Key & Peele is a Peabody Award winning sketch comedy show starring Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peele from the FOX sketch show MADtv (1995). The show was the first production of Peele's newly founded production company Monkeypaw Productions, and 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.
Following the completion of the series, the pair produced the film Keanu together in 2016, which is usually considered an expansion of the themes present within the show.
Key & Peele provides examples of:
- Accent Relapse: The two slaves in the Confederate reenactment sketch, played by Key and Peele, drop their ridiculous Southern accents and speak in their normal American accents as they rob the reenactors at gunpoint after the lead actor almost drops an N-bomb.
- 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.
- Actor Allusion:
- During Liam Neeson's guest appearance, the valets go into such a huge fangasm that they explode — then reappear as Force ghosts.
- The referee in "Rap Battle Hype Man" is certainly qualified for it, being a veteran of sorts.
- 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:
- Nazi colonel Hans Muller in "Das Negros". Despite being on the lookout for Jews and negros, he is shown to be polite.
- The black and Hispanic Gangbangers that appear regularly on the show are mostly goofy and personable.
- The two robbers who hold up and rob the Confederate reenactors speak to their victims cordially and don't even do anything violent.
- Alien Blood: The aliens in "Alien Imposters" have green blood.
- All Women Are Lustful: They still go for Tha Incredible Mack, despite the fact that he got shot in the dick.
- 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" Stereotype:
- Luther, Barack Obama's anger translator.
- Ironically, the Black Republicans behave more like this. Possibly on purpose.
- Aren't You Going to Ravish Me?: Non-sexual example in the "Auction Block" sketch, where two slaves at an auction become increasingly offended that the slavers aren't bidding on them, taking it as a personal affront, despite initially claiming that they didn't want to be owned by another person.
- 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.
- As Himself: Liam Neeson appears in a sketch to promote Non-Stop with the valets.
- Ascended Meme: Luther finally gets to translate for the real President Obama.
- Attractive Bent-Gender: In a meta-example, a suspiciously high number of comments on the YouTube video of the "Meegan, Come Back" sketch are about how well Peele plays a woman.
- Ax-Crazy: The fighter in this skit, who crosses over with Soft-Spoken Sadist.
- The "Bros Do It Together" sketch has two sweaty topless guys facing each other as they gyrate their hips, with one of them trying to avoid eye contact. The sketch ends with the reveal that they were trying to break a hula hoop record.
- 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.
- "Movie Hecklers" has Key as a guy in a movie theater who continually talks to the screen, saying things like "C'mon, man, what you doin', man, that's stupid," and getting louder and more obnoxious, to the annoyance of a guy and his girlfriend two rows ahead, who think he's just some loudmouthed idiot. Then Key says "Do not go into a crane shot right now!" and is joined by Peele, who calls out "This movie's got a [sic] inconsistent visual language!" The guy decides that they're actually making some good points, although when he tries to join in their cinematically erudite heckling, they're not happy about it.
- Bald of Evil: The majority of the Neo-Nazi prisoners in the "Bald Brotherhood" sketch, to the point that a rather dimwitted, bald black prisoner thinks they are a gang united around being bald. This gets him beat up by them repeatedly.
- Balkan Bastard: Played with: the dueling Albanian and Macedonian cafe owners are trying to be good businessmen, but their old ethnic animosity has combined with their adjacent location and tendency to be confused for the other to make them both unreasonably defensive about the superiority of their own cuisine.
- Be Careful What You Wish For: In one sketch, Peele plays a prisoner guarded by an incredibly gullible and slow-witted guard. When the prisoner tells him to let him out of the cell, the dimwit promptly complies (repeatedly). Alas the guard's colleagues aren't nearly as dumb and the prisoner is quickly re-captured each time. In fact, the guard even tries to help the prisoner escape a few times, but pulls the alarm — not because he's trying to sabotage the escape, but because he's just that stupid. Soon, the prisoner stops seeing these as opportunities but instead as tedious exercises in futility.
- Berserk Button:
- It's not a good idea to mention the Albanian Cafe across the street to the owner of the Macedonian Cafe and you certainly shouldn't imply the Albanian kebapi is superior.
- In "Don't Press the Walk Button", Key's character becomes increasingly annoyed when Peele's character wonders if he really pressed the crosswalk button.
- Don't hate on the Hathaways. Or the Bullocksies.
