Born on May 27, 1973, in Macon, GA, McBrayer nurtured an interest in theater and performing since childhood. He attended the University of Evansville in Indiana, studying theater management, with an eye on honing business and management as well as dramatic skills, smartly, as a back-up plan. It was on a fateful day during a heatwave in 1995 that McBrayer and some friends decided to duck into Chicago's famous Second City theater, as much for the air conditioning as for the improv show itself. Among the performers onstage that day was Rachel Dratch, who would go on to join the cast of "Saturday Night Live" (NBC, 1975- ) and Adam McKay, who would go on to write for "S.N.L." and direct the comedies, "Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy" (2004) and McBrayer's own future film, "Talladega Nights." From the moment the house lights dimmed, McBrayer was hooked.
It was while taking classes at Second City and Improv Olympic, that he met a pivotal person in his life and career, Tina Fey, who would later become the first female head writer of "SNL" before moving on to create "30 Rock." After shifting from the Windy City to the Big Apple, he joined the renowned NYC comedy troupe, The Upright Citizens Brigade, before moving on to Los Angeles, where he joined IOWest, another improv company. While gaining immeasurably important experience onstage, McBrayer auditioned twice to join the cast of "SNL" but did not make the cut either time. While in New York, however, he began making regular sketch appearances on "Late Night with Conan O'Brien" (NBC, 1993-2009), with the hit program taking full comic advantage of McBrayer's Georgia accent and pitch-perfect clueless Southerner shtick.
While trying to make a name for himself, McBrayer made numerous appearances in a variety of projects, including roles in the 2004 comedy "Blackballed: The Bobby Dukes Story;" had an uncredited part in the romantic comedy, "The Baxter." (2005); and appeared memorably (for diehard "Arrested" fans) as a country club waiter on "Arrested Development" (Fox, 2003-06), both in the second-season episode, "Burning Love," and the third-season episode "S.O.B.'s." He also added a 2006 episode of "The Colbert Report" (Comedy Central, 2005- ) to his comedic résumé. Things were continuing to look up for McBrayer exposure-wise in 2006. That same year, he nailed his first big screen comedy role in the wacky Will Ferrell hit comedy, "Talladega Nights." As Glenn, the innocent pit member who can not resist peaking in with a hopeful grin when his teammates attempt to motivate Ferrell by convincing him that the naïve pit crew member has died, McBrayer shone in a cast of comic giants, including John C. Reilly, Jane Lynch and Ferrell himself. Ever the dedicated actor, McBrayer had attended a two-week pit crew course for filming, where he was not allowed to change tires.
But it was as the optimistic and unflappable Kenneth Parcell on the acclaimed sitcom, "30 Rock," that McBrayer earned the best reviews of his career. While actor Alec Baldwin was widely praised for his outsized portrayal of NBC network executive, Jack Donaghy, and Fey and former "SNL" cast member Tracy Morgan (as Liz Lemon and Tracy Jordan, respectively) anchored the show-within-a-show, McBrayer quietly stole nearly every scene he was in, often exuding a calm cheerfulness that was exasperating to the stressed out staff members around him. McBrayer's portrayal of a character absolutely devoid of sarcasm was a fresh departure from most sitcom characterizations, often dripping with overplayed irony. When scolded to "go to hell" by his boss, McBrayer's Kenneth would often honestly answer, "No thank you," and return to his work. His earnest love for television was also refreshing - not only to the characters on the show itself, but for real-life jaded viewers at home who, when listening to Kenneth speak in awe of the medium, could not help but be inspired by his views. In fact, McBrayer's work as Kenneth became so immediately popular with viewers, that what had started as a small, incidental role written by Fey, grew larger each week, due in no small part to viewer demand for more of that child-like Southern twang.
With his newfound visibility, McBrayer landed a role in the Judd Apatow-produced comedy hit, Forgetting Sarah Marshall (2008), in which he portrayed a stressed out groom dealing with wedding night jitters while on his Hawaiian honeymoon. Meanwhile, McBrayer finally earned his due by receiving his first-ever Emmy Award nomination for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series, pitting him squarely against co-star and object of his onscreen affection, Tracy Morgan. Back on the big screen, he had a small role as a stage manager in the little-seen comedy "Spring Breakdown" (2009), before voicing two characters - the carnival barker and the tourist dad - in the animated feature Despicable Me (2010). McBrayer next played a scatterbrained amateur magician who becomes the new owner of Kitty Galore (voiced by Bette Midler) in the live action sequel, "Cats & Dogs: The Revenge of Kitty Galore" (2010). The following year, he was a voice guest star on "Bob's Burgers" (Fox, 2011- ) and "The Simpsons" (Fox, 1989- ), before returning to features for a tiny part as a Starbucks barista in the much-maligned Eddie Murphy comedy "A Thousand Words" (2012).
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