Key and Peele may just now be becoming household names, but they have been a part of the comedy world for some time. As is often the case in entertainment what seems like a new act rising to prominence is in fact the result of years of hard work. Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peele met on the set of MADtv eight years before they would revive sketch comedy on their self titled Comedy Central show. Key and Peele were assumed to be in contention for the same part, but eventually both were cast on the long running sketch show. The two became fast friends and dynamic writing partners. The pair turned out to be masters of impressions and spent the better part of five years on MADtv taking part in parodies of Deal or No Deal, To Catch a Predator, and many more pop culture properties.
After several more appearances on television, film, and even a Weird Al music video both together and separately the dynamic comedy duo premiered Key & Peele on Comedy Central. Unlike MADtv and Saturday Night Live all of the sketches on Key & Peele are prerecorded, to be introduced by the two stars in front of a live audience. Key and Peele have set themselves apart from the sketch shows that came before by producing high quality shorts with a quality of filming that often stands in stark contrast to the silliness of many of the jokes. However despite some occasionally lowbrow humor the quality of the filming and costumes is readily matched by the wittiness of the sketch premises and performances. Sketches on Key & Peele tend to revolve around one central idea with many punch lines peppered throughout. The depth of each sketch is a large part of how Key and Peel are reviving sketch comedy. With many critics accusing Saturday Night Live of a lack of relevance and MADtv off the air Key & Peele‘s numbers continue to grow, as does the critical acclaim.
Like their Comedy Central predecessor Dave Chappelle Key and Peele tend to write sketches with racial themes, but their expertise lies in never being offensive when they do not mean to be. Like Chapelle’s Show before it Key & Peele performs sophisticated social satire while simultaneously showcasing some truly outlandish characters. Key and Peele make use of well-known stereotypes by adding them to original characters that are unique enough that the stereotype is not the focus. In this way the harmful stereotypes can be ridiculed while also establishing characters that audiences become familiar with and revisit in new sketches each season.
Part of the shows success outside of its own originality lies in its popularity on YouTube. Many sketches from Key & Peele have several million views each on YouTube, drawing more attention to the pair daily. Key and Peele’s well paced sketches fit in perfectly on the video hosting site while staying a step above most of its content in quality. Official footage of any Saturday Night Live sketches is nowhere to be found on YouTube essentially giving Comedy Central a monopoly on professional sketch comedy on the internet. Key and Peele’s ability to accurately lampoon nearly any aspect of culture past or present, as well as their savvy utilization of online content, is what has brought them television and internet stardom and led them to revive sketch comedy as a medium.
Opinion by Matt Isaacs