How Kalen Allen turned viral fame into a lasting career as a famous comedian

Kalen Allen
Kalen Allen

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Ever wonder what happens after Ellen DeGeneres brings a viral star onto her show, giving them the opportunity of a lifetime? Just ask Kalen Allen.

The comedian garnered DeGeneres’ attention back in November 2017 thanks to his Kalen Reacts videos, which ultimately landed him a permanent gig at her eponymous talk show. Today, Allen’s series OMKalen is in its fourth season, he just launched his music career with a new Christmas EP, For Christmas Sake! and he is on the verge of debuting his nostalgia-inducing podcast.

For this week’s episode of In The Know’s We Should Talk, Allen opened up about finding viral fame, being taken under Ellen DeGeneres’ wing (and what it was like living through this year’s controversies alongside the talk show host), his music career, celebrity interactions and much more.

Listen to Kalen Allen’s full episode off We Should Talk below, and keep reading for highlights from the interview:

On going viral leading to being given the opportunity of a lifetime by Ellen DeGeneres: “Three years ago this month — November 2017 — I made a video to some cornbread and, from that video, things just took off. I put that video up, it went viral, so I said, ‘Let me make some more videos.’ I made some more videos and the next thing that I knew I was getting a call from The Ellen DeGeneres Show, then I was on the show and then I was moving to Los Angeles. […] Ellen had actually seen my video and she’s the one that requested that I come onto her show. Once I got there, I expected to come on just like everyone else, give me a cute little check and then go home. That was not the case here. This time I was offered a job at the show. […] She told me that she just had a feeling [about me].”

On his favorite celeb interactions at The Ellen Show: “I can definitely say three of my favorite moments: First was working with Mariah Carey. Second would be meeting Michelle Obama. But I think definitely my favorite experience at the show was meeting Oprah Winfrey, because Oprah was backstage, and she had just finished taping something for a digital series and I was just standing back there and they placed me in front of her and she immedaditely said “Kalen!” That moment of just knowing that she knew she knew who I was just filled me with so much hope and joy.

On kicking off his music career with Christmas EP, For Christmas Sake!: “I kind of took a lot of notes from Mariah Carey. The thing that’s very special about Mariah Carey’s Christmas album — and this is why it was so successful — is because, a lot of times when artists make holiday albums, they treat it as a one-off. But Mariah treated hers — and so did Michael Bublé — as [a real album]. Every song had a purpose and an intention. For me, one of the main reasons, too, is because I lost Christmas. I love the holidays. They’re the only time out of the year for every year of my life where I have just been filled with so much joy and hope. I knew how rough this year had been, so that’s why I was like, ‘I want to go into the studio and create something that can hopefully bring that same joy that I feel every holiday season to other families.'”

On Ellen’s controversial 2020: “It’s one thing to watch it, but it’s another thing to be in the conversations and be inside of it. For me what was important, especially with being in the business for only a couple of years now, my focus was more solution-based. I don’t believe that any place on earth is perfect, regardless of what we want to believe. It was just important that we figured out the answers and we figured out the solutions. What I loved about what we did at the show was the immediate action that we took. Especially when it came to her stepping up and definitely being like, ‘This is my show. My name is on it, and I’m going to do what’s necessary to make sure this place is the place it’s supposed to be.’ I think that was very commendable, and that’s why I wanted to stay, because I was able to see that the people who are still there believed in the mission and the message of the show and were willing to do what was necessary to make sure that we kept that integrity. I’m very proud to still work at The Ellen DeGeneres Show.”

On losing fans after speaking out about Black Lives Matter: “Most recently, the most difficult thing that I’ve had to understand was during the whole Black Lives Matter protests and me speaking out about that. [With] me taking a more political voice, people very much expected me to just entertain them and didn’t expect me to be college educated and know what I was talking about. When you’re an entertainer — especially a comedic entertainer — a lot of people expect you to just be a monolith, and that’s very much not what I am. From there I really had to make a choice this last summer about who I wanted to be: Were the food videos the only thing I wanted to do, or did I want to start branching out and being more versatile? That felt like the right decision for me, and I can honestly say that since I made that decision — as I said on Ellen, I lost a ton of followers — but I can honestly say I’ve never been happier with the content that I’m producing now.”

If you enjoyed this story, check out drag superstar Shangela’s episode of We Should Talk.

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