Comedian Shuler King was born Frank Williams III in Sumter, South Carolina. He knew at an early age that he was destined to be an entertainer especially since he was the kid known for cracking jokes. King grew up in a traditional 2-parent household in the Bible Belt of the South, where Faith, Hard Work and Education were the foundations of what his parents imparted on him and his two siblings. Comedy is his passion, but he has taken a rather unusual path to get to where he is thus far. He graduated from the University of South Carolina with a B.A. in Media Arts where he joined The Mighty Illustrious Zeta Zeta Chapter of Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Incorporated. In 2013 he graduated from Gupton Jones Mortuary College with a degree in Mortuary Science.
When he isn’t on the road performing at comedy clubs and special events across the country, King works as a licensed funeral director and embalmer in Georgia and South Carolina at his family’s funeral business in South Carolina. He wants to keep his family’s business and legacy alive. He’s probably the only Comedian/Funeral Director on the comedy circuit. King has opened for some of the most notable and talented comedians and comediennes in the industry. He credits his parents strict yet loving upbringing, his harsh surroundings growing up and the state of the country today with giving him his comedic style, which he describes as RAW.
King says “Comedy isn’t about being happy all the time. Comedy is just as much about pain that people endure. When you hear 20,000 people in an arena laugh at a joke it’s because they all can relate to experiencing that same pain”.
His comedy career began while he was a Freshman in college, after he took the stage for the very first time at the NCO Club on a military base and the rest is history. King is one of the most energetic rising comedians in the business.
Although the comedy business can be very tough and filled with ups and downs, King credits his unwavering Faith in God as the calming force in his life which keeps him pushing forward. His hilarious videos he posts on his social media have quickly become fan favorites. His recent video post about Donald Trump went viral and was even played on a UK television show. The future is definitely bright for King.
Shuler King took a moment to talk with Hustle & Soul Chief Editor, Stephanie Davis about comedy, Wild N’ Out, marriage and more.
HS: Thank you so much for joining us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
KING: I was always funny and people always said I should try comedy. When I was in college and working at a music store in the mall, a promoter came in promoting a comedy show. I started asking him a bunch of questions and he finally asked if I was interested in being a comic. I took his number and he gave me a 3 minute spot on the show. I was super nervous but I got up there and performed. I was funny and I instantly fell in love with stand up.
HS: Can you share your story of Grit and Success? First can you tell us a story about the hard times that you faced when you first started your journey?
KING: When I first started I had to travel to different cities just to do open mic nights. There was no place in my home town of Sumter SC to do comedy. For the first five years of my career I never got paid to do comedy. I was fine with it because I felt like I needed to focus on being good and everything else will come.
HS: Where did you get the drive to continue even though things were so hard?
KING: I remember working at my family’s funeral home and trying to pay my bills with my two week check. I would mostly get paid enough to handle one bill. It took me a long time to save up a little money to strike out and go to California. When I told people that I had planned to leave, they would act like I was going to the moon. I drove from Sumter, South Carolina to San Diego, California where my cousin Fred was stationed. I sleep on his couch and would drive two and a half hours to LA every time I had a show there, which was very often. Usually if we got paid anything to perform at a club it would be like $25. At the time gas in LA was like $4.25, so most of the time I had to make a decision to get food or get gas. I used to perform at J. Anthony Brown’s club, the J Spot, very often. He somehow found out that I was driving back and forth from San Diego, so he started making sure I got a little extra money when I would come. I was happy as hell because then I could get gas and food.
There was always a deep burning drive that I had that wouldn’t let me give up. Even when I would have a small thought about quitting, there was always a voice that told me not. I alway like to believe that that voice was God.
HS: So how did your Hustle lead to your eventual success? How did perseverance turn things around?
KING: The exact moment when things started to turn around was when I was at the funeral home in Sumter. I was in the back sweeping and praying. I told God that I didn’t care what He did with my career as long as what I was doing was pleasing to him. I knew that God had given me a gift and I learned that it’s not about being famous or rich. I have a gift that is to be used for God’s purpose. After I prayed to God, my gift started going viral and things took off.
HS: So, how are things going today?
KING: Today things are good. I’m traveling, meeting great people, and learning the ropes of entertainment business.
HS: Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
KING: I remember one funny mistake I made when I was starting out. I was hosting a show and I was supposed to bring out the headliner. I was being funny and not realizing how serious my job was. I actually forgot his name. I brought the headliner up very poorly, and when he got on stage he roasted me all night. It was funny though. From that I learned that there is still a level of seriousness in the business.
HS: What do you think makes your comedy stand out? Can you share a story?
KING: I think what makes my comedy stand out is that it is told from the perspective of a funeral director. I share an insight that has never been shared before.
HS: Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?
KING: Helpful tips to my colleagues would be to eat healthy. If you have your health you can gain everything else. Rest when you need to and stay close to the people who truly love you.
HS: None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?
KING: There are so many people that helped me along the way but the one person that stands out the most is my mother. She’s the one that laid the foundation for me to be a comedian. She used to make me and my siblings do Easter speeches. I hated doing Easter speeches. One day I asked her why we had to do them. She said to me that it was important that we knew how to get up and speak in front of people. I was irritated by her answer. When I got in the car I told my brother and sister, “I don’t know what I’m going to do when I grow up but it’s not going to be getting up and speaking in front of people.”
HS: How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
KING: I am currently firing a nonprofit called The SK foundation and its focus is to provide children with basic needs and hygiene items. So many children go to school without these items I think it’s important that we help.
HS: I wish someone told me before I started my company” and why.
KING: I really can’t think of 5 things I wish someone had told me. The one thing I wish someone had done was sit me down and explain how tricky some of these club owners, promoters , and managers are. All I can say is look at everything and don’t mess with people who aren’t transparent.
HS: You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.
KING: If I could start a movement, it would be to create a culture of self love for my community. I think the biggest problem in our community is that we have been programmed to hate ourselves. If we reprogram ourselves to love each other, we can truly start fixing our own problems.
For more information about his comedy shows go to his website www.ShulerKing.com and follow him on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook at @ShulerKing.