Last Thursday while covering a class for my friend Fiona, I was flattered to hear a student’s mother tell me that both her son and daughter find me “very funny.” (Just want to mention this: she also complimented my impressions of Batman, Superman, Spider Man, Wolverine, the Hulk, and Chinese waiters.) This has been the story of my life since 4th grade. If you weren’t there or don’t remember: I was that loud kid at all my friends’ birthday parties who always ended up entertaining everyone and stealing all the camcorder time away from the birthday boy. In high school, I was president of the Drama Club and voted Wittiest. In college, I co-hosted the campus morning radio show, faked a wedding engagement, told a fart joke during my grandfather’s eulogy, and wrote this.
And yet, for all the times people have uttered the phrase that every goofy-ass extrovert must learn to live with – “You should be a comedian” – I’ve always insisted that my sense of humor would never translate into stand-up. It’s the same reason I wasn’t a theatre major, in spite of all the time I spent on stage when I was younger. This is my personality, not my calling in life. Not so with Karlous “Creepa‘” Miller. (“Creepa'” is a nickname taken from the great Rudy Ray Moore movie Dolemite. Didn’t want y’all thinking he earned it by sneaking around little kids at the playground or anything.)
Anyway, I first met Karlous when I was working at an indie/offbeat video store during my undergrad days at Ole Miss. It’s a job I remember fondly except for one thing – every Friday night a bunch of high school kids would pile into the store and hang out. They weren’t there to rent or buy anything; they just walked around, made a bunch of noise, and bothered me with endless stupid questions. The worst offender in the bunch was a black kid with a gravelly voice who would repeatedly approach me at the counter to ask for movies that (probably) didn’t really exist.
You know how everybody says that women don’t like other women? Well, the same is true with funny people. They don’t like competition. That’s why every group of friends usually only has one who’s designated as “the funny one.” Any more than that and everything just turns into a constant fight to upstage one another. (This is also why so many extroverts are drawn to introverted friends and spouses.) So I admit it openly – I wasn’t a fan of Karlous right away. I considered him a pain-in-the-ass kid who liked to show off for his friends by giving me shit.
It wasn’t until he started coming to the video store by himself that I started to understand where he was coming from. He was still asking for movies with cracked-out titles of course, but he clearly wasn’t doing it to entertain his friends at the expense of the frustrated video store clerk. He was just being Karlous. Once that was established, I started playing along with his routines. “Aww man, I wish you’d called and reserved it. Somebody rented Beauty and the Beast Go to Compton like five minutes before you got here. We’ve got Barbie Tells Ken About Tyrell, though.”
As this back-and-forth began to evolve (our staged racial incidents from this era are the stuff of legend) I started to realize that Karlous had serious talent. He wasn’t just some hyperactive high school kid who could occasionally come up with a decent one-liner. He was a quick thinker who could improvise, play a character, make great observations, and keep a conversation moving. The combination of these traits could mean only one thing: we have to put him on the show. Thus, Karlous became a regular on our Friday broadcasts and The Keith and J Show became the first show in history to book Karlous Miller. A few years later he also played a part in my great failure of an indie film, Pink:
The last time I actually saw Karlous face-to-face was in 2010, but I’ve kept up with the progress of his comedy career as he’s moved from doing small shows in clubs and restaurants to making a cameo on BET’s Hell Date, headlining at the Improv, and joining the cast of MTV’s Wild and Out. Then, just before I came back to Korea at the end of June, he became one of the finalists on this season’s resurrection of Last Comic Standing.
I couldn’t find a way to watch the show over here, unfortunately, so my mom started messaging me every Friday morning with updates about how he was doing. “Karlous is going to the next round! He was so funny tonight!” “Karlous was a tour guide tonight! So funny!” “Karlous met Ellen!” My 83-year-old grandmother, who took a hilarious picture with Karlous when she came to visit me at Ole Miss, was pulling for him too.
Sadly, my old friend was eliminated from the competition before breaking into the Top 5. But I’m here to tell him publicly that he shouldn’t sweat it. Like American Idol, Last Comic Standing has a way of being better for the runners-up than for the winners. As comedy superstar Gabriel Iglesias once said: “I’m not the last comic standing, but I’m the only one with a Comedy Central special.”
We’re proud of you, Creepa. Can’t wait to see what’s next for you. I’ve got a lot of friends who make me laugh, but you’re the only person I know who should be a comedian.
Be sure to like Karlous on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Karlous-Miller/370719592034