- 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" when Carlos believes that "Claire" was shot and killed. In reality, Wendell lied so he could get out of the awkward situation he put himself into when Carlos tried to ask "Claire" out on a date: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 lets 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, as several of their skits references and/or parodies TV shows, movies, etc. They also established their nerd credentials early in their careers, when they made an extended cameo in Weird Al's "White and Nerdy" video.
- Wendell. His sketches are full of pop culture references.
- 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 is 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, much to the duo's indignation:"What was that? They seriously wouldn't let her eat us?"
- Black Republican: A running sketch deals with Black Republicans. They are portrayed as having zero individuality and looking and dressing similar: they all start their speeches by announcing to the others that they're some variation on very angry because of the way black Republicans are depicted as being all the same, and then they all introduce another of their members as someone who's got some out-of-the-box or iconoclastic opinions but who's worth hearing, whereupon the next guy gets up and makes exactly the same type of speech, and introduces another guest speaker in exactly the same way. And they all have wives who are white.
- Bling of War: Invoked. Luther has several chunky rings on both hands so you know he means business.
- Boom, Headshot!: At the end of "Alien Impostors" when Key's character intentionally kills a human after he's given the keys to the latter's Lexus.
- Borrowed Catchphrase: Liam Neeson does this after he meets the valets to promote Non-Stop:Valets: LIAM NEESONS IN NON-STOP IS...
Liam Neeson: MYY SHIIIIIIIIT (valets explode)
- Brains Versus Brawn: In the "Super Bowl 2015" skit, Key and Peele play two sportscasters who invites a third white sportscaster to give his analysis on the upcoming Super Bowl match up between the New England Patriots and the Seattle Seahawks. It becomes quickly apparent, however, that this sportscaster is constantly describing white athletes as hard-working, analytical, cerebral, and intelligent and black athletes as strong, freaks of nature, and potentially magical. When Key and Peele's characters ask him to describe then Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson, who is of mixed ancestry, he says "hybrid."
- Bread, Eggs, Breaded Eggs: One sketch is about Key's character ending up boarding a plane last, as Peele's character, who is the flight announcer, delays him by going through with every possible combination of old folks, folks in wheelchairs, small children, religious people, military personnel, etc.:"Old religious folks with small military children."
- Breakout Character: Luther has proven to be so popular that he's been briefly revived on Key's talk show guest appearances and even his NFL Honors hosting stint. Oh, and that White House correspondents' dinner alongside the real Barack Obama.
- 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:Peele: Is this the place?Key: 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. To hear him tell it, he's afraid that introspection might make him dredge up even more morbid, deep-seated emotional problems.
- Obama and Luther have Negraph.
- In the 2013 East/West 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.
- Several football-related sketches, such as "McCringleberry's Excessive Celebration", reuse some of the more ridiculous names from the "East/West Bowl" sketches, with some lines making it clear they are the same characters who have gone pro.
- 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.
- Rashida Jones is the titular spouse in "Lying to Your Dying Wife".
- 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 Green Falcon notes, despite Key's character being an extremely stereotypical Magical Native American, he's still referred to "Yellow Falcon", while the Asian woman in the group is "Purple Falcon"; only Green Falcon himself is condescendingly referred to as "Black Falcon" by the others.
- Wendell, the lonely nerd constantly lying about having more of a social life, has a tendency to clarify that he has done certain things... "...sexually".
- Meegan, when she's playing the victim: "Omigawwwd.... who DOES that???"
- The two movie fanboy parking valets' hype for their favorite films and actors inevitably culminates in "[Name/Title] IS MYYYYYYYYYYY! SHIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIT!!!"
- Chekhov's Gun: The bucket Peele's character is holding in the Confederate Reenactment sketch is hiding two guns that he and Key's character use to rob the actors.
- Chew-Out Fake-Out: Exaggerated in the "Gideon's Kitchen" sketch, a parody of Gordon Ramsey's Hell's Kitchen, has the titular host rapidly switch between insulting and praising his contestant's dish, much to the latter's confusion. Gideon goes back and forth multiple times, which culminates in him murdering the chef while praising his dish.Gideon: Unbelievable. Well Drew, I have a huge problem with this dish.
Gideon: It's that you haven't made it for me sooner.
Drew: Thank you Chef.
Gideon: Because if you had, Drew, then I'd know how good you are at making food... that's bad.
Drew: I'm sorry, Chef.
Gideon: And when I say "bad", I mean "Michael Jackson bad".
Drew: Thank you Chef.
Gideon: You know how he looked really, really bad at the end of his life?
