The perfect sketch-comedy duo for the Obama era

The biracial stars of Comedy Central's new "Key & Peele" dare to go places where "Saturday Night Live" won't

Topics: Television, TV,

The perfect sketch-comedy duo for the Obama eraJordan Peele and Keegan-Michael Key in "Key & Peele"

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

Featured Slide Shows

  • Share on Twitter
  • Share on Facebook
  • 1 of 13
  • Close
  • Fullscreen
  • Thumbnails
    Clare Barboza/Bloomsbury

    Uncommon Apples

    Api Étoile

    Like little stars.

    Clare Barboza/Bloomsbury

    Uncommon Apples

    Calville Blanc

    World's best pie apple. Essential for Tarte Tatin. Has five prominent ribs.

    Clare Barboza/Bloomsbury

    Uncommon Apples

    Chenango Strawberry

    So pretty. So early. So ephemeral. Tastes like strawberry candy (slightly).

    Clare Barboza/Bloomsbury

    Uncommon Apples

    Chestnut Crab

    My personal fave. Ultra-crisp. Graham cracker flavor. Should be famous. Isn't.

    Clare Barboza/Bloomsbury

    Uncommon Apples

    D'Arcy Spice

    High flavored with notes of blood orange and allspice. Very rare.

    Clare Barboza/Bloomsbury

    Uncommon Apples

    Esopus Spitzenberg

    Jefferson's favorite. The best all-purpose American apple.

    Clare Barboza/Bloomsbury

    Uncommon Apples

    Granite Beauty

    New Hampshire's native son has a grizzled appearance and a strangely addictive curry flavor. Very, very rare.

    Clare Barboza/Bloomsbury

    Uncommon Apples

    Hewes Crab

    Makes the best hard cider in America. Soon to be famous.

    Clare Barboza/Bloomsbury

    Uncommon Apples

    Hidden Rose

    Freak seedling found in an Oregon field in the '60s has pink flesh and a fragrant strawberry snap. Makes a killer rose cider.

    Clare Barboza/Bloomsbury

    Uncommon Apples

    Knobbed Russet

    Freak city.

    Clare Barboza/Bloomsbury

    Uncommon Apples

    Newtown Pippin

    Ben Franklin's favorite. Queen Victoria's favorite. Only apple native to NYC.

    Clare Barboza/Bloomsbury

    Uncommon Apples

    Pitmaston Pineapple

    Really does taste like pineapple.

  • Recent Slide Shows

Comments

0 Comments

Comment Preview

Your name will appear as username ( settings | log out )

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href=""> <b> <em> <strong> <i> <blockquote>