In the span of a week, Kalen Allen said he has accomplished several months’ worth of professional goals.
“Everything is changing, and everything has happened so rapidly,” Allen said. “Right now, I’m just kind of riding the wave. Whatever comes, it comes.”
In November, Allen, a senior theater and film and media arts major, began producing comedic reaction videos about food on YouTube. For each reaction, he watches recipe videos made by media outlets like BuzzFeed and makes spontaneous jokes about them. The videos quickly went viral, garnering tens of thousands of views and retweets on Twitter.
On Thursday, one of his videos was featured on Ellen, the comedy talk show hosted by Ellen DeGeneres.
Watching cooking videos has never been so much fun. We love you, Kalen Allen.
Posted by Ellen DeGeneres on Friday, December 8, 2017
In a segment of the show, DeGeneres played a video of Allen making fun of a green jello salad. She then invited Allen to be a guest on a future episode. Allen said he is currently working on a date to fly to Los Angeles.
In his first viral reaction video on YouTube, Allen mocked “gentrified” cornbread made with complicated ingredients like caramelized onions and Cotija cheese. It has about 86,000 views and his tweet of the video has more than 36,000 retweets.
“Onions? Oh, this is nasty,” Allen said of the cornbread in the video. “See, this is why I don’t eat at the white folks’ house. Not on Thanksgiving, Jesus.”
Ellen’s staff contacted Allen to produce a reaction video specifically for her show. While he had hoped to grow his channel’s popularity over the next few months, Allen said he never anticipated it would happen so quickly.
“I didn’t think I would be on Ellen,” Allen said. “I didn’t think it was gonna jump that far. But hey, when it happens, it happens.”
Allen said he was inspired to make videos about food because it is a universal experience that isn’t often closely explored through comedy.
“Everyone has these reactions to food, but nobody records them having these reactions,” Allen said.
Though Allen only recently launched his series of reaction videos, he said he has acted since his childhood. While at Temple, Allen acted in several plays produced by Temple Theaters, including “Hit the Wall,” “Hairspray” and “A Free Man of Color.”
Allen applied to several graduate acting programs, but said he now plans on moving to Los Angeles to work in film and television after graduation. Because of the competitiveness of the industry, he said it is necessary to possess a range of acting skills and develop a strong personal brand to succeed.
“You have to know the business,” Allen said. “Yes, you can be talented. You can have all these credits on your resume. But if you don’t know how to play the game and work the business and be in the industry, you’re gonna be stuck.”
His feature on Ellen, Allen said, has opened “50 million doors” for him.
“Now the doors are open and it’s my job to run in and take control,” Allen said. “It’s just up to me to make sure that I make the right moves at the right time and I connect to the right people and I make the dream happen.”