Even after acting in hundreds of sketch-comedy television episodes, Keegan-Michael Key is excited about his newest role this week — as Penn State’s homecoming grand marshal.
Key, 44, said he hopes to give back to the school where he received his Master of Fine Arts degree in 1996.
“The training that I got here (at Penn State), the learning I got here, the life experiences I got here, have really, really helped me get to where I am today,” Key said. “They shaped me in really positive ways and helped me not only become a better actor but, I think, a better person.”
Key lives in Los Angeles. He spoke by phone from the set of a movie he is working on. The six‐time Primetime Emmy Award nominee said he was surprised when he was asked to be the grand marshal, citing other Penn State alumni who were also deserving. Key accepted in August. Previous marshals have included “Good Morning America’s” Lara Spencer, resilient former Nittany Lion Adam Taliaferro, former CIA agent Valerie Plame Wilson and Pittsburgh Steelers great Franco Harris.
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“This school has given so much to me, and if I could give a little bit back in school spirit, why wouldn’t I do that?” he said.
Since his time at Penn State, Key is most known for co‐creating the Comedy Central TV show “Key & Peele,” which was nominated this year for five Primetime Emmy Awards. He has also acted in a number of movies, including “Role Models,” “Let’s Be Cops” and “Pitch Perfect 2.”
Key will leading the homecoming parade, which is scheduled for Friday, then attend the football game against Indiana on Saturday. He said he is excited that his his wife, Cynthia Blaise, will get to experience Beaver Stadium’s atmosphere. It will be the first football game that Key and Blaise will attend together since they married in 1999.
The Peabody Award winner also wants to meet with students during his visit.
“Just talking to students and seeing what their experience is now, at this point in their life, that to me is pretty thrilling,” said Key.
Key advised students to choose majors that they are truly passionate about.
“If you find that you are studying something and it doesn’t make your heart go pitter patter, then you should study something else,” he said.
Key said he believes that people are happiest when they are “contributing to the world” and “doing it in a way that they are uniquely qualified for.”
Key was most recently at Penn State last October when he received the Alumni Fellow Award, the highest award given by the Penn State Alumni Association.
Penn State homecoming began Sunday, with events all week culminating in the football game Saturday at noon.