Key & Peele is a Peabody Award winning sketch comedy show starring Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peele from the FOX sketch show MADtv. The show premiered on January 31, 2012 on Comedy Central. In terms of format, it brings to mind a mix of Chappelle's Show and the last two seasons of MADtv.
It ended on September 9, 2015 with a total of five seasons.
Key & Peele provides examples of:
- Accidental Innuendo: This is featured at the end of the "McCringleberry's Excessive Celebration" sketch. During the replay of Hingle McCringleberry's third excessive celebration penalty, the color commentator inadvertently draws a penis next to the ref's face when he is staring at McCringleberry's crotch. The color commentator apologizes to the viewers watching at home.
- Aerith and Bob:
- The "East/West 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.
- The hosts themselves: Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peele.
- Affably Evil: The Nazi colonel Hans Muller from "Das Negros", though never letting them forget what will happen if he does find a Jew or one of the "negros" in question, is polite and even, as his "tests" fail one by one, apparently apologetic. When he returns much later, however, we see a side where he is still talkative, but in the presence of a subordinate soldier and not two men desperately trying to keep him happy, shows Skewed Priorities about interrupting his story for any reason and shoots him for finally slipping and calling him stupid.
- 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.
- Alternate Timeline: The "Family Matters" sketch. Due to Jaleel White being a psychotic, murderous psychic, Family Matters wound up lasting for another six seasons. It's worth pointing out that the sketch takes place in 1997, one year before Family Matters got cancelled in real life.
- Ambiguously Brown: Key, who is biracial. He uses it to his advantage, just like he did on MADtv. In fact, 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.note
- And I Must Scream: Played for dark laughs in "LMFAO's Non-Stop Party", which is 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. They eventually kill themselves to escape, only to be revived with the party starting all over again.
- Angry Black Man:
- Luther, Barack Obama's anger translator.
- The substitute teacher Mr. Garvey, also played by Key.
- Arson, Murder, and Jaywalking: The "Inner-City Wizard School" sketch; the wizard school in question suffers from supposedly stereotypical problems found in typical inner-city public schools. It also apparently has rats.
- Ascended Meme: Luther finally gets to translate for the real President Obama.
- 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, Come Back" sketch are about how well Peele plays a woman.
- Awesome Mc Coolname: The entire point of the "East/West Bowl" skits.
- Ax-Crazy: The fighter in this skit, who crosses over with Soft-Spoken Sadist.
- Bait-and-Switch: The beginning sketch of "Parole Officer Puppet" has a news anchor talking about two men who were arrested for domestic violence. It's revealed at end of it that the anchor is actually the sportscaster.
- Bald of Awesome: Key is bald. Beacuase of this, he'll occasionally wear a toupee when playing certain characters.
- Big Budget Beef-Up: Sketches like the Obama and Luther ones or "Roommate Meeting" only need one set, compared to "White Zombies" and "Alien Impostors", which not only use outdoor sets but have practical and special effects to boot. Some others like "Les Mis" and "Pirate Chantey" may use just one set, but the costumes and makeup are extensive to say the least.
- Big "NO!": From "Pizza Order":Carlos: "CLAIRE! NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!"
- Biting-the-Hand Humor: One sketch has a hypothetical meeting between Jordan and his father who refuses to believe that the former is his son until Jordan let's it drop that he has his own TV show. The man then tries to get Jordan to stay until this exchange happens:Jordan: When I first came in here, you wouldn't even acknowledge that I could possibly be your son. But now, only after I tell you that I have my own show on Comedy Central—Earl Peele: Whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa. Comedy Central? Get the fuck out of my house!
- Black and Nerdy:
- Both Key and Peele.
- Wendell. His sketches are full of pop culture references.
- 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. For example, in "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 "White 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?"
- Blessed with Suck: The world is being attacked by a Zombie Apocalypse in "White Zombies" but the zombies are racist. Key and Peele are miffed at first, but then get invited to a party where everyone is happy that they're not being attacked.
- Boom, Headshot!: The end of "Alien Impostors".
- Borrowed Catchphrase:
- 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, etc.:"Old religious folks with small military children."
- Brick Joke: Throughout Seasons 4 and 5, Key and Peele drive through the Mojave Desert having random conversations that lead into the next sketch. In the final scene of the final episode, they stop the car and turn to each other:Jordan: "Is this the place?"Keegan: "This is the place."Together: (Beat) "I said biiitch."
