleague, was put up for adoption. His adoptive father was black, while his adoptive mother was white; both were social workers. After his parents split up, his father married a woman from Northern Ireland.

As an adult, Key got to know his birth mother. He also learned that the late comic book writer Dwayne McDuffie was a half-sibling.

Early Life

Key grew up in Detroit. Childhood epilepsy ruled out activities like football, so his main extracurricular interest was performing. He appreciated the power of comedy, but has said, "I was just 100 percent convinced I couldn’t do comedy for a living."


Key received his undergraduate degree from University of Detroit Mercy. While a student there, he delivered singing telegrams. He earned his MFA in theater at Penn State.

Early Comedy Career

Though he'd planned to pursue a career in theater, Key auditioned for the improv group Second City Detroit and was asked to join in 1997. After a few years, he moved to Second City Chicago.

In Chicago in 2003, Key was introduced to Jordan Peele; he's said he and Peele "fell in comedy love." They both ended up on Mad TV, where they wrote sketches together.

Theatrical Career

Comedy led to enormous success for Key, but he's referred to this aspect of his career as a "19-year detour." In 2016, he told Esquire he was excited about "doing more drama on camera, in the cinema, and doing theater and being on stage with people."

In the summer of 2017, Key got the opportunity to play Horatio in Hamlet — with Oscar Isaac in the title role — at New York City's Public Theater. Later that year, he made his Broadway debut in Meteor Shower, a play written by Steve Martin that co-starred Amy Schumer. Among the dream roles that Key would like to play in the future are Hamlet, Othello and King Lear.

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