Written By: Niki Jones of Houston TREND
Comedy is comparable to a hit of a beloved drug, in which laughter becomes the cure for a wounded soul, a horrible day or an ice breaker. There are certain comedians that possess the ability to make you laugh, cry and think and if lucky, they can do it all at the same damn time. Accompanied with some knee slapping, hand clapping and side aching pains, the kind of laughter that literally enables you to functionally breath, leaving sore faces and satisfied funny bones . Not everyone can successfully be a comedian, there is a fine line between being funny and actually being able to entertain thousands, leaving a favorable impression and the crowd yearning for more. Houston comedian, Ken Boyd, has proven to be not just “that fool mama raised” but one of Houston’s thriving up and coming comedians.
At 27, in only four short years, Ken has already excelled as a prominent comedian with a great following within the city of Houston. His unfiltered, raw comedic style surrounding real life situations, from disciplining children to funny personable anecdotes. Ken is an all-around comedian. He has been a recurring host at the city’s hottest comedy club, The Houston Improv, as well as performing and hosting a plethora of open mic nights and events for people around town and even releasing his comedy dvd, Mama Raised a Fool, this year. “There’s no way I should have accomplished everything I have in four years. If you talk to any comedian from the 90s, they will say after four years you still ain’t nothing yet,” says Ken. The road to success is never an easy tote, but Ken’s passion for his craft has been in the forefront on his journey to stardom. “That’s my high, making jokes and entertaining people, even as I was younger, to the upmost now. While I’m on stage and there’s a room full of people and I have their attention. I get high off of that. I love what I do,” tells Ken.
Growing up in Trinity Gardens, well-known for being a volatile neighborhood on the Northeast side of Houston, Ken was raised by a single mother and was the only boy and youngest of three siblings. As Ken tells it, “A lot of my comedy revolves around the bad things I saw and the things I was taught. There were a lot of female mentalities that I’ve observed over the years.” Hearing stories of his mother being a class clown, it wasn’t long before Ken embody the class clown spirit of a natural born fool. Hence his moniker, Ken 2 the fool. At a young age Ken knew that he had a gift but didn’t really view it as such, just being himself. “The revelation came pretty young. I knew I could get a reaction out of people, if I said a certain thing a certain way or made a funny voice. I was always the source of entertainment. Whatever I came up with, whatever imitation or observation I made, it was just funny. I was just hanging around my friends being me, being silly,” explains Ken.
Amongst the obvious comedic legends, Richard Pryor and Eddie Murphy, who Ken would sneakily get to witness on a few late night comedy specials, Pryor’s Life on the Sunset Strip and Murphy’s Raw. Unbeknownst to his mother, who didn’t allow him to watch these comedians, due to the nature of his adolescence and the raunchy profane language that was heavily processed in their jokes. “I wasn’t supposed to be watching these comedians, so I would turn the television down kind of low, not knowing that my mother was in the room watching the same thing. She was always a fan of live comedy.” Ken recalls Dave Chappelle as being the comedian that would spark the interest in his quest to understand comedy and grooming intentions to become like the greats. “I grew up watching Def Comedy Jam, I admired Martin Lawrence, there was also Jamie Foxx, who was an inspiration as well and Chris Rock, but Dave Chappelle was the straw that broke the camel’s back. It was something about him that made me say I could do that. He’s very clever, what he does is really different than anyone else. I saw a lot of similarities between him and I. He implanted the curiosity and the challenge,” says Ken.
Now as a comedic novice, in an unfamiliar realm searching to absorb any and all knowledge of the comedy world, Ken knew that he was funny and in order to become great, he would have to do his homework, one comedy spot at a time. “I found out where all the open mic comedy spots were in the city of Houston and I would go and just watch. I wanted to figure out the approach and how to do this comedy thing. Every night I would go somewhere new. Comics would start to know me as well as the orchestrators for the open mics. A guy buy the name of Tom Webb, who ran open mic nights on Wednesdays at a placed called Time Square, would notice me and he approached me. We talked a bit and that following week, he put me on to perform.”
Not every new comedian, just getting their feet wet, can compel an audience and be an instant success the first night they do a live performance, but originality should always be key. Speaking from experiences and real life situations, will always make for the best jokes because people will relate to real everyday living. Apparently Ken wouldn’t fully understand, at the time, the value of being original as he explains his first and last open mic opportunity, which forced him to end his comedy career before it even started. “I get myself together and prepared for my five minutes. When I say it was the most horrific disappointment. It was terrible. I told a joke about smoking weed, which I had never done because in my mind I was like a lot of people smoke weed, so why not talk about that to gain some type of rapport. It was bad. I had no timing, no personality and no stage presence. I didn’t know how to translate my everyday personality onto the stage. Every factor that makes you a good comedian, I had none of them going for me at the time. I had nothing and I was like I’m done.”
Already attending Houston Community College, Ken would decide to focus on getting his degree in Marketing and Advertising that way he could still use his creative side, creating a comedic foyer through commercials as a creative consultant. For a whole year, Ken would continue to ignore this pestering feeling urging him to give comedy another try. “I was done and I told myself that thousands of times, but the nagging feeling would not stop man. It was like a nagging type of scream inside of me, an inner voice talking to me wanting me to try again. Picture something inside of you endlessly fighting to get out and you’re steadily trying to compress it and its saying, NO, you can do this. I know you can do this. Try it one more time and if you fail, I won’t mess with you anymore. I’m thinking I’m crazy because I was actually talking to myself in my mind. The nagging would not stop.”
