Author of "The World's Largest Man" visits SIU, is named Distinguished Alumnus, Cultural Impact | CoLA | SIU

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Author of "The World's Largest Man" visits SIU, is named Distinguished Alumnus, Cultural Impact

April 18, 2017


Harrison Scott Key, who claims his “literary lifestyle” includes wearing wooden underwear, is the winner of the 2016 Thurber Prize for American Humor. He’s also an SIU alumnus, and now a Distinguished Alumnus.

Key, humorist, playwright, and the author of the memoir “The World’s Largest Man,” is the 2017 SIU Distinguished Alumnus, Cultural Impact. He was on campus April 27-28 to attend the university awards ceremony and a college reception hosted by the Department of Theater.

Key describes “The World’s Largest Man” as “a true story about what it’s like to be related to insane people from Mississippi.” Kirkus Review describes the book as “an uncommonly entertaining story replete with consistent wit,” and the Mississippi Business Journal compares Key favorably to Garrison Keillor and “maybe even Mark Twain.” Regardless, the book is the 2016 winner of the Thurber Prize for American Humor.

Key has won other accolades as well – notably, his story “Fifty Shades of Greyhound” is included in “The Best American Travel Writing 2014,” his work “How I Became a Famous Writer” appears as a notable essay in the 2015 Best American Essays anthology, and “Outside Magazine” nominated “Once More to the Lakemonster” for a National Magazine Award and a Best American Essay award.

Key’s humor and nonfiction works appear in several high profile publications, including Oxford American, The New York Times, McSweeney’s Internet Tendency, Salon, Reader’s Digest, Southern Living and other places. Stage adaptations of his work have been included in performances by Chicago’s Neo-Futurists and Stories on Stage in Denver, and his plays and monologues have hit the stage in several venues. Key also performs comedy and gives readings at book festivals and book signings, and he conducts workshops at schools, universities and festivals of various kinds in the southern United States and elsewhere.

While on campus, Key visited Jacob Juntunen’s playwriting class, held a question and answer session with communication studies and English students, and took in the Department of Theater’s production of “Peter and the Star Catcher.”

Key earned his doctoral degree in performance studies and speech communication at SIU in 2003. He studied theater at Texas A&M University and holds a bachelor’s degree in psychology from Mississippi’s Belhaven University. He earned a master of fine arts in writing from Savannah College of Art and Design in 2013, where he teaches writing.