- Briefcase Full of Money: "Counting the Money" has a drug deal where the party receiving the money has a lot of trouble deciding how to count it on-site. One of them reasons that if they look up Yahoo Answers 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.note
- 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's Non-Stop Party" sketch.
- The bros in "Roomate Meeting" have an Omega Pi Omega banner. Peele also has a Power Falcons T-shirt.
- The "McCringleberry's 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".note
- A subtle one in the "Pirate Chantey", which includes the words "We don't say bitch...", a possible reference to the Season 1 sketch, "I Said Bitch".
- The Cameo:
- Kevin Sorbo appears very briefly in "White Zombies".
- Wayne Brady in the "Reunion of the Human Centipede".
- Ty Burrell of Modern Family fame appears as a Nazi officer in "Das Negros".
- Paul F. Tompkins of The Thrilling Adventure Hour as one of many Republican politicians in a roundtable discussion with U.S. President Barack Obama.
- Billy Dee Williams of Star Wars fame appears in the laundromat sketch.
- Brenda Song is the Purple Falcon.
- Cedric Yarbrough of Reno 911! and The Boondocks fame appears in "Pegasus Sighting".
- Malcolm Jamal-Warner as a royally pissed Black Republican.
- Keke Palmer as Malia Obama's anger translator.
- Say the Bard is looking very familiar....
- Natasha Leggero and Janet Varney as the two white women in "Sex With Black Guys".
- Freddie Wong in "Roommate Meeting".
- EpicLloyd as a referee in the "Rap Battle Hype Man".
- High on Potenuse featured Heather Anne Campbell as the teacher and a cameo in the end by Fluffy.
- James Hong in the sketch with Peele as the Older and Wiser wannabe.
- Tyler James Williams as an evil psychic version of Jaleel White in the "Family Matters" sketch.
- Chelsea Peretti as the narrator of "Dicknanigans". Also, Neil Flynn, a.k.a. the Janitor from Scrubs, appears as a doctor.
- About a third of the people in the third "East/West Bowl" sketch are actual NFL players.
- Bo Burnham in "A Capella".
- Ernie Hudson as the father in the "Clive" sketch.
- Camp Gay:
"We gonna rent the moon and fill it with ROSES!"
- 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:
Latrell: Ooohh! I wasn't being persecuted, I was just being an asshole!
- "Office Homophobe" does this with Latrell thinking he's being discriminated against by someone he brands as the titular homophobe, who turns out to be Straight Gay:
- "Gay Wedding Advice". A family is still in the process of accepting a gay cousin's marriage, and bring in a straight gay man for advice, except all they've learned to expect is a camp gay wedding.
- 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.
- Children Are Innocent: In the "White Zombies" sketch, the only zombie who actually tries to attack Key and Peele is a little girl, but her parents pull her away.
- Cloudcuckoolander's Minder: Samuel to Lashawn.
- The Comically Serious: Legataux in "Les Mis".
- Continuity Nod:
- The College Bowl Rap Videos (and pretty much all the football-based sketches after that) bring back as many names from the 2013 College Bowl sketch as they can. For that matter, the name "Donkey Teeth" calls back to the "Soul Food" sketch.
- 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.
- Season 5 takes this up to Continuity Cavalcade levels, from the followup to the Retired Badass Wannabe to the return of the Continental Breakfast guy.
- Crazy Awesome: Deconstructed and parodied in "Loco Gangsters" — when Carlito feels snubbed by the possible induction of Eduardo, an inhumanly fearsome and intense maniac, into the gang, he tries to prove he's the most loco instead; not only are most of his attempts (such as pretending to be a duck or wastefully collecting multiple punch cards for frozen yogurt) acknowledged as outright pathetic, but his efforts make Eduardo seem even more loco in comparison.
- Creepy Child:"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..."
- 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.
- Denser and Wackier:
- 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...
- Drugs Are Bad: Parodied in one sketch in "Scariest Movie Ever". In it, a creepy man tells another man about a drug that is placed under a eyelid and the effects said drug has. When the man tries it, he screams in horror and asks when does it start to work. The creepy man's responds that he doesn't know since he doesn't do drugs. He then turns to the camera and says that drugs are for losers. This followed by a banner that says "Don't even try it. You'll poop your mouth."