With the opposite intent of muffling his nagging inner-being to prove that he could actually sustain success as a comedian, Ken decided to give it another try at an open mic, to prove he didn’t belong in this industry. “I said I’m going to do this and prove to myself that I’m not supposed to be here with the rest of these dudes I’ve been watching on television and maybe then I’ll convince myself that this isn’t for me,” expresses Ken. “I got on at this spot called The Laff Stop. I gathered my material for the show. I did two jokes, one about Chris Brown and Rihanna because this was right around the same time of the big incident and one about Michael Jackson. I only had 3 minutes and I tore the stage down! It was like I could do no wrong. Everything I said was popping! I killed it,” he adds.
After the success of his small stint on stage, Ken became raveled with the feeling of performing and in turn, it was no longer about convincing himself that this route wasn’t for him. He was now convinced that comedy was his life. He would eat, breathe and sleep comedy, from there on out. Ken 2 the Fool, the comedian, was in full effect. “I was hooked. The most powerful drug had nothing on it. You are trapped for life and from there you just grow. It’s all I wanted to do. Kind of like sex for the first time, the feeling, that sensation you get that makes you want to do it all the time now. That’s how I felt. I wanted to feel that feeling all the time,” confesses Ken.
From there, Ken would receive the opportunity to host a Karaoke happy hour at Aztecas Bar and Grill, put on by one of Houston’s leading MC’s, MC Kane. “MC Kane is very influential on the Houston nightlife scene and I had been knowing him for years. He asked me to be a part of it. So I said cool. It turned out to be the best thing I had ever done because everybody that was anybody would be there and it was packed every Monday night. I saw everyone from basketball players to rappers, strippers, every beat maker. Everybody was in there. I was exposed to a multitude of people every week.” Since Ken was becoming a hit at Aztecas, he was able to transition the audience and bring them out to support him, as one of the Houston All Stars of comedy. “A guy by the name of Carlos Wallace started a monthly staple at the Houston Improv called Houston All Stars of comedy. It was an opportunity for all types of local comics to invite their people out to see them on a large stage at an established comedy club and put on a quality show. He was in good with the people who ran the Improv, so he put me on. It was Billy Sorrells, Blame the Comic, Rodney Bigham, Mickey Housley and myself. It was two shows and it was a stupid success,” recalls Ken.
After generating an increasingly steady traffic flow to the Houston Improv, Ken would go on to get booked again and soon was appearing at the Improv more frequently, each time grossly boosting ticket sales. It seemed that Ken’s short term aspirations were coming full circle. “I was on the radar. It was steady progression,” says Ken.
It seems as though Ken can’t be stopped and with progression comes change. Changing his on stage name from Ken 2 the Fool to just Ken Boyd, Ken explains this reasons. “You think about how you started and what you think this comedy is and then you realize, I can just be me. So coming in, I’m thinking people wanted to see Ken 2 the Fool, so that’s who I was and then I realize, I’m funny just being who I am. I don’t need to be the fool. The fool is still me, I’m still a fool,” he laughs, “but I can still be Ken Boyd and be the same. I could be Ken 2 the fool for the rest of my life, but there is no way Jay Leno, Conan O’Brien or Craig Ferguson are going to introduce a Ken 2 the Fool to the show, but they will introduce Ken Boyd,” he adds.
Ken has had the privilege to open up for comedians such as Coco Brown, Gary Owens, The Wayans Brothers and friend Tony Rock. Ken will be accompanying Tony Rock as well as comedian Eddie Griffin, for a one night only comedy show this coming fall in London. “From something as simple as just wanting to perform on the stage at the Improv, to the extreme of featuring for Tony Rock on the road and now going to London is unfathomable, but just from listening to that nagging, antagonizing voice I was fighting so hard and finally given in and look where I am four years later.”
Ken’s holds no bounds to his comedy. “I’m a storyteller. A lot of my standup is simple regurgitation that has actually happened to me. You almost have to build an ear to what’s funny on stage to the point where you can just get up and tell the story,” he states. Ken conveys a catalyst of uncut, edgy comedy, to the point where he can say almost anything and amuse the audience with topics ranging from family, women and sex, to chastising his imaginary children. “I’m a big fan of delivery. I can come up with these insane left field comments and jokes, but it’s how I deliver it,” replies Ken.
Coming on the cusp of his farewell comedy show at the Houston Improv this month, Ken will be embarking on a new journey as he takes his talents to New York City. “It’s bittersweet, but it’s a beautiful thing because I’ve accomplished everything that I wanted to do with comedy here in Houston. Every goal that I had, I did it. It’s so fulfilling. When you reach your goals, you set new ones. Moving is imperative to obtain the next level of success for everything I’m trying to accomplish. If I can do the same thing in New York, that I’ve done here, I will be a success,” he exclaims.
If you can make it there, you can make it anywhere. One thing about me, is I’m willing to put the work in and it’s really not work because I love it. I’m not in a rush. I’m very patient for my time to come.