Career transitions are not an uncommon phenomenon, but some changes are bound to make heads turn. Gary Owen is one of those people whose career progression is dramatic enough to raise a few eyebrows.
Gary who is known for his comedic prowess and the work he has done in the comedy circuit is often referred to as the Funniest Serviceman in America. This moniker is an indication of the career he had in the United States Navy before he became a comedian. But how did he go from being a military man to cracking up ribs in the comedy sphere? A scrutiny of his past and present endeavours would throw more light on that.
Why Did Gary Owen Become A Service Man?
Despite being in the spotlight now, Gary Owen grew up poor, his family lived in a trailer park and his childhood was not a rosy one. The comedian was born in Cincinnati, Ohio, on the 26th of July in 1974 and was named after his father. He is one of the seven children his parents had and feeding that many mouths was not easy for Gary Owen and Barb Rendall – his mother and father.
His decision to enlist in the Navy was one he took right after high school. This decision was motivated by the state of his family’s finances. Before he chose to join the Navy, recruiters from different arms of the military had been trying to get him to join their various ranks but the Navy stood out for him the most.
Upon joining the Navy, Gary was enlisted as a member of the Presidential Honour guard, but he was terrible at that job. Being a part of the honour guard comes with certain requirements – one of which is a stoic demeanour; thus, Owen’s propensity to always smile made him a bad fit for the job. He was then transferred to San Diego where he had to work as a member of the military police, yet another job that proved too hard for him to do, as he made only three arrests in two years.
His Transition Into Comedy
While Gary Owen was stationed at San Diego he decided to start doing comedy. His first course of action was to start doing stand-up comedy at clubs in San Diego; his goal was to build a name and reputation as a comedian. When Owen initially started this, he struggled to get gigs in the bigger comedy clubs until some of his fellow servicemen who were black advised him to try out comedy clubs that mostly had black patrons.
It was at these clubs that he gained traction as a comedian. This was also when he came to be known as the Funniest Serviceman in America, as he was still in the Navy while working as a comedian.
The turning point in his career came when he participated in a radio competition for Black Comics. He won and ended up being the Funniest Black Comedian in San Diego, as a white man. This introduced him to a larger fan base, which resulted in him having his first stand-up performance at one of the oldest and biggest comedy clubs in Hollywood, The Comedy Store.
How He Got Into Hollywood
Riding on the confidence of his fast-growing career, Gary Owen auditioned for the BET show, Comic View. The goal was to compete with other comics and the winner would get to host the show for a year. Gary Owen won; in the history of the show, he is the only white man to have served as its host.
When he got this job, he had six months to go in military service, but he left three months earlier than he should have. Working as a host for a BET show was a major boost to his career, and it gave him the exposure he needed to succeed in the film industry.
Gary Owen’s Notable Works As An Actor
Owen’s career in film began in the early days of his comedy career, but it did not really take off until 2012 when he was cast to play Bennett in the romantic comedy film, Think Like a Man. This film featured an ensemble cast of top actors and for Owen who was only popular in stand-up comedy circles, this was a great way to display his acting abilities.
Movies and television shows such as; Daddy Day Care, Hillbilly Highway, House of Payne, Held Up, Ride Along, Think Like a Man Too and Meet the Blacks have featured him.
Who Is Gary Owen’s Wife?
There are a lot of things that point to the fact that Gary Owen has a close relationship with black people. Winning competitions meant for black people and holding the record for the only white man to host a show on BET, are some of these clues. However, the biggest proof of his proximity to African-Americans is his marriage to Kenya Duke.
Kenya Duke works in the entertainment industry in one of the roles that do not get a lot of recognition. Duke oversees the transportation of entertainers, making sure they get to the venue of their performance safely and on time. She is the owner of a travel company that is actually aimed at transporting sports teams either at college or professional level from one location to another.
But she has found a way to include the transportation of entertainers such as musicians and actors. For musicians, she handles their tour buses and personnel they need during such trips while for actors who need to shoot scenes in outdoor locations, she makes sure that they have a hitch-free journey.
How Did They Meet?
It would interest you to know that Gary Owen spoke to his wife for a year before their first date. During one of his gigs at The Comedy Store, Duke had come in with her friends and she really enjoyed his show. To see more of him, she decided to come the following week with another group of friends but was disappointed when his jokes were not as good as the previous week’s.
She spoke to him after the show, he got her number and called her that night. They only spoke on the phone for a year before they had an actual date. The couple finally got married on the 19th of July, 2003.
Gary Owens is not Duke’s first husband. The entrepreneur had been previously married to a man with whom she had a child called Emilio. With Owen, she has two children, a girl and a boy, Kennedy and Austin. They are raising all three of their children together.