- Dude, Not Funny!: The comedian in "Insult Comic" bases his act around making fun of people in the audience. Unfortunately for him, one of them turns out to be a gay paraplegic burn victim with an electrolarynx. The comedian tries to avoid making fun of him. However, when he finally relents after being pressured to do so, the audience turns on him.
- The Ending Changes Everything: Can sometimes lead to Surprise Creepy.
- Engineered Public Confession: Parodied in "Rap Album Confessions", where Gun Rack has recorded an entire cassette tape's worth of Boastful Rap detailing how he killed Darnell Simmons with "a long-ass gun", the exact time and location of the murder, how his alibi is demonstrably false, and the tics he shows when he's lying. Gun Rack claims it's all just a massive coincidence. The "bonus track" even reveals that his side girl is willing to take the fall for him, and predicts his quick re-capture.
- 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 Racist: In the "Office Homophobe" sketch, Latrell assumes that any problem someone has with him is because they hate gay people, and not because of his obnoxious behavior. When he sees that the titular "homophobe" he had been berating for the entire sketch is actually Straight Gay, he realizes that he was being "an asshole."
- Extreme Omnivore: The "Soul Food" sketch.
- Foregone Conclusion: Possibly. One of the earliest Meegan and Andre sketches, the "Meegan Your Jacket" one, ends with Andre following Meegan with her jacket until they collapse in a desolate wasteland where several other boyfriends and their girlfriends have died a long time ago. And the last Meegan and Andre sketch has Meegan guilt Andre out of breaking up with her, so this could still play out.
- Forced Meme: Discussed in, and ultimately fueling, "Pussy on the Chainwax".
- Foreign Cuss Word: In the "Macedonian Cafe" sketch the owner of the eponymous place pulls it off twice.
- The Friend Nobody Likes: Carlito the proud gangsta. His gang can't ever get rid of him because, really, how do you get rid of someone who God allows to go to heaven but outright refuses it because he thinks heaven is for pussies?
- 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:
- The Tallahassee Black Republicans, who continue to insist (despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary) that they're a diverse group.
- "Cult Mass Suicide" is about a Cargo Cult with every member in bowl cuts and the same yellow T-shirt 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 T-shirts. It works, of course.
- Ghetto Name:
- All the names in their "East/West Bowl" sketches vary from this to outright being The Unpronouncable. And then there's the craziest one of all. Dan Smith, BYU.
- In "Substitute Teacher Pt. 1", the titular teacher has spent his entire career teaching in the inner city, so he assumes every name is like this, confusing his new class of suburban white kids when he calls out names like "J-Kwellen" (Jacqueline) and "Balakay" (Blake). When the kids correct his pronunciation, he assumes they're trying to play a joke on him because nobody could ever have such silly-sounding names. With each correction, he becomes increasingly enraged and hostile, demanding that the kids stop screwing around and say their names "correctly", which culminates in him sending a kid to the principal's office. Finally, he calls out one last ghetto-fied name... and the only black kid in class responds immediately, because it actually is his name:Mr. Garvy: A-A-Ron! Where are you? Where is A-A-Ron right now? No A-A-Ron, huh? Well, you better be sick, dead, or mute, A-A-Ron!
Mr. Garvy: Why didn't you answer me the first time I said it, huh? I'm just— y'know, I'm just askin', y'know. I said it, like, four times, so why didn't you say it the first time I said "A-A-Ron"?
Student: ...Because it's pronounced "Aaron"?
Mr. Garvy: SON OF A BALD BITCH! [pushes everything off his desk onto the floor in anger] YA DONE MESSED UP, A-A-RON! NOW TAKE YO' ASS ON DOWN TO O-SHAG-HENNESEY'S OFFICE RIGHT NOW, AND TELL HIM EXACTLY WHAT YOU DID!
Mr. Garvy: O-SHAG-HENNESEY!
Aaron: ...Principal O'Shaughnessy?
Mr. Garvy: GET OUTTA MY GOTDAMN CLASSROOM BEFORE I BREAK MY FOOT OFF IN YA ASS!
- 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 MAC-10s, and blows away the Amendment and the table it's laying on to make his case. The MAC-10s 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 MAC-10s.
- 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! 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.
- The "African Warlord" gets a potful of boiling water poured on his crotch.
- At the end of the Georgina and Esther sketch, Esther snaps the devil's dick off while she's possessed.
- Halloween Episode: "Michael Jackson Halloween" and "Scariest Movie Ever".
