Key & Peele
is a sketch comedy show starring Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peele from the FOX sketch show MADtv
. (In that picture, Key is to the left and Peele is to the right.) The show premiered on January 31, 2012 on Comedy Central
and is in its third season. In terms of format, it brings to mind a mix of Chappelle's Show
and the last two seasons of MADtv
(seasons 13 and 14, spanning from 2007 to 2009) when the show was moved to the Henry Ford Music Box Theater and most of the sketches shown were low-budget short films and music videos to compete with the digital shorts on Saturday Night Live
The following tropes are featured in this series:
- Aerith and Bob: The "East/West College Bowl" skit has names like Ozamataz Buckshank, Beezer Twelve-Washingbeard, Hingle McCringleberry, X-Wing @Aliciousness, Donkey Teeth, and... Dan Smith.
- Vandaveon and Mike are a pretty deliberate version (the former is sometimes shortened to 'Van' in some cases).
- Alien Blood: The aliens in "Alien Imposters" have green blood.
- All Women Are Lustful: They still go for "Shot in the Dick" Guy, despite his injury.
- Alter Ego Acting: Vandaveon and Mike, wannabe Youtubers who critique the actual show and give their own interpretation... which can get a little fixated.
- Ambiguously Brown: Keegan (who is half-black, half-white). He uses it to his advantage, just like he did on MA Dtv.
- Both Key and Peele were born from biracial families (half-black, half-white), but generally Peele tends to just play black characters, while Key has a wider range (mostly if he's not playing a black man, he plays Middle Eastern, Indian [both the Native American Indian and the "from India" Indian], and Hispanic).
- And I Must Scream/Ironic Hell: Played for dark laughs in one skit about LMFAO singing about partying nonstop. After partying for more than a week they try to leave the party, only to find that every way out only leads back to the party and they're unable to escape. Eventually they kill themselves to escape... only to be revived with the party starting all over again.
- Angry Black Man: Luther, Obama's anger translator.
- The substitute teacher, also played by Key.
- Arson, Murder, and Jaywalking: The Inner-City Wizard School sketch; the school in question suffers from supposedly stereotypical problems found in typical inner-city public schools (only that they all have to do with magic a la the Harry Potter universe.) It also apparently has rats.
- As Himself: The fanboy valets get to meet Liam Neeson!
- Attractive Bent-Gender: In a meta-example, a suspiciously high amount of comments on the YouTube video of the "Meegan, Your Jacket" sketch are about how well Peele plays a woman.
- Awesome Mccoolname: The entire point of both "East/West College Bowl" skits.
- Ax-Crazy: The fighter in this skit, who crosses over with Soft-Spoken Sadist.
- Bald of Awesome: Key. Justified with all the wigs and headwear they need in this show.
- Big Budget Beef-Up: Sketches like the Obama and Luther ones or "Roommate Meeting" only need one set, compared to the zombie one and "Alien Impostors" which not only use outdoor sets but have practical and special effects to boot.
- The Les MisÚrables parody may use just one set, but the costumes and makeup are extensive to say the least.
- Biting-the-Hand Humor: One sketch had a hypothetical meeting between Jordan and his father who refuses to believe Jordan is his son until Jordan reveals that he has his own TV show. The man then tries to get Jordan to stay until Jordan reveals the show is on Comedy Central, then he yells at Jordan to get out.
- Black Best Friend: Discussed in one of the standup bits. Key and Peele apparently try out for this role a lot because neither of them make a convincing Scary Black Man, and thus end up with a set of oft-rehashed lines like "Aw HELL naw!" and "Y'all two clearly like each other!"
- Black Comedy: All over the place.
- "Rap Battle Hype Man". The hype man is so out of control that he has to be put down.
- Black Dude Dies First: Inverted in the "Suburban Zombies" sketch - the duo are introduced as the "sidekicks" to a gun-toting white hero played by Kevin Sorbo. He promises to get them out safely and is immediately chomped. It turns out the zombies are still more afraid of black people than vice versa, to Key and Peele's indignation. "What was that? They seriously wouldn't let her eat us?"
- Boom, Headshot: The end of "Alien Impostors".
