Once upon a time the “small screen” referred to one of the millions of TVs broadcasting into homes around the world. But in 2018 that title belongs to the mobile phone, the device that has surpassed the ubiquitous “boob tube” in access and popularity. Houston native King Keraun (real name Keraun Harris) has parlayed a talent for entertaining the denizens of the super small screen into bigger screen success.
After his antics on Instagram and Vine got him noticed by TV execs like Issa Rae and Kenya Barris, Keraun landed roles on HBO’s Insecure and ABCs’ Black-Ish, as well as co-hosted BET’s first-ever Social Awards. Now, along with is producing partner, Ashwant Akula Venkatram, the Instagram funnyman has produced a one-of-a-kind comedy experience called “The Dirty Laundry Tour.” With two sold-out shows under his belt, Keraun and his peers are prepping to take the show nationwide.
We caught up with this future Black history maker to find out why laughing matters and what key advice he’s gotten from OGs in the comedy business.
I was looking at your Instagram and I saw the Black Panther robbery sketch, which had me crackin’ up. So, was that sponsored or just something you just wanted to do for the hell of it?
Normally, I get paid to do brand deals with certain companies. I've worked with Spotify. I’ve worked with Marvel before, Nike; a lot of big brands. But with this one, it isn’t paid. It was more taking initiative and helpin’ my own. This was basically I know [it’s a] Black director, a Black cast, Black writers, a movie for the culture that is showing Africa for what it is, you know, in the great light. And I just wanted to, you know, support it any way I can.
I notice in the sketch you make fun of the fact that you had been to jail. Is that what inspired the title “Dirty Laundry” for your comedy tour?
Yeah, a little bit. You know, because it’s just a lot of things about me that people don’t know intricately. So, “dirty laundry” was just, mainly, we came together as if we’re friends, but we have dirty laundry. We have things that people don’t know, [that] fans want to know so, we’ll speak on it. You know, and with me I talk a lot about prison. I talk a lot about stories from prison. Stories with me fighting in prison and things that are actually funny, but wasn’t funny when they were happening, you know?
Is prison where you sharpened your comedy chops?
I think so because, to be honest with you, I believe that when you go to prison, everybody has to have something that the other people in jail gotta look at you for. You know what I mean? Something that makes you a fixture in your prison tank. Because if you’re not a fixture in your prison tank, you’ll just be somebody that people mess with all the time until you just move around from place to place. Cause it doesn’t matter if you can fight or not. Cause you’re outnumbered regardless. Like some people are known as the real rough guy. Some people are known as the cool guy. Some people are known as the guy with all the commissary. I was more so known as the funny guy. I became a fixture because Keraun was so funny. He makes light of our situations and makes us laugh every day. So, that’s really where the comedy started for me. I would almost call it like a defense mechanism.
So how did you transition into doing the Vine/Instagram stuff after getting out?
When I got out, I really had no direction [with] what I wanted to do. One day, I was working at a job that would make my nose bleed. You know, because it was a job for felons. I was workin’ a job that only felons could work. So, my nose was bleedin’ every day. And like, you know, one day my nose was bleedin, you know, profusely. And I was like, “I’m done. I can’t do this no more.” And while I’m figurin’ out what I’ma do, this new app called Vine just came out. I’ma just make videos while I figure it out. And I started making videos about the [Miami] Heat because my favorite player was LeBron James. And and I also got my moniker from him. While I was in jail I watched LeBron so, when I got out, I just looked up his Twitter handle. I looked it up and it was like King James, right. And I was like, OK. I’ma be King Keraun. When I started, I didn’t know what to Vine about. The Heat were playing the Spurs in the championship. So, I would Vine about LeBron prayin’ he doesn’t lose the finals. Like crying and, you know, doing little silly stuff like that. People would start following me, you know, off of my commentary about LeBron and being a super fan. I didn’t even know I was doing skits then. I just was making what I thought was funny. And then people thought it was funny as well. And that’s just how it started.
Did you ever get to meet LeBron?
I ended up meeting LeBron and going to a few games. That’s when they lost [the Championship]. But like literally, LeBron was literally the catalyst to everything.
So, talk to me a little about this show. You got a lot of your colleagues on the tour with you. How is “Dirty Laundry” different from your usual comedy show?