- Hardboiled Detective: The "Jimenez" sketch.
- Have I Mentioned I Am Sexually Active Today?: "Sex Addict Wendell" has Wendell attending a sex addicts support group.
- 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 School for Wizards. It is essentially a poorer, inner city version of Hogwarts.
- Hilarious Outtakes: The end of Season 5 has a compilation of these.
- Historical In-Joke:
- Hurricane of Puns: The Prison Rape sketch has a gangster visiting the victim in prison, having no idea about it and unknowingly leading to a hurricane of double entendres.
- Hypocrite: In "Movie Hecklers", Key and Peele play two movie hecklers who shout criticisms at the movie as it is playing. A woman finds them annoying, while her husband does not mind as much, finding their criticisms to be insightful. When he briefly tries join in, he is then immediately hassled by a theater employee who tells him to be quiet. Who brought him to the employee's attention? The two hecklers.
- It Is Pronounced Tro PAY: Inverted in the "Substitute Teacher Pt. 1" sketch where an Inner City School teacher is substituting at a predominately white suburban High School. He mispronounces all his students' names when calling attendance, and when they correct him, he angrily scolds them for trying to mess with him. Standouts include "Blake" as "Bah-Lak-Kay" and "Aaron" as "Ay-Ay-Ron".
- I'm a Humanitarian: The "Soul Food" sketch ends with one of them ordering a human foot.
- Innocent Bigot: The new neighbor in this sketch. He plays country songs that he does not believe to be racist despite their blatantly racist lyrics which his friend keeps pointing out.
- Intercourse with You: Discussed in one of the road trip bits:Peele: Modern R&B nowadays is literally a description of sexual intercourse...
- Jerkass: Meegan. Passive-Aggressive Kombat is her at her nicest.
- 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.
- The two valets who are always fanboying over media topics such as 'Liam Neesons'.
- Latex Perfection: "Cunnilingus Class" is about two women impersonating Key and Peele this way to lecture men on proper cunnilingus.
- Literal Metaphor: Levi owns lightning in a bottle, the goose that laid the golden egg, and a pair of the cat's pyjamas; being baked out of his skull, none of them seem quite as important to him as the idea he suddenly has for a smartphone app. He also owns a "high horse" that's just as much of a stoner as he is.
- 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.
- Love Before First Sight: Carlos, the employee from Mario's Pizza, falls in love with Wendell's ex-girlfriend Claire without having met or spoken with her. Too bad she is really a plastic figurine.
- Magical Negro:
"Who you callin' 'negro', bitch?"
- "Magical Negro Fight" focuses on two black men 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:
- "Auction Block" focuses on a old-timey slave auction where one of the slaves claims that he knows magic.
- Major Injury Underreaction: The Saw parody. They even explain it as going into shock!
- Meaningful Name: Luther again.
- Mic Drop: Barack Obama gives the ultimate reply to a long Boastful Rap in one sentence.Obama: I'm the leader of the free world. <mic drop>
- Mondegreen: The punchline of "Black Ice".
- Mood Whiplash: The punchline of "Negrotown."
- Mundane Made Awesome:
Peele: "It hit so hard my shit became a pink mist!"
- "Flicker" and "Dueling Hats".
- One opening bit has 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..."
- "TeachingCenter" is about a SportsCenter-like program about teaching.
- My God, What Have I Done?: About telling off someone at a dance circle, no less.
- Neck Snap: Parodied mercilessly in the "Strike Force Eagle 3: The Reckoning" sketch.
- Never Mess with Granny: Esther and Georgina, two church ladies who take on the devil.
- 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 Making This Up" Disclaimer: Invoked at the very end of the Gremlins 2 meeting. While the meeting obviously didn't happen, all the crazy stuff suggested during it is in the movie.
- 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).
- Odd Name Out: In the first "East/West Bowl" skit, where the other players are all played by Key and Peele with increasingly absurd names, the last player is a Token White from Brigham Young University named Dan Smith.
- Oh, Crap!: Latrell when he sees the coworker he had been bullying and calling a homophobe kiss his boyfriend and realizes:Latrell: I'm not persecuted...I'm just an asshole.
- Omnidisciplinary Lawyer: Parodied in "Judge Jessie", where his myriad and varied careers (master surgeon, skilled carpenter, deadly black belt) are all touted as having contributed to his legal expertise. He's also a crackhead, which mean he's openly fiending in court.
