Keegan-Michael Key is finally living the dream he set for himself two decades ago: He’s performing in a Shakespeare play.
After studying theatre, the now-famous comedian had plans to be part of a Shakespeare festival back in 1996. “Then a friend of mine asked me to come home to Detroit and make an independent film, and I did and that was the fork in the road,” he told Kelly Ripa and Ryan Seacrest on the July 18 episode of Live with Kelly and Ryan. (Fast forward to 20:45 in the video above to watch his full interview.)
As Horatio in the Public Theater’s production of Hamlet, Key jokes that he was too scared to take on the title role, but doled out sincere praise for his co-star. “The unbelievable Oscar Isaac is playing Hamlet right now. He’s amazing,” he said. “What’s so good about his performance is it’s extremely accessible. I know Shakespeare because I’ve studied it, but your friends who don’t know anything about Shakespeare are like, ‘Wait, I understand him.’ The emotionality of the performance is something else. He’s doing this as a love letter to his mother who just passed away. The whole run is dedicated to his mother. He would read Shakespeare to his mother in the hospital.”
Still, not everyone appreciates The Bard. Key told two wild stories about audience members and cell phone etiquette. “Oscar was doing the ‘To Be or Not to Be’ speech the other day, and this one dude was as far as I am from Kelly and was straight up on his phone. It’s like, ‘Dude, this is the one speech you gotta pay attention to.’”
Yet another audience member presented a cell phone problem during one of the show's two intermissions. “She walked on the stage and plugged her phone in, and the house manager said, ‘Excuse me ma’am, this is the set. You can’t charge your phone on the set.’”
Audience faux pas aside, Key is fully enjoying himself Off-Broadway and also just debuted in the new Netflix series Friends From College. “If you can’t come and see Hamlet,” he urged, “this is a good way to spend four hours in your own home.”
Hamlet currently plays the Public Theater through September 3. For tickets and information visit PublicTheater.org.