It’s different because regular comedy shows are just stand-up, and that’s the root of comedy. Stand-up is not to be taken lightly. But what we wanted to do was a tweak to stand-up. So, [taking] the video format of what everybody loves from us and mix it with, with stand-up. Intertwine stand-up with video and with sketches. That’s the one show of its only kind. My friends are all on it. We wanted to just see how the audience [would] react to it. And also to see my draw as a comedian, you know, being out in the space. And we did two shows, we did one in Los Angeles; sold out. Then another one in Houston, in my hometown; sold out. We just wanted to show something different because stand-up is all over the world, you know. But what you can’t get, maybe, is what you love about your phone and video comedy, mixed with the live performance, all rolled into one. This is a show that 18-year-olds can go to but also go there with their 45-year-old momma as well. I just think this is the new wave and this is something that everybody’s gonna wanna see.
What we’re doing now is, not only are we setting up a tour with some tour dates to hit some Black colleges, we’re also setting up a date to shoot it. And once we shoot this hour special, we’re gonna shoot it, wrap it up, and hopefully we’re gonna be able to sell it and give it to BET or Netflix.
What has been the response from your peers?
Black comics before us are showing love. We incorporated the Martin [show] and paid homage. The scene where Martin told Cole to sit his five dollar ass down before he make change. I posted it on Instagram after the show and Martin[Lawrence] followed me because of it and also posted it. He said it was amazing and he wanted to come out to one of our shows. So, I knew I was on the right path then when Martin could see me doing his own sketch. This was his baby. Martin saw it, said it was amazing, said I did amazing, and said he couldn’t wait to see more. And basically, cosigned my stand-up tour. So, that was all I needed to know that I was on the right path. Martin Lawrence only follow 70 people on Instagram, you know, and I’m one of them. And I take that very serious.
Have you spoken to Martin offline or in person?
I’ve spoken, spoken to him a few times.
Has he given you any advice for show business? Comedy?
One thing he told me, he saw me like arguing with a fan. This is when I knew Martin Lawrence was really a big homie to me. Martin came under there and said, “There’s always one that wants to hate. But remember, you got it and you’re destined for it. Don’t even indulge in that. Just be great and be you. And always remember, do what you know is funny, not what somebody else thinks. Stay true to your comedy funny bone.” So I took that in to stay true to what I thought was funny. And I’m watching it work for me even more.
You’ve gotten into TV acting now. You played Junior’s barber on Black-Ish. How did you get that role?
Jr. didn’t want to go to his dad’s barber anymore. He wanted a new, cool barber and I’m the new, cool barber. I’m also really excited about reprising that role. I actually talk to Kenya Barris all the time about, “Hey man, you need to write in the barber again. Like ole boy need a haircut okay. He hasn’t got his hair cut in a whole year. He needs to get his hair cut again.” And he got me on the show [because] he was actually a fan of me. He said he’s not really a fan of social media comics. But he said that he saw me do Training Day. Training Day is one of my biggest features, where I try to channel my Denzel. And when I did it he said, “Oh, this dude really could act.” So, I did it. So once he saw that I could really act he, he put me on the show.
And you also landed on HBO's Insecure, which is big. How did that happen?
With Insecure, Issa became a fan of me. She followed me, started watching my videos. I didn’t even know she was a fan of my acting ‘till one day i got an email from somebody at HBO and it says, “Issa wants you to go out for a role in season two episode one being one of her dates.” And I was like, “Wait, Issa Rae or ‘issa’ like someone who’s a fan of, of 21 savage that’s over here saying’ issa.” And he’s like “nah, Issa Rae.” And I was like, “oh, shit.” You know, ‘cause that’s the epitome of black girl magic and black girl power and everything about black excellence is depicted with Issa Rae. So, I was excited about that. I was one of the blind dates that she had in the beginning of the episode. I gave her a little, you know, a little hell. But it was fun, man.
So, you have a movie out called Major Deal through your company Shades Of Black. Why the name Shades of Black?
Major Deal is a movie I partnered with All Def Digital. It was a story that I came up with and Kevin Fredricks at All Def helped me write it. We shot it for $20,000. I just wanted to give my fans an hour length worth of content. I wanted to show them what I could do just in my own creative storyline. To flex my creative muscle. And that was one of the first things I did to flex my creative muscle off that movie. And now, I use that to show that I got it, to flex it more with this tour. Also, you know, with this tour, I created it with Ashwant [Venkatram], my lawyer slash manager slash everything. We basically created this tour. Shades of Black is a company I created with Ashwant. We called it Shades of Black because it’s so many shades of Black. You got hood Black. You got corporate Black. You got real nigga, hood Black. You got uppity Black. We’re just dealin’ in Black content, just like BET. It ain’t about a kind of Black, it don’t gotta be a certain type of Black. It’s all about uplifting, and creating Black culture, and Black things, and promoting everything Black. All we need is each other to buy in. We only make like, what is it? Seventeen percent of the world? But, Black Panther is the highest selling movie, you know, like, presales ever. You know, what do you think that was? Black people. It’s about just uplifting and moving the culture forward.