- 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're racist.
- Overly Long Gag:
- In "Gideon's Kitchen", Gideon keeps getting Drew's hopes up, then trashing them back down, over and over and over.
- The "East/West Bowl" ventures into this territory.
- Overly Nervous Flop Sweat: The "Clear History" sketch. It's taken Up to Eleven, of course.
- Pirate Girl: "Pirate Chatney" featuring a (male) pirate crew singing a song that sounds like they're bragging of conquests, but the last line of each verse reveals them to be unusually enlightened in their attitudes towards women. For example, a verse about a woman who gets so drunk she passes out ends "so we took her to bed, and rested her head, and we left 'cause that's what gentlemen do". The last pirate to sing starts in on something that's clearly not going that direction, and he gets out about two lines before being shot dead by the (unseen before this point) female captain, of whom the other pirates are all visibly terrified.
- 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 calls a gay man, a woman, and a black man working for him into his office to help with a speech he is giving later. He asks them to raise their hands and say something if they find anything in his speech to be offensive. He can't even get a word in edgewise before they start jumping on him for interpreting everything he says as a personal attack ("I don't need a man's permission to raise my hand!", etc). Mind you, this is all before he even gets to start his speech. When he finally does:Boss: A Chinaman, a Polak, and an Arab walk into a bar...
Gay man: I love Arab jokes!
Woman: Ching-chong, bring it on!
Black man: You had me at "Polak"!
- The "Pirate Chantey" sketch plays with this a bit towards the end. The third verse on the song has one pirate talking about how his girlfriend was pregnant, making it clear that he wanted a child and using words like "child" and "heir" that suggest he considered the fetus a living person, and yet he still supported her decision to get an abortion. Though this trope becomes most egregious in the forth verse of the song; another pirate sings a song about a woman getting sick with a terminal illness and donating all her money to charity in an attempt to save herself, and ends the song with "But the scariest part of the story from the start is I bet you assumed the doctor was a man."
- Mocked in "Offensive Boss", where a boss calls a gay man, a woman, and a black man working for him into his office to help with a speech he is giving later. He asks them to raise their hands and say something if they find anything in his speech to be offensive. He can't even get a word in edgewise before they start jumping on him for interpreting everything he says as a personal attack ("I don't need a man's permission to raise my hand!", etc). Mind you, this is all before he even gets to start his speech. When he finally does:
- Politically Correct History: The "Pirate Chantey" sketch, as it shows a crew of pirates holding some rather enlightened ideas. Though the introduction of the captain at the end might justify/subvert this; her entire (male) crew is so terrified of her that it makes you wonder whether they really held their feminist views or simply pretended to out of fear.
- Poor Communication Kills: The "Text Message Confusion" sketch shows a text message exchange that is interpreted as insulting by one side and casual on the other, which culminates in the former interpreting a meet-up at a bar as a challenge to a fight. This is subverted at the end. When the aggressor confronts his friend at the bar, he is enlightened when the latter orders a drink for him and no one is brutally murdered that night.
- Positive Discrimination: Touched on time and again:
- "Apologies" has Key and Peele playing two black men in a bar. While there, a couple of white patrons are so inebriated that they approach the duo and start apologizing for the last 200 years and stuff like that. This is subverted at the end when the bartender admits that black people makes him really uncomfortable. The men thanks the bartender for his honesty.
- "Sex with Black Men" zigzags this one with a vengeance.
- Done with Asians in "Roommate Meeting".
- Prison Rape:
You do not want to have animal relations with the other inmates... You are not earning anyone's undying respect when you fart and it sounds like a bottle...
- "Lil Wayne in Prison" is about Lil Wayne, played by Peele, being followed by a film crew while in prison. He's in the showers when he drops the soap; the camera pans down to show that indeed happened; by the time the camera pans back up, everyone else in the showers is already surrounding him.
- Another sketch is about Peele as an inmate who's apparently gone through so much prison rape that he's pretty much catatonic:
- Rage Breaking Point: Mr. Williams in the fourth "Substitute Teacher" sketch. He starts out acting calm and laid-back. However, when one of his students, Jimmy, keeps misbehaving, Mr. Williams tries to humble him by putting him in front of the class. Jimmy just responds by imitating the sub, upon which Mr. Williams loses it in a furious imitation of Jimmy so over the top that Jimmy and the rest of the class are completely shocked and silent:Mr. Williams: Oh yeah?! OH YEAH?!? OH YEEAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHH!??!?!!! OH YEEEEAAAAAAA-LA-LA-LA-LA-AAAH!!!!! WELL, THIS IS YOU, JIMMY!!!
