The numbers that comedian Trey Kennedy is pulling in are mind-blowing. With 4.7 million followers on Facebook, 2.5 million on Instagram, and some of his comedy videos gaining more than 53 million views, it’s fair to say he’s reaching the masses.
We caught up with Kennedy before his hometown premiere of his nationwide standup tour. He sold out the Tower Theater twice, so it added a third show.
It’s a turn of events the former “shy kid” never even thought possible. Born and raised in Edmond, he might have seemed a likely candidate—like generations before him—to take over the family namesake business, Kennedy Tire & Auto Service. But according to Kennedy, “My parents never put that on me, and it’s been cool to hear them say, ‘We thought you would do some- thing kind of off the wall.’”
In person, Kennedy is polite, amiable, and soft-spoken. It seems he could just as easily have ended up as the funny guy in a corporate office—the “Jim,” if you will. But his relevant and witty improv videos online are nothing short of side-splitting viral gold. It is hard to reconcile that the persona and person are the same man.
Like many modern comedians, Kennedy got his start on the once-great but now defunct app Vine. While studying finance at Oklahoma State University, he began making short humorous videos with his phone and dabbling in performing arts for the first time. “I was simultaneously getting into music and theater in college, and at the same time I built this following. That gave me the confidence to pursue that further.”
Due to his bashful nature, Kennedy attributes his initial success to the internet. “I was always the funny kid among my close friends and family, but a very shy, ‘didn’t want any attention’ type of kid. It’s still very much in there—and it’s taken a long time to get to the point where I feel confident on stage and with so many people in the room. If it wasn’t for social media I wouldn’t be doing this. Because I had the confidence to make it [in] my home and post it, but I wouldn’t have been able to just show someone that on stage,” he said.
What started as a college kid with a cell phone is now a full- blown production team that makes about seven short videos a month, employing producers, writers, and crew members. With the audience, budget, and star power in hand they started upping the production level. Oddly enough, though, the viewers preferred the simpler approach. He explained, “Often the authenticity of just me in my living room emerging as a character tends to perform better.” Just Trey doing all-too-relatable impersonations of women obsessed with fall, a middle school boy, a stressed-out mom, and so many others.
“Not to be corny, but making people laugh is the one thing I can say I’m truly passionate about and good at. It just never occurred to me that it might be something I could do for a living.”
While he may not be taking over the tire shop reins, Kennedy views his humor as carrying on the family legacy. “We were a very classic family-family and spent a lot of time together at meals. My grandpa was a storyteller and the funny guy, and [my] father was, and I like to think I got that gene. It’s kind of cool to see me take it beyond our home.” He ended the interview casually, “Not to be corny, but making people laugh is the one thing I can say I’m truly passionate about and good at. It just never occurred to me that it might be something I could do for a living.”
What’s next for this rising star? Another national tour in the spring and likely a few more million followers.