- Borrowed Catchphrase:
Key and Peele: "LIAM NEESONS IN NON-STOP
IS..." Liam Neeson
: "MYY SHIIIIIIII~"
(Key and Peele explode
- Bread, Eggs, Breaded Eggs: One sketch is about Key ending up boarding a plane last, as Peele as the flight announcer delays him by going through every possible combination of old folks, folks in wheelchairs, small children, religious people, military personnel...
- Briefcase Full of Money: One skit had a drug deal where the party receiving the money had a lot of trouble deciding how to count it on-site. One of them reasons that if they look up Google Images for a briefcase with that much money, they can compare it to the one they received, but the resulting picture was one taken by them minutes ago and posted online to ask if it looked right.
- Bring My Brown Pants: One sketch has Peele as a gangster claiming he'd soiled himself before they could make their move, and Key as the other gangster claiming that's not normal for an adult. Until the other gang finds them and point guns in their faces.
- Broken Aesop: Mr. T doesn't actually teach kids anything about making good life choices, just to not bother him about his own rather strange ones.
- The Bully: Peele plays one that openly voices all of his problems to his victim (as does his father), with Key's character asking why he's so open with his issues and yet still a bully. (To hear him tell it, he's afraid that introspection might make him dredge up even more morbid, deep-seated emotional problems.)
- Call Back: Obama and Luther have Negraph.
- In the 2013 college bowl lineup, there a guy named A. A. Ron Balakey.
- The soccer sketch in Season 3 has a team called the Power Falcons, a nod to the show's Sentai / Tokusatsu parody of the same name.
- In the I Am Legend parody, Key is jamming to the party song from the LMFAO sketch.
- The bros in "Roomate Meeting" have an Omega Pi Omega banner. Peele also has a Power Falcons t-shirt.
- The "Excessive Celebration" sketch reuses names from the East West Bowl sketch, both being conveniently about football.
- The "Ultimate Cockblock" sketch has a blink and you'll miss it one: the news item being read by the newscaster Peele's character is hitting on is about the Pegasus riot.
- One sketch has Key and Peele crossdressing as "D-Nice" and "J-Quellin" (both names unwillingly given to unrelated characters in the substitute teacher sketch).
- The Cameo: Kevin Sorbo in 'Suburban Zombies', VERY briefly.
- Camp Gay and Straight Gay: Played for Laughs (and deconstructed) in the "Gay Marriage Legalized Sketch" with Lashawn and Samuel, showing why a pairing of the two really should not be expected.
"We gonna rent the moon and fill it with ROSES!"
- "Office Homophobe" also does this, with the Camp Gay thinking he's being discriminated against by someone he brands as the titular homophobe - who turns out to be Straight Gay.
- Captain Ethnic: Deliberately played with in "Power Falcons" - as Peele playing Green Falcon notes, despite Key's character being an extremely stereotypical Magical Native American, he's still referred to "Yellow Falcon", and the Asian woman in the group is "Purple Falcon"; only Peele himself is condescendingly referred to as "Black Falcon" by the others.
- The Chew Toy: Key as the TV reporter, who's either on a disastrous helicopter flight, or getting attacked by a dog that's learned how to get around his protective gear.
- Cloudcuckoolander's Minder: Samuel to Lashawn.
- The Comically Serious: Legataux in Les Mis.
- Continuity Nod:
- The College Bowl Rap Videos bring back as many names from the 2013 College Bowl sketch as they can.
- The "Sexy Vampires" sketch ends with the gothic vampire den remodeled into something more normal, including a TV with the regular "Metta World News" segment playing.
- The "Tackle and Grapple" coach looks like your regular sex maniac, but is later seen giving actual lessons in another sketch.
- Ty Burrell returns as "Jew Hunter" Muller in season 4!
- Creepy Child / Enfant Terrible: The "Baby Forest Whitaker" sketch pretty much hits the nail on the head.
"I wish... to take all the prosthetic legs in the hospital... and bind them together... with the dried flesh of the dead... to create a webbed, massive creature..."
- Danger Deadpan: The pilot in Black Hawk Up
- Demonic Dummy: Although "Little Homie" is technically a Perverse Puppet, he fits many of the criteria: a propensity for violence and manipulative behaviour, appealing to the darker side of others, and autonomy over his master.
