The men KFC hires to play Colonel Sanders share uncanny similarities

Are you a middle-aged comedian with a recognisable name who needs to make a little extra cash? KFC has a gig for you.

On Wednesday, comedian David Alan Grier announced on Twitter that he had been cast as the first African-American Colonel Sanders. The only issue — it wasn’t clear if the announcement had been cleared by KFC corporate.

 “We are very excited to learn that Mr. Grier is such a big fan of KFC and The Colonel,” Kevin Hochman, KFC’s CMO, said in an email to Business Insider. “We’re a big fan of him as well. We hope to continue the conversation with him over a $5 Fill Up.”

Whether Grier’s tweets actually started the conversation or if KFC already had plans to team up with the comedian, the “In Living Colour” star fits the brand’s established formula for casting their colonel.

In the last year, KFC has hired three Colonels: Darrell Hammond, Norm Macdonald, and Jim Gaffigan.

While Grier would be the first black Colonel Sanders, he has a lot in common with the colonels who came before him. Here are four key attributes they share:

Baby-boomer dude

The prior colonels are all born between 1966 (Gaffigan, the youngest at 49) and 1955 (Hammond, the oldest at 60). Grier perfectly fits the pattern at 60 years old.

Jim GaffiganKFCJim Gaffigan as Colonel Sanders

He, like the colonels who came before him, is also a man. There’s an opportunity for race-blind casting, but KFC hasn’t given any indication it’s going gender-blind… yet.

Comedian with a sketch comedy background

KFC made the reasonable move to hire people known for funny imitations to imitate its founder in comedic commercials.

Hammond and Macdonald are best known for their work at “Saturday Night Live” — a show that Grier hosted an episode of in 1995, when both Hammond and Macdonald were part of the cast.

Gaffigan is less known for his imitations and better known for his stand-up, but did act in short-lived VH1 sketch show “Random Play” in 1999.

David alan grier in living colourDavid Alan Grier in In Living Colour

Grier certainly has the necessary sketch experience, as he played a wide array of characters on sketch comedy series “In Living Colour” in the early ’90s.

Recognisable name…

With more than twenty years of experience in the industry, every one of the Colonels is well-known enough to ping a vague sense of recognition from even casual viewers.

Each name is prominent enough to make their hiring newsworthy, in a way an unknown comedian may not be.

Grier is the same — the comedian’s more than 74,000 Twitter followers were key to spreading the news that he had apparently been hired by KFC.

But not quite a star.

Sorry, guys.

Other than perhaps Gaffigan, who currently stars in a show he created on TV Land, these comedians are far from the A-List. Hammond’s most recent film role was “Scary Movie 5” in 2013, while Macdonald is currently providing the voice of a pigeon for the animated TV series “Mike Tyson Mysteries.”

Grier has a similar mix of glamorous and less-than-glamorous roles. In 2009, he participated in “Dancing with the Stars.” More recently, he played the Cowardly Lion on “The Wiz Live!”, and is part of the cast on “The Carmichael Show.”

They also share a few other strange commonalities.

  • Except Hammond, who is from Florida, all the Colonels are northerners (Macdonald is actually from Canada). So much for Kentucky Fried Chicken.
  • Both Gaffigan and Grier have experience with food writing — a fitting prerequisite to play the founder of KFC. Gaffigan has published ‘Food: A Love Story’ in 2014, and Grier wrote food blog from 2010 to 2015.
  • All of them have appeared in a “Law & Order” episode, except Macdonald. Grier appears on Law & Order: Special Victims Unit in 2010. Hammond appeared in both “Law & Order: Criminal Intent” and “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit,” while Gaffigan has appeared in a number of episodes and franchises. If it’s good enough for “Law & Order,” it should be good enough for KFC.

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