- Reality Ensues: The "Negrotown" sketch. It's actually Played for Drama.
- 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..."
- Real Men Wear Pink: The buccaneers in "Pirate Chantey" might be typical hard-drinking, hard-living scalliwags of the era, but they also sing of anachronistically progressive feminist causes, decoratively whittle, and show genuine concern when members of their crew are injured. As Peele noted on Twitter, even if some of them do it only out of obedience to their fearsome lady captain, it's still a very nice gesture.
- Rearrange the Song: The theme tune for Season 4 has been overhauled completely, from the Reggie Watts jingle to something sounding like the True Detective themes.
- Red Oni, Blue Oni: A majority of sketches will have Key playing the Red while Peele 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". The 2013 season is even more ridiculous. There's names like Morse Code spoken in Morse Code, Harvard Universitynote , Fudge, Firstname Lastname, Benedict Cumberbatch, Jammie Jammie-Jammie, A.A. Ron Balakay...
- 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?
- The church ladies, Esther and Georgina's descriptions of what they plan to do to Satan. Esther follows through on it.
- Retired Badass: "Retired Military Specialist" 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.
- Retool: Mild case in Season 4, which replaced the studio audience in favor of short dialogues on a long road trip, and a redone title theme. However, 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: You can get flagged for three pumps. Referee calls excessive celebration.
- Sesquipedalian Loquaciousness: The gang leader in the Latino gang sketches has a surprisingly adept vocabulary in "Loco Gangsters":"Carlito, that's just being cavalier with your finances instead of collecting your free dessert. I mean, that's not loco. It's just like... financially irresponsible."
- Secret Test of Character: In "Little Homie", a parole officer named Daniel Tate is communicating to a parolee named Clive through a puppet named Little Homie. Little Homie appears to have grown sentient, encouraging him to go back into crime, tossing him a weed cigarette (when Clive questions Tate, Tate says "I want you to clean up your act, but you're not talking to me right now, you're talking to Little Homie) and threatening to shoot Tate if he doesn't smoke it. When Clive calls his bluff, Little Homie shoots Tate, who collapses to the ground. Little Homie cleans off his fingerprints, tosses Clive the gun so his fingerprints get on it instead and asks him to be "in together on this" (probably to keep quiet). Clive stutters "Ok, Little Homie, yeah" At that point, Tate climbs up, informs Clive he failed the test and sends him back to prison.
- Shameless Self-Promotion: This.
- Shoot Him, He Has a Wallet!: The "He's Got a Gun" sketch.
"You been saying some shit that doesn't exist, and you got Thing 1 and Thing 2 corroborating your story like it does!"
- Ty Burrell as "Jew Hunter" Muller is most certainly one to Inglorious Basterds.
- At the end of the Hypeman sketch, they blatantly make one to Of Mice and Men, even ending the sketch with a black screen that simply said "Steinback, Y'all!"
- "It's like the old Mitt Romney went back in time to try and kill the young Mitt Romney!"
- After trolling some Republicans, Obama says, "Aren't I a stinker?"
- This may remind some of the opening for the Party Rock Anthem music video.
- In "Pussy on the Chainwax":
- 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!. 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:
- "Roommate Meeting" pulls the round-table gimmick straight from That '70s Show with The Grudge thrown in.
- The zombie show that's filmed for over three years is most certainly The Walking Dead.
- "Continental Breakfast" is revealed at the end to be a reference to The Shining.
- And of course, the final sketch is this to Saw.
- 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.
- "Cat Poster" is one to Verbal Kint's interrogation in The Usual Suspects, right down to Peele's clothes, hair and speech mannerisms.
- In the "Family Matters" sketch, "Steve Urkel" at one point says: "There is no Jaleel... only STEVE!". Later, when the actor playing Carl tries to shoot him, he says: "Hippie-ki-yay, motherfucker!". It gets even better when you remember that Reginald VelJohnson used to play a policeman not only on Family Matters, but in Die Hard and Ghostbusters (1984) too.
- 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.
- Slow "NO!": Used in "Slap-Ass: In Recovery" and "LA Vice". The latter case is lampshaded.Key: "Oh, I get it. When I say no, stuff blows up. Cool."