- Destination Defenestration: One sketch has Peele as a husband who finds his wife Ready for Lovemaking, asking him to request his 'deepest desires'. He starts talking about calling her friend Erica...
- Everyone Gets Their Turn: Hilariously averted and conversed with the "Les Mis" sketch where Legataux is frustrated at the inability to get his lines in while everyone else drowns him out.
- Everything is Homophobic: The Camp Gay man in the "Office Homophobe" sketch assumes that any problem someone has with him is because they hate gay people, and not because of his obnoxious behaviour. When he sees that the titular "homophobe" he had been berating for the entire sketch is actually Straight Gay, he realizes "I'm not persecuted, I'm just an asshole."
- Extreme Omnivore: The Soul Food sketch.
- Fail O'Suckyname: The popular "football names" video parodies increasingly complex African-American names.
- Forced Meme: Discussed in, and ultimately fueling, "Pussy on the Chainwax"
- Gangbangers: One sketch is about a Hispanic gang in a secret meeting - which comes after a bit where Key claims that one such individual intimidated him into making more material about Hispanics.
- Gang of Hats/Planet of Steves: The Tallahassee Black Republicans, who continue to insist (despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary) that they're a diverse group.
- One sketch is about a Cargo Cult with every member in bowl cuts and the same yellow tshirt with a big eye on it. Key and Peele play two members who chickened out of the ritual suicide, and try to disguise themselves with jackets over said tshirts. It works, of course.
- Ghetto Name: All the names in their "College Bowl" sketches vary from this to outright being The Unpronouncable.
- And then there's the craziest one of all. Dan Smith, BYU
- Giving Radio to the Romans: In one sketch, "Congressman Peele" begs the other Founding Fathers not to sign the Second Amendment because of the potential for future massacres. When they laugh at his warnings, he announces he's actually from the future, draws a pair of Uzis, and blows away the Amendment and the table it's laying on to make his case. The Uzis disappear from Peele's hands in a flash of blue light, but when one of the Founding Fathers audibly expresses his amazement at the destruction wielded by the "muskets" and a second one pulls out a piece of paper to make a sketch of them before he forgets, a pair of nasty high-tech looking weapons appear in place of the Uzis.
- Glove Snap: At the end of this one.
- Got Me Doing It: At the end of "Power Falcons":
"That's it! Black Falcon out - GREEN FALCON! DAMMIT!"
- Groin Attack: The "I got shot in the dick" music video.
- The sketch where a news reporter (Key) gets attacked by a dog.
- "Dicknanigans". That is all.
- Halloween Episode: Season 3.
- Hardboiled Detective: The "Jimenez" sketch.
- Headphones Equal Isolation: One Lashawn and Samuel sketch ends with Sam resorting to this to drown out Shawn's lunacy.
- Heel Realization: "Oooooooh, I get it... I'm not persecuted, I'm just a asshole."
- High School A.U.: Vincent Clortho Public Wizard school. It is essentially a poorer, inner city version of Hogwarts.
- Historical In-Joke: What happened to the guy who had to speak after Martin Luther King.
- It Is Pronounced Tropay: Played with in the sketch where an Inner City School teacher is substituting at a predominately white suburban High School.
- This sketch is extremely popular among teachers, for the obvious reason.
- Ima Humanitarian: The soul food sketch ends with one of them ordering a human foot.
- Innocent Bigot: The new neighbor in this short. He plays country songs that he does not believe to be racist despite their blatantly racist lyrics (and despite how often the old neighbor tells him it is racist).
- I Want You to Meet an Old Friend of Mine: Some MA Dtv cast members have appeared on this show. Nicole Parkernote appeared on the Les Miserables parody and Nicole Randall Johnsonnote played Michelle Obama's anger translator.
- Gary Anthony Williams appeared in the gay marriage planning sketch after both he and Key were on the new Whose Line Is It Anyway?.
- Karma Houdini: Jimmy the disruptive kid. Not only he manages to get his teacher fired and driven insane, he also succeeds at everything he does in his life.
- Kent Brockman News: Metta World News, which apparently can't afford a second newsreader. Or a working teleprompter.
