Keegan-Michael Key’s 4 favorite metro Detroit hangouts
Wherever he goes, Keegan-Michael Key is never too far from Detroit.
“I have to find excuses to mention Detroit as often as possible. Every place I go there is always Detroit,” says the Emmy winner, whose new comedy Why Him? opens on Friday the immediate camaraderie of the Motor City connections.
Key spends much of his time in New York City these days, but is always looking for references from Detroit. “If I see a person in a tiger hat, I run over to that person. I will stop my duties and run to that person (and say), ‘Hey, hey, hey, nice hat. Nice hat! Harper Woods?’ I’m a little obsessed with it. “
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The tall, lanky comedy star is sitting at Detroit’s Cadieux Cafe on a particularly busy day when he recently served as Co-Grand Marshal of the Thanksgiving Day Parade in his hometown.
2016 was a very good year for Key, whose comic book acting roots stretch back to his hometown in Second City Detroit and the co-founder of Hamtramck’s nonprofit professional theater Planet Ant. That year he starred in the films “Keanu,” an action comedy starring Jordan Peele about a stolen kitten, and “Don’t Think Twice,” a character study by a small improvisational troupe that allowed Key to demonstrate his more subtle acting Skills.
In August, Netflix announced that Key would be part of the upcoming “Friends From College” ensemble series. He won his first Emmy in September and shared with Jordan Peele the award for the best variety sketch series for the final season of Comedy Central’s “Key & Peele”. Next year he will appear as a furniture store owner on the network’s new sitcom “Detroiters,” a guest appearance he made this summer.
Key is always enthusiastic about his craft and is generous with his wit. He currently gives 110% on a Facebook Live interview with the Detroit Free Press, which covers topics ranging from the Detroit Lions to the city’s place in his heart.
Key will be back in Detroit on Thursday for An Evening With Keegan-Michael Key and The 313. It’s a rerun of last year’s sold out benefit performance at the Detroit Film Theater at the Detroit Institute of Arts.
The event, hosted by Key and The 313, a Los Angeles-based improvisational group of Detroit expatriates, will raise funds for the museum’s foundation and the Detroit Creativity Project, which helps Detroit students through improvisational comedy classes. It is a program that aims to develop creativity, teach problem-solving skills, and nurture empathy through the art of stepping into someone else’s shoes immediately.
Key will share the stage with Marc Evan Jackson from Fox’s Brooklyn Nine-Nine, Maribeth Monroe from Workaholics, Tim Robinson from the upcoming Detroiters series, and several other talented improvisational comics. Tim Meadow, former “Saturday Night Live” actor and current “Son of Zorn” star, originally from Highland Park, will be the opening act.
We asked Key to share some of his favorite spots in and around Detroit. It’s the city that keeps calling him back. It gave him a place to improve his art. And introduced him to friends and comedy staff who stay nearby.
Here are four of Key’s favorite spots, but it’s clear that the full list of things he loves about Motor City goes on and on.
Cadieux Cafe: “This was a slope on the east side,” says Key, who selected the old-school restaurant of the old world for the Facebook Live interview.
With its history as a hangout for Belgians from the Detroit area (and also as a speakeasy from the Prohibition era), Cadieux Cafe has long been a favorite with young people in their twenties and thirties for its combination of foods (the mussels are a specialty), Beer (including more than a dozen types of Belgian), the traditional sport of bowling and live music.
In his improvisational days, Key was always on the website to see a band formed by some Second City Detroit alums. “You’d have a feather bowl and then come out during the set and have a drink. We’d dance and drink clams and listen to our friends. The band was called Park. The band was actually called Park: A Rock Band,” he said, remembering and speaking ” Colon “with emphasis to explain the punctuation.
The Cadieux is also part of Key’s heritage. “Besides, I’m of Belgian descent, so this is my bar,” he says. “This is the bar I have to go to. I love being here.”
Planet Ant: The Hamtramck Theater began as a coffee house in 1993. Whenever he was home from the graduate school in theater at Pennsylvania State University, Key came to the open microphone nights hosted by a buddy. “By the way, I don’t know if everyone knows, it’s the coffeehouse where Jack and Meg White met,” he says proudly of the connection with the White Stripes. “Jack went across the street and he wanted to make an open microphone and he saw Meg in the window.”
In the summer of 1996, Planet Ant was used as the main location for a feature film called “Get The Hell Out Of Hamtown,” starring Key and Larry Joe Campbell, who later became part of ABC’s “Laut Jim” (and who becomes part of the DIA- Events). Shortly after filming, Key said the owner decided to convert the place into a theater. Key co-founded Planet Ant and, as the theater’s official history shows, directed the first production, “Praying Mantis”. FYI, another early production was an original work called “Garage: A Rock Saga” with Park: A Rock Band.
Planet Ant was expanded to include an improvisation group and classes and became a real milestone in the world of comedy that has grown in Detroit. “It’s been like that for about 20 years,” says Key.
Diego Rivera Murals at the Detroit Institute of Arts: “It’s such a piece of Americana,” says Key from the “Detroit Industry” fresco cycle that the painter carried out from April 1932 to March 1933 and is considered a treasure of Mexican wall art in America.
If it were up to Key, everyone would visit the Detroit Institute of Arts to absorb the gigantic work of 27 panels exploring the emerging worlds of industry and technology and the people of the city. “I think most people don’t take the time to afford the opportunity to see this really, really great piece of art,” he says.
“What I like about it is that it is a universal work of art, but at the same time very specific to Detroit. It shows us different facets of our society, the fact that we had people who lived here and were communists and socialists and Democrats and libertarians. It really is a breathtaking thing. “
The Heidelberg project: In August, the Free Press reported that Tyree Guyton – the creator of the sprawling outdoor installation that uses whims to transform abandoned homes and urban decay – would take down his iconic neighborhood work over the next two years. The idea is to take a new direction in the direction of an art community and largely dismantle what is there now, except for some core structures.
The two-block storefront is known to attract an estimated 200,000 visitors annually, including Key, a regular who says the choice was bittersweet for him. “I will really miss Heidelberg. It makes me sad that this unique thing for our city is being destroyed. It breaks my heart,” he says.
Key recalls spending time there when he lived in Hamtramck. “I used to just go down Mt. Elliot and then cross over and just sit down and look at it. It was a point of pride for me to get people to see it. It’s valuable to me,” says he. “I love the fact that you can drive towards this part of the neighborhood and just see speckles.”
Like the Rivera murals and the places he spent time with his Detroit comedy colleagues, Heidelberg was a place to communicate with creativity.
Key says, “I would make it my goal to feed my own soul.”
Contact Detroit Free Press writer Julie Hinds: 313-222-6427 or [email protected]
Opens with some demonstrations on Thursday evenings; opens wide Friday
‘An Evening with Keegan-Michael Key and The 313’ (with special guest Tim Meadows)
A benefit for the DIA Foundation and the Detroit Creativity Project
8 p.m. Thursday
Detroit Film Theater at the Detroit Institute of Arts
Tickets cost between $ 20 and $ 55 and are available online through the DIA website, at the DIA box office, or by calling 313-833-4005.