Key And Peele On Racial Comedy, Impersonating Tom Hanks And Who Wins A New York Race War


Credit: Danny Feld/Comedy Central

Self-described “real comedy nerds” and former “MADtv” castmates Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peele have been influenced by comedy duos far and wide–from Martin and Lewis to Mitchell and Webb to Bugs and Daffy. However, since the biracial pair’s Comedy Central show “Key and Peele” consists of sketch and stand-up comedy, it inevitably gets compared to Chappelle’s wildly successful show, for better or worse.

“That’s a delightful comparison for us,” Peele tells Clutch. “We look up to [Dave] Chappelle. We recognize that him doing his show probably has a big something to do with us having a show at all.”

At the end of January, “Key & Peele” became Comedy Central’s highest-rated premiere since 2009 and a couple weeks later, it was renewed for a second season. The show has been widely praised but has its detractors too. MTV Clutch caught up with the duo to discuss their musical taste, racial humor and get some closure on one of their sketches.


So what will it take for Obama to explode and no longer require his Anger Translator?

Key: We hope nothing gets to him so we can keep doing that sketch for another five years.

Peele: In his last day in office at the end of the eighth year.

Key: He’ll just go, “You know what everybody, bleeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeppppp!!!”


The flash mob sketch that ends in a race war ends before we have any resolution–how would the first two hours of an impromptu race war materialize in New York City?

Key: Oh, I think black guys win that one. The brothers are going to win. We just didn’t have enough people.

Peele: The white people would hold on to Manhattan for a while. But the brothers would take Brooklyn, Bronx and Queens, and just surround and flank them there.

Key: Where would the white people going to go? The river? They can’t win.

With the racial humor in your show, what are you guys saying about race in America that needs to be said?
Key: One good thing I think we’ve focused on is that African-American culture is not a monolith. There’s so many different aspects and shades of the culture that people are not exposed to or don’t have an understanding of. And within the cultures there are subcultures.

Peele: Racial comedy, the way that we grew up watching it, is sort of moot. In the past few years, given the state of this country, as far as race is concerned, has been evolving at a very rapid pace. When Obama was elected, it already became sort of old hat to do some of the old expected scenes based on old-school stereotypes. So Keegan and I found an opportunity in the world of racial humor that hasn’t been explored. The fact that it is funny and it seems to hit a universal funny bone in terms of being taboo in nature, it’s just one of those things that’s in the back of everyone’s mind but they don’t say.


Credit: Mike Yarish/Comedy Central

Peele, you’re a big impressionist–what’s an impression that you’re working now?

Peele: One of the ones I’m always working on is Tom Hanks. He’s got his tender side, where he’s talking about losing his wife, and that’s awful. And then he’s got this SIIIIIIDEE: “THERE’S NO CRYING IN BASEBALLLLLLL.”

Keye: You’ve never done that for me. You know what he does that’s great? His Jeff Goldblum is amazing.

How often do you guys hang out when you’re not at the studio?
Peele: Most of the time we’re hanging out is working and writing the show. Outside of that, Keegan is happily married, goes home and enjoys his HBO. I come home and enjoy my video games…and dubstep.

Key: Haha! He loves him some dubstep. Jordan be lovin’ some dubstep!

Let’s wrap this up with some word association. I’m going to name some comedy duos, you say  the first word or phrase to describe them.

Kid & Play
Key: Light.

Cheech & Chong
Peele: Munchies.

Abbott & Costello
Key: The best.

Penn & Teller
(Silence.)
Peele: That was our answer. We gave a Teller answer.

Harold & Kumar
Key: New. That’s an example of a team right now. They’re popular and they’re the future when you look at them. You look at them and they’re not black or white, but they’re popular because to younger people, I think, comedy is comedy.

New episodes of “Key & Peele” air Tuesdays on Comedy Central at 10:30/9:30c

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