- Large Ham: A prerequisite for this kind of show, of course. Ty Burrell gets special points for his Nazi act.
- Luther, who was hired by President Obama as critics felt that Obama was too stoic and aloof.
- Also those two valets who are always fanboying over media topics such as 'Liam Neesons'.
- Latex Perfection: One sketch is about two women impersonating Key and Peele this way to lecture men on proper cunnilingus.
- Little People Are Surreal: "Shady Landlord" has the apartment manager Devon hunting for a crack-smoking, apparently murderous dwarf on the premises, using a sword cane.
Devon: Okay, y' know what, I'm gon' level wit' y'all — there is a 4'3" nigga with a purple beard named "Gerald" somewhere in this buildin'.
Tenant: Why does he keep getting smaller every time you mention him?
Devon: Seriously? Because I didn't want to alarm y'all. H-he is disturbin'ly small.
- Magical Negro: One sketch focuses on two of these using magic to fight for the right to help a white man with his marriage problems. At the end, they actually drop both trope names - "There can be only one Magical Negro!" - and have a Beam-O-War. They BOTH die. Then a black woman shows up and the white man mistakes her for a third one. "Who you callin' negro, bitch?"
- Another sketch focuses on a old-timey slave auction to buy one slave who claims he knows magic.
- Major Injury Underreaction: The Saw parody. They even explain it as going into shock!
- Meaningful Name: Luther again.
- Mondegreen: "Black Ice".
- Mundane Made Awesome: 'Flicker' and 'Dueling Hats'.
- One opening bit had Key lining up an epic high five. "I had my plant foot, I got some torque in my hips, and I went straight Tiger Woods on it..."
Peele: "It hit so hard my sh*t became a pink mist!"
- My God, What Have I Done?: About telling off someone at a dance circle, no less.
- Neck Snap: Parodied mercilessly in the sketch Strike Force Eagle 3.
- No Indoor Voice: Luther and the two valet fanboys again.
- No True Scotsman: The Camp Gay confronting a "office homophobe" who turns out to be Straight Gay contains elements of this.
- Not So Above It All: How several of the Obama/Luther routines end, with Obama joining in.
- N-Word Privileges: The Negraph app, which tells you when and where it's appropriate to use the N-word. It'll always be rendered invalid if you're white.
- It's on the list of the things that Obama's Anger Translator is allowed to say (and by extension one of the things Obama is allowed to say).
- Once an Episode There is at least one Obama sketch (some of which include his anger translator, Luther)
- The Oner: The Tea Party "Chosen One" sketch.
- Our Zombies Are Different: They were racist.
- Overly Long Gag:
- The parody of reality shows where Key as not! Gordon Ramsay keeps getting Peele's hopes up, then trashing them back down, over and over and over.
- Overly-Nervous Flop Sweat: The "browser history" sketch. Taken Up to Eleven of course.
- Police Are Useless: One sketch is about a policeman who pulls a gun on a perp and only keeps telling him to freeze, up until the perp pulls a gun on the cop and gets away pretty much unscathed.
- Political Correctness Gone Mad: Mocked in "Offensive Boss", where a boss attempts to ask a gay man, a feminist, and a black man working for him if his speech is offensive. He can't even get a word in edgewise before they start leaping on him for interpreting simple speech as a personal attack... and when he FINALLY gets to his speech, it's an offensive joke against Chinese people, Arabs, and the Polish. The three love offensive Chines, Arab, and Polish jokes.
- Positive Discrimination: Touched on time and again.
- One sketch has Key and Peele in a bar, where some folks get so inebriated that they approach the duo and start apologizing for the last 200 years and stuff like that.
- "Sex with Black Men" zigzags this one with a vengeance.
- Done with Asians in "Roommate Meeting".
- Really Gets Around: Peele tells a story about his estranged father supposedly fathering several children in several states. "He just sticks his penis out the window as the bus keeps moving..."
- Rearrange the Song: The theme tune for season 4 has been overhauled completely, from the Reggie Watts jingle to something sounding like Johnny Cash.
- Red Oni, Blue Oni: A majority of sketches will have Keegan playing the Red while Jordan does the Blue. This is most evident in ones with Obama and his anger translator, Luther. Possibly lampshaded in that in the opening that they wear a red shirt and blue hoodie respectively. Throughout the series it's done straight, exaggerated, inverted and subverted, totally played with in every way.
