The biracial stars of Comedy Central's new "Key & Peele" dare to go places where "Saturday Night Live" won't
At a time when the latest incarnation of the Def Comedy Jam is the new series “Russell Simmons Presents the Ruckus,” and when Showtime lamely promotes its stand-up specials as part of Black History Month, here comes a sketch comedy series not for post-racial America, but for biracial America.
“Key & Peele,” which starts Tuesday night on Comedy Central, stars Jordan Peele and Keegan-Michael Key, two energetic comedy talents who waste almost no time before sharing their biracial credits: Both of their moms are white.
But they tell the exact same joke about it in the first two episodes (though it’s a fine observation): White moms can’t strike their black children in public.
Still, who’s better equipped to tackle comedy in the Obama era than these two, each able to fully exaggerate white or black characterizations as needed. Both have excelled at President Obama impersonations (at a time when the leading impersonation of our 44thpresident is by a “Saturday Night Live” cast member of Venezuelan/German/Japanese heritage). You might remember Key from his terrific Obama impression from the final season of “Mad TV.” “Mad TV,” which lasted 14 seasons on Fox, was in some ways hipper than “SNL” and certainly better versed in black culture and better able to turn out smart rap parodies than the stodgier NBC mainstay.
Plus, “Mad TV” didn’t just have a lone African-American in the cast; it had Aires Spears, Debra Wilson and, as a featured player, Key’s future partner Jordan Peele.
On “Key & Peele,” Peele handles all the Obama sketches now, despite the height deficit (he’s much shorter than the president). But his voice and cadence perfectly reflects Obama’s and it is used to devastating effect in plenty of sketches. In one, Obama rolls up on a bragging rapper only to declare he is, in fact, leader of the free world (and he drops the mic dramatically). Another mimics “SNL’s” early News for the Hard of Hearing with Garrett Morris. Obama’s hidden anger is translated by a demonstrative assistant played by Key; it looks like a sketch that will become a standby move.
It appears as if they’re in a hurry to get in as much Obama as possible – either because they fear they’ll be canceled early (as David Alan Grier’s show was) or that Obama’s presidency will.
But there are a lot of well-done sketches in between, and they’re produced more like slick viral videos than studio bits.
With their biracial backgrounds, they can easily explore some common dilemmas, such as not wanting to be the whitest-sounding black guy in the room. But their heritage also gives them a wide berth to masterfully play black or white as needed; to impersonate uptight businessmen in one scene or Lil’ Wayne in another.
Best of all, they can go off on sketches that have nothing to do with race — about husbands who are afraid of talking about their wives within earshot, or reality-show chefs you can never really understand.
Delivered in the manner of “Chappelle’s Show” (because that is the law on Comedy Central), “Key & Peele” moves from sketches to rather odd stand-up bits before an audience you can’t quite believe has been assembled to watch clips. But there’s great energy and real laughs, and with any support at all from the network, this could mint as many new catchphrases as Chappelle.
More Related Stories
- Joe Francis apologizes for calling jury "retarded"
- Mary Karr: David Foster Wallace and I kept each other alive
- Morgan Freeman sleeps during televised interview
- J.J. Abrams reveals deleted shower scene with Benedict Cumberbatch
- Is the anti-gay backlash on?
- Paul McCartney backs Pussy Riot
- Cannes: Ryan Gosling's new movie draws the boo-birds
- Radio host tweets rape joke, blames journalists for reporting on it
- Juror responds to Joe Francis' insults with thoughtful email
- New track from the Lonely Island features Solange Knowles, semicolons
- Amazon introduces fan fiction publishing platform
- Naomi Watts, "Argo," "Wonderstone" among bizarre Teen Choice Awards nominees
- Imprisoned Pussy Riot member declares hunger strike
- The camp-free "Behind the Candelabra"
- Justin Bieber will destroy you if you live-tweet his parties
- Marc Maron on Twitter feud with Michael Ian Black: "We have an understanding"
- "Girls Gone Wild" creator Joe Francis to jury: "You should be euthanized"
- Ai Weiwei releases heavy metal music video
- Actually, Beyoncé is a feminist
- Marc Maron and Michael Ian Black's epic Twitter battle
- Cannes: Directing 101 with James Franco
Featured Slide Shows
The week in 10 picsclose X
- 1 of 11
Lisa Montgomery embraces her nephew Thursday after a tornado tore apart her home in Cleburne, Texas. The twister killed six people and destroyed entire swaths of the North Texas town.
Credit: AP/LM Otero
Jack McMahon, the defense attorney for abortion doctor Kermit Gosnell, speaks outside the Criminal Justice Center in Philadelphia Tuesday. His client was convicted of killing three babies in his clinic, and will serve multiple life sentences.
Credit: AP/Matt Rourke
A photo taken Monday captures Vice President Joe Biden's response to a Milwaukee second-grader's innovative proposal to end America's epidemic of gun violence. This guy!
Credit: AP/Jenny Aicher
Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., flanked by a grouper-eyed Michele Bachmann, addresses the IRS' admission that it targeted Tea Party groups in advance of the 2012 election. In an op-ed for CNN Thursday, the Kentucky senator slammed the president for his faux outrage.
Credit: AP/Molly Riley
Ousted IRS chief Steven Miller is sworn in on Capitol Hill Friday. Miller testified before the House Ways and Means Committee on the extra scrutiny the agency gave conservative groups applying for tax-exempt status.
Credit: AP/J. Scott Applewhite
Attorney General Eric Holder pauses as he testifies on Capitol Hill before the House Judiciary Committee Wednesday. Holder is under fire, among other things, for the Justice Department's gathering of phone records at the Associated Press.
Credit: AP/Carolyn Kaster
O.J. Simpson sits during an evidentiary hearing at Clark County District Court in Las Vegas, Nev., Thursday. Simpson, who is currently serving a nine-to-33-year sentence in state prison for armed robbery and kidnapping, is using a writ of habeas corpus to seek a new trial.
Credit: AP/Las Vegas Review-Journal/Jeff Scheid
Major Tom to ground control: On Sunday astronaut Chris Hadfield recorded the first music video from space, a cover of David Bowie's "Space Oddity."
Credit: AP/NASA/Chris Hadfield
When it rains it pours. President Barack Obama speaks during a news conference Thursday with Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, inexplicably inspiring an #umbrellagate Twitter meme.
Credit: AP/Jacquelyn Martin
A smoke plume rises high above a road block at the intersection of County A and Ross Road east of Solon Springs, Wis., Tuesday. No injuries were reported, but the the wildfire caused evacuations across northwestern Wisconsin.
Credit: AP/The Duluth News-Tribune/Clint Austin
Recent Slide Shows
- 1 of 11