Drew: Chef... I'm sorry, I don't know if you like the dish or not.
Gideon: You don't know if I liked the dish or not? Well let's put it this way, pack your fucking knives, get out, you're off the show.
Drew: Sorry, Chef.
Gideon: Because... you should be working in the finest restaurant in the world.
Drew: Thank you Chef.
Gideon: Just not any world that I live in.
- 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.
- Andre. When he's not getting beaten up or menaced by guys Meegan pisses off, she's manipulating and emotionally abusing him.
- Children Are Innocent: In the "White Zombies" sketch, the only zombie who actually tries to attack the duo is a little girl, but her parents pull her away.
- Cloudcuckoolander's Minder: Samuel to LaShawn, as the former has to constantly deal with the latter's lunacy.
- Creepy Gym Coach: Sensei Doug Duggart is a non-pedophile martial arts version. He runs a Brazilian Jiu Jutsu dojo made up near-exclusively of blonde white women (and The One Guy), who he suggestively tackles and grapples with and gives "hands-on training" (except The One Guy, who he tries to interact with as little as possible).Doug: Special discounts for college students.
- The Comically Serious: Legataux in "Les Mis", as he becomes annoyed when everybody interrupts him while he's trying to speak.
- 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 Is Cool: Invoked, 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..."
- The "Baby Forest Whitaker" sketch pretty much hits the nail on the head.
- Liam, the terminally ill child who says a lot of creepy things:
- Cursed with Awesome: The world is being attacked by a Zombie Apocalypse in "White Zombies", but the zombies are racist. The duo are miffed at first, but then get invited to a party where everyone is happy that they're not being attacked.
- Demonic Dummy: Although "Little Homie" is technically a Perverse Puppet, he fits many of the criteria: a propensity for violence and manipulative behavior, appealing to the darker side of others, and autonomy over his master.
- Denser and Wackier:
- Parodied in "OutKast Reunion", where André 3000's increasingly over-the-top eccentricity is beginning to drive the quiet, average Big Boi up the wall.
- How exactly did Gremlins 2: The New Batch turn from silly and outlandish to an outright live-action cartoon? Star Magic Jackson Jr., that's how.
- Department of Redundancy Department: The song in "LMFAO's Non-Stop Party" includes lyrics like "Tonight we gonna party till the party don't stop/And the party don't stop because it keeps on going".
- Destination Defenestration: One sketch has Peele portraying a husband who finds his wife Ready for Lovemaking, asking him to request his "deepest desires". He starts talking about calling her friend Erica...
- Downer Ending: In the fourth "Substitute Teacher" sketch , a math teacher named Mr. Williams has to deal with a rowdy student named Jimmy. The sketch ends with Mr. Williams losing his job when he goes insane, while Jimmy gets everything he ever wanted.
- 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. An outraged audience member even brains him with a liquor bottle, which the crowd applauds.
- The Ending Changes Everything: Can sometimes lead to Surprise Creepy.
- Enemy Mine: Between the Aryan Brotherhood and the non-white prisoners in the "Bald Brotherhood" skit, after both groups bond over beating up Lewis.
- 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.
- Everything Is Racist: In "Office Homophobe", 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.
- Fat Bastard: Wendell Sanders is considerably fat, trying to scam Skymall customer service into refunding his Fortress of Solitude bed that "arrived broken", and ordering multiple pizzas in one night that he tries to pass off as for a party. Part of the reason the "Wings of Power" music video budget runs out so quickly is because he needs to hire a stunt double to ride his horse in long shots, since he's incapable of even mounting it.
- Foregone Conclusion: Possibly. One of the earliest Meegan and Andre sketches, "Meegan Your Jacket", 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".
- Forced Transformation: Mr. Mahina was turned into a mop creature by a witch. He's not happy about it.
- Foreign Cuss Word: In the "Macedonian Cafe" sketch, the owner of the eponymous place pulls it off twice.
- Framing Device: The first three seasons featured Key and Peele setting up the sketches in front of a live audience. Seasons 4 and 5 drop this and instead use scenes of Key and Peele taking an extended road trip through the desert, which ends up in the series finale as a Call-Back to the first episode's "I Said Bitch" sketch.
- Freeze-Frame Bonus: In the "Inner-City Wizarding School" sketch, there are a whole bunch of made-up wizarding school names in a list, many of which can be read by pausing the video.
- 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?