- Refuge in Audacity: The whole show runs on this (mostly of the "Let's see how far we can ramp up the insanity" variety, but they do dabble in the "Let's make light of something serious" variety of Refuge in Audacity), but nowhere more than the East/West Bowl sketch. And it's just a list of names.
- It starts with comparatively reasonable names like "D'Marcus Williumz", "T.J. Juckson", and "Ibrahim Moizoos", and gets to unbridled insanity like "X-Wing @Aliciousness", "T.J. A.J. R.J. Backslashinfourth V", "EEEEE EEEEEEEEE", "Torque [Construction Noise] Lewith", "[The Player Formerly Known as Mousecop]", and "Dan Smith from BYU".
- Racist zombies.
- Just the punchline to this one.
- "Slavery was awful - all I'm saying is, silver lining, it got me out of Africa!"
- "Auction Block", wherein Lot B and Lot C eventually get somewhat offended that they aren't getting sold. Eventually, the slave auctioneer himself calls them "superficial" and "bigoted".
[They look at a tall, muscular slave trudging off the block]
Lot C: Okay, well, you have to buy that dude.
Lot B: It's a no-brainer.
Lot C: I mean, that guy's HUGE.
Lot B: Massive individual.
Lot C: That's two of me.
Lot B: Anybody would buy him.
Lot C: I'd buy that dude.
Lot B: My question is, how'd they catch him?
- Retired Badass: One sketch starts out like an 80s / 90s action flick, with a soldier tracking down a retired super-badass living in isolation. It turns out they don't want him for this mission, they just need him to recommend someone - at which point he claims to have been "talked into it" and starts trying to prove he's still got it.
- Re Tool: Mild case in season 4, throwing out the studio audience in favor of short dialogues on a long road trip, and a redone title theme, but the rest is exactly the same barring the odd Big Budget Beef-Up.
- Reverse Psychology: How Obama (played by Jordan) deals with Republicans that always disagreed with his proposals.
- Ripped from the Headlines: From the Obama skits to a Chris Brown and Rihanna one, a lot of their humor runs on this.
- Rule of Three:
- Shameless Self-Promotion: This.
"You been saying some shit that doesn't exist, and you got Thing 1 and Thing 2
corroborating your story like it does!"
- After they name drop Game of Thrones, the "Sex with Black Guys" sketch starts with Key and Peele discussing "the huge woman" and "the red witch", which are most certainly Brienne and Melisandre. In fact, any skit where they are themselves has them talking about Game of Thrones as casual conversation.
- One of the Wendell sketches has him calling a bust of Elrond "Hugo" and a statue of River Tam "Summer".
- Peele's stoner gangster character keeps a rat he keeps calling Ratatouille. Not in a rat trap, but a ghost trap!.
- Speaking of which, the Vincent Clortho magic school takes its name from the Gatekeeper in the first movie.
- LA Vice anybody?
- The Halloween Episode in season 3 has a pile of 'em.
- In "Laron Can't Laugh", the titular character wanders off while Leaving Earth plays.
- "Slap-Ass: In Recovery" gives one to, of all things, the very special "pill addiction" episode of Saved by the Bell.
- Shown Their Work: Mr. T PSA, an Affectionate Parody of Be Somebody... Or Be Somebody's Fool!, is almost indistinguishable from the real thing, right down to the incredibly awkward music numbers.
- Smug Snake: Carter Finley of "Cat Poster" thinks he is a criminal mastermind who can trick the detective interrogating him by making up names based on things in the room. He's really not very good at it, exacerbated by the fact that he doesn't stop even when it makes no sense.
- Snowball Lie: "Pegasus Sighting", based on the leprechaun of Mobile, Alabama.
- Sophisticated as Hell: The Obama & Luther skits. Especially when the dance was involved for the election celebration.
- "Movie Hecklers", where two guys begin loudly criticizing a horror film in the theater for its "inconsistent visual language", among other sins. Even the other patrons silently concede that they have a point.
"I mean, this nigga tryin' to do some homage to the German Expressionists or some shit!"
