After only four years, Jameel Key has become one of Buffalo’s fastest rising comedy acts. His first open-mic performance was in 2012, and now Key’s one of the regular hosts at Helium Comedy Club. He also is one of eight comedians performing on the "Laugh Actually” showcase at 8 p.m. Feb. 19 at the 9th Ward at Babeville (341 Delaware Ave.).
Comedy wasn’t Key’s original passion; after reading a book about Spike Lee’s 1989 movie “Do the Right Thing,” he wanted to become an actor and director. A graduate of the Buffalo Academy for Visual and Performing Arts, Key’s one attempt at stand-up in high school “was horrible.” It would take 15 years before he gave comedy another shot.
Key credits his father with maintaining his interest in comedy.
“My father is really into comedy,” he said. “He watched comedians all the time, so he got me into it. I would watch comedy and go to see comedy shows with my dad.”
Key attended a show at Helium when the club first opened and saw it hosted a regular open mic. He decided to give comedy another shot, and hasn’t stopped since.
“It went better than I thought it would,” Key said of his Helium open-mic debut. “I only knew one person in the crowd, so the fact that I did well in front of strangers (made) it real and I could keep trying it.”
Key has advanced quicker than many other comics of his age and experience. In addition to emceeing weekends at Helium, he placed in the finals of last year’s Buffalo’s Funniest Person contest at the club. Now he’s starting to get booked outside of town, including a stint opening for Bruce Bruce at Rochester’s Comedy Club Feb. 25-28.
“It happened quicker than I thought it would happen,” Key said of his growth as a comedian. “I think I improved on not being as stiff on stage. The more relaxed I am on stage, I feel like the better I could be, and that’s the key. (I don’t want) to rush to get through one gag after another. When I first started, I would get up (on stage) like four times a week. I don’t do it as much now, but when I started out, I would go to every (show) I could possibly go to until I could get more comfortable doing it.”
In addition to Key, “Laugh Actually” will feature Rick Matthews and Josh Potter, past winners of Buffalo’s Funniest Person contest. Sara Gunn, Angelo Corcimiglia, Ellen Joksimovic, Jonathan Garbin and Zach Dietsch will also perform. The show begins at 8 p.m.
What: "Laugh Actually"
When: 8 p.m. Feb. 19
Where: 9th Ward at Babeville, 341 Delaware Ave.
Cost: $8 advance, $10 day of show