Ken Miller (copy)

Ken Miller

GREENSBORO — Humor runs in Ken Miller's family.

"I have a very loving and funny family," Miller said, "And when we’re together, it’s just jokes on jokes on jokes."

Miller makes part of his living being funny. A Greensboro native who now lives in Orlando, Fla., he spends his days working as an engineer for Sprint and his weekend nights as a stand-up comic.

That funny side paid off last month, when Miller won Steve Harvey's inaugural Standup Spotlight top prize.

The comedian and TV host liked what he saw in Miller's routine, "I am just a father," even if Miller didn't win in online public voting.

"I know funny when I see it," Harvey said in the video announcing Miller's win. 

Although it was a tough decision, Harvey said, "I picked him because he was such rich material, such relatable material." 

Miller happened to be in a Best Buy in Albany, N.Y., about to go on stage at a nearby comedy club, when a friend called to say that he had won.

He fell to his knees and started to cry.

"Steve Harvey said my name!" Miller says.

An otherwise talkative man at 42, Miller finds it difficult to express how he feels about his win.

"For one of the Kings of Comedy to pick me out of 1,000 videos that were sent in worldwide, I’m emotional talking about it," Miller said from Orlando. "I’m happy. I’m elated. I’ve cried. I’ve celebrated."

"When you’re 13 years in comedy, you’re at that point like, 'Where do I go now? Do I start doing corporate? Do I start doing cruise ships? Do I need to move to L.A.?'" Miller said. "You’re just trying to figure out what you want to do."

For his prize, Miller won $1,000. Next year, he will head to Los Angeles for three days, meet Harvey and a talent agent, and perform at clubs there.

There's also talk of a world tour with Miller and the top five comedians from the Steve Harvey Standup Spotlight, Miller said.

"I hope a lot more bookings come," he said.

Miller lives in Orlando with his wife, La Shawn Miller, son Kenneth Miller Jr., 19, and daughter, Jasia Miller, 14.

But the family of his younger years all lives in Greensboro.

That's where he was born, the son of Barbara Jean Sanders and Charlie McAdoo. He goes by his mother's maiden name.

His birth mother died when he was young, and aunt Ruthie Mae Brown took in Miller and his younger brother.

That made him No. 8 among 11 children who considered each other as siblings. To him, Brown became Momma.

Growing up in Hampton Homes, he attended Morehead, Jones and Wiley elementary schools, Jackson Middle School and Grimsley High School. 

"I was a funny kid," Miller recalled. "When you grow up poor, you kind of have to find stuff to make you laugh. I used to get picked on a lot as a kid. So I would pick on myself before anybody else could pick on me. And it just turned into funny."

After graduation in 1995, he followed his father and grandfather into the military and headed straight to the U.S. Army.

He left the Army after nine years, moved to Florida and went to work for what is now Sprint.

A friend persuaded him to try open mic night at a comedy club.

"I always wanted to be a comedian," Miller said. "I just had to get that nerve to get on stage. The hardest part of standup is getting over the fear of talking in front of a group of strangers."

In 2013, Miller won the Florida’s Funniest Comedy Competition, beating out more than 200 comics.

"I can do a family-friendly show and I can also do an adult show," Miller said. "I’ve done shows for churches. I’ve done shows for colleges. I’ve done shows in comedy clubs. I’ve done corporate events, so I’m able to bounce around when it comes to the style."

He often draws material from his children.

The five-minute clip of the comedy club video that he submitted for the Steve Harvey Standup Spotlight includes a bit on the Tooth Fairy.

"The Tooth Fairy’s a ripoff," Miller tells his audience. "You tell me I’ve got to give you money for something you’re supposed to lose? You see that brother right there? He lost all his hair and nobody gave him a damn dime.”

That video had to be clean, so a friend of Miller's bleeped out a few curse words. 

The video made it to the next round. Miller encouraged his friends to vote daily.

But ultimately, Harvey made the choice.

Ruthie Mae Brown said she and other family members and friends are so proud.

She had seen Miller perform in Greensboro and High Point.

"I always knew he would make it," Brown said.

As much as he loves working for Sprint, Miller hopes to eventually do standup full-time. He wants to go to Los Angeles, sign with an agency, and try to get on TV and commercials.

He's writing a book of comedy stories that he hopes to have published.

But for now, he'll soon head to perform in Syracuse, N.Y., one of the country's snowiest cities.

"Every time that booker sends me there, it snows," Miller said, laughing. "He must not know I’m from the South."

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Contact Dawn DeCwikiel-Kane at 336-373-5204 and follow @dawndkaneNR on Twitter.

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