"Take yo' ass to Mr O-Shag-Hennessy's office RIGHT NOW before I bust a "club" UP IN YO' BUTT!! Mischievous and deceitful! Chicanerous and deplorable!"
- "Rap Battle Hype Man" ends with a simple black frame that says "Steinbeck, y'all!"
- Spiritual Successor: To MADtv (which was promised a cable revival, but got it in the form of Cartoon Network's MAD and this show) and Chappelle's Show.
- Stupid Sacrifice: One sketch is about a Cargo Cult that commits mass suicide in order to be taken away by the mothership. In the end it turns out that not only is the mothership real, it takes the two living members who'd chickened out earlier!
- Stylistic Suck: The "Mr. T PSA" skit, complete with Spoof Aesops, deliberately bad acting from both Key and Kate Micucci, being shot on VHS tapes and an incredibly awkward Piss-Take Rap from Mr. T. Seeing how it's based off the memetic "Be Somebody or Be Somebody's Fool" tape, this is surprisingly accurate.
- Done with the College Bowl Rap Videos, after a bit where Key and Peele point out how football players can't really be rappers. Until Dan Smith starts tearing it up.
- Surprise Creepy: The end of this one.
- Take That: To dubstep.
- The Ending Changes Everything: Can sometimes lead to Surprise Creepy.
- This Loser Is You: The Wendell sketches.
- Toilet Humor: "Where My Dookie Go".
- Vulgar Humor: Desperately lacking, according to Vandaveon and Mike — not a single sketch has ever had enough penis jokes to satisfy them.
- Troll: One opening bit has Key and Peele bringing up "one of our writers, James, he's a white guy, and sometimes we put the N-word in the script 20 times just to mess with him."
- True Art Is Incomprehensible: This sketch about Key uncovering Peele's audio journal, which sounds like some angsty social commentary with a heaping helping of weird-ass shit.
- "Dicknanigans", in which men in zentais pummel each others' balls while words like "SOCIETY", "CONSUMERISM", and "LOVE" flash on-screen, ending with the declaration that love can conquer all. The audience is enthralled.
- Uncle Tomfoolery: Before becoming a civil rights crusader and a beloved community figure, Otis Carmichael made a Hollywood film career out of playing racist stereotypes.note
- Unusually Uninteresting Sight: Freddie Wong's appearance in "Roommate Meeting". Warning: Nightmare Fuel involved.
- Wag the Director: In-universe, parodied in the "Family Matters" sketch, where it turns out that the reason why the show had increasingly bizarre and Urkel-centric plotlines was because Jaleel White was an evil psychic who kills anyone who goes against what he wants.
- The Whitest Black Guy: Both leads being biracial (one white parent, one black parent), this winds up being a central element of much of their comedy.
- In one early sketch, Key plays a biracial man whose (white) date expects him to be able to present as white (which she defines as polite and friendly) and black (which she defines as an Angry Black Man) on cue depending on the situation. He obviously feels more comfortable in the quote-unquote "white" persona and ends the sketch very confused about which situations call for which. He does not, however, ever question her right to demand this of him.
- In another sketch, the duo has returned to the neighborhood in which they grew up and is ordering dinner from a diner. They are drawn into a game of oneupsmanship to see who can make the "blackest" dinner order, culminating in their eating such "soul food" as possum spines, stork ankles, an old cellar door and a human foot. Neither will admit to disliking the fare for fear of losing racial cred.
- Wholesome Crossdresser: Peele will commonly play a woman in some sketches, though Key has dressed as a woman too.
- Who Names Their Kid "Dude"??: In the East/West Bowl skit, one of the players is named T.J. A.J. R.J. Backslashinfourth V. Five generations must have decided to name their kid T.J. A.J. R.J.
- Wouldn't Hurt a Child: Exploited by a character in one sketch. After finding that someone else won't fight him because he's carrying a baby, he takes other babies and wears them as armor.
- Your Mom: A kid played by Peele won't stop making these jokes when the Indian doctor played by Key is trying to tell her that her medical condition is terrible. The doctor himself throws one in at the end, giving an "oh, snap" after seeing the boy's shock.
- Zombie Apocalypse: Subverted in that the zombies turn out to be racist and leave all the black people alone.