- 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:
"I mean, this nigga tryin' to do some homage to the German Expressionists or some shit!"
- 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:
"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!"
- Key's inner school substitute teacher often goes through this into Sesquipedalian Loquaciousness.
- "Rap Battle Hype Man" ends with a simple black frame that says "Steinbeck, y'all!"
- Georgina and Esther, the two old church ladies who describe in the most profane terms all the filthy things they'll do to Satan... with their prayers. At the end of the sketch, Esther follows through on her threat to snap Satan's dick off during sex.
- Space Whale Aesop: In "Consequences", former gang member Donnie Herrera talking to an auditorium at a high school. He tells them how he did bad things (stealing, hanging out with tough kids, smoking weed, etc.) followed by him dealing with the consequences of this. The problem though is that the "consequences" are so wild and unconnected with the deeds he is guilty of that nobody takes any of it seriously:Donnie: So I got really deep into crime. I did a drive-by at my own daughter's quinceaera! Yeah, shot up everybody— dead, killed! Yeah! Yeah! Then I got sucked into a wormhole.
- Spiritual Successor: To MADtv and Chappelle's Show. This is even lampshaded in the latest Dave Chappelle special, when he notes how mad he gets "watching Key and Peele doing my show."
- Spooky Photographs: Continental Breakfast Buffet, 1935.
- Stepford Snarker: Peele plays one in a sketch and gets majorly dismantled by Key's character, right down to his true pitiful, sorry self.
- Straight Gay: Peele's character in contrast to Key's Camp Gay character in "Office Homophobe." The realization of this for the latter has this last line:"I'm not persecuted, I'm just an asshole."
- 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.
- Subverted Punchline: From the sketch "Continental Breakfast":"And who are you, my little friend? Not a spoon, not a fork, but something in between...a fpoon!"
- Surprise Creepy:
- Take That!:
- This Loser Is You: The Wendell sketches.
- Toilet Humor: "Where My Dookie Go":
- Token White: Always the Odd Name Out at the end of the various East-West Bowl sketches.
- 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
- Unfortunate Names: The popular "football names" video parodies increasingly complex African American names.
- Unusually Uninteresting Sight: Freddie Wong's appearance in "Roommate Meeting". Warning: Nightmare Fuel involved.
- Vulgar Humor: Desperately lacking, according to Vandaveon and Mike — not a single sketch has ever had enough penis jokes to satisfy them.
- Wag the Director: 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: Since both leads are biracial, this winds up being a central element in several sketches:
- In the "Dating a Biracial Man" sketch, Key plays a biracial man whose (white) date expects him to be able to use his white personanote and black personanote on cue depending on the situation. The sketch ends with him being very confused in terms of which persona he should use. He doesn't, however, ever question her right to demand this of him.
- In the "Soul Food" sketch, the duo has returned to the neighborhood in which they grew up and is ordering lunch at a soul food restaurant. They are drawn into a game of oneupsmanship to see who can make the "blackest" lunch 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 their street 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 (that is, "T.J. A.J. R.J. Backslashinfourth the fifth"). Four generations decided to name their kid T.J. A.J. R.J.
- Word Salad Lyrics: The lead singers of It's Happenin'! (an expy of Parliament Funkadelic) continue to make up lyrics about trains and outer space. The rest of the band just goes with it.
- Wouldn't Hurt a Child: Exploited by a character in the "Fighting a Dad" sketch. After finding out that a guy he bumped into won't fight him because he's carrying a baby, he takes other babies and wears them as armor.
- Write What You Know: Parodied in the "Stan Lee's Superhero Pitch" sketch, where Lee creates a bunch of characters based on the trials and experiences he faces as an old man. When the writers at Marvel tell him that his ideas are unusable, he comes up with a new idea: a team of people cursed to be forever unemployable due to biting the hand that fed them, which is met with thunderous applause.
- You Just Told Me: In "Rap Album Confessions", Gun Rack denies murdering Darnell Simmons when his mixtape states otherwise.
- Your Mom: In the "Yo' Mama Has Health Problems" sketch, a kid, played by Peele, won't stop making these jokes when the Indian doctor, played by Key, is trying to tell the former that his mother's medical condition is terrible. After the doctor rebukes him, the kid sincerely apologizes, admitting he was using humor to deal with the pain. At the end, the doctor himself makes this joke, 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.