- Funny Background Event: Of a sort, more like background commentary. During the McCringleberry skits, the sportscasters make some bizarre asides as we watch the antics on the gridiron: one even nostalgically talks about vacationing with his family in Bogata and being kidnapped and tortured by a cartel.
- Gangbangers: One sketch is about a Hispanic gang in a secret meeting — which comes after a bit where Key's character 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.
- Genre Savvy: In "Is This Country Song Racist", after Key's character has sung two outrageously racist songs, he promises repeatedly that the third song will be completely non-racist and impossible to misinterpret as such. This is Peele's character's response:"It seems like you're about to sing the most racist song so far."
- 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. Garvey: 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. Garvey: 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"?
Aaron: ...Because it's pronounced "Aaron"?
Mr. Garvey: SON OF A 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. Garvey: O-SHAG-HENNESEY!
Aaron: ...Principal O'Shaughnessy?
Mr. Garvey: GET OUTTA MY GODDAMN 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 "Shot in the Dick" music video by Tha Incredible Mack.
- The sketch where a news reporter (Key) gets attacked by a dog.
- The vast majority of "Dicknanigans" features Key and Peele's characters doing this to each other.
- 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: In "Filling Jimenez's Shoes", Detective Hobbs has a very hard time accepting his new partner, Joshua Taye.
- Have I Mentioned I Am Heterosexual Today?: "Secret Emotions" features an R&B duo singing. During the performance, it becomes abundantly clear that one of the members is in love with his partner. It ends with him awkwardly doing this after he reveals his feelings.I've never liked a man in my life before
And I don't like one now...
- Have I Mentioned I Am Sexually Active Today?: "Sex Addict Wendell" has Wendell attending a sex addicts support group.
- Headphones Equal Isolation: "LaShawn's Insurance Plan" ends with Samuel resorting to this in order to drown out LaShawn's lunacy.
- Heel Realization: "Oooooooh, I get it... I'm not persecuted, I'm just an asshole."
- Henpecked Husband: In "I Said Bitch", two husbands brag about the times they called their wives bitches whenever they're being unreasonable...after making sure that their wives are nowhere within earshot. They both get so paranoid that they take the conversation into outer space.
- High School AU: 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 Badass Upgrade: Played for Laughs with the Harriet Tubman sketch. The real Tubman suffered lifelong fainting spells due to head injuries — the one here is not only in perfect shape, but able to flee the South using Le Parkour!
- 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.
- 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.
- In the "Bagels are for Sales Associates Only" sketch, Ron is ordered by his boss (Rob Riggle) to make sure only sales associates take in free bagels. However, as Ron interferes with a janitor who tries to eat/steal a bagel, his boss complains to Ron for being too loud!
- In Andre and Meegan's final sketch, he tries to break up with her... and she ends up confusing him into taking it back by accusing him of being a manipulative and controlling snake.
- In the "Offensive Boss" sketch, the black man, woman, and gay man get offended by several things their boss says that they interpret as being attacks against their groups. But when he starts reading his dinner speech that he asked them to help with, they find it hilarious when he starts off with a joke about "a Chinaman, a Polack, and an Arab".
- Hypocritical Humor: Purple Falcon and Yellow Falcon are Asian and Native American, respectively, yet have no issue referring to the African American Green Falcon by the racially insensitive name "Black Falcon". When he turns the tables on them, that's when they find it racist.
- I Am Not Spock:
- Inverted by the valets, who do this sort of thing constantly, whether referring to the Joker as "Heath Ledgers" and the Penguin as "Danny DeVitos", or talking about "Liam Neesons" as if he himself is the main character of Taken.
- Played for drama in "Family Matters". Jaleel White has gone so mad with power that he now refers to himself solely as "Steve", and calls Reginald VelJohnson "Carl (Winslow)" in a sadistic, dehumanizing fashion, letting him know that he can't escape.
- I'm a Humanitarian: The "Soul Food" sketch ends with one of them ordering a human foot.
- Ignored Epiphany:
- When Mr. T is lecturing some kids about not making fun of a person's appearance, he never fails to overlook a more pressing issue that was brought up, such as racism or buying drugs.
- In "Wendell's Broken Superman Bed", Wendell yells at his Stimpy plush (which he's pretending to customer support is his son "Stimpy" that he ordered the Superman bed for) that he's throwing away all the figurines his "son" owns because they're not real people and he needs to stop being so lonely, clearly talking about himself. He seems shaken until the customer support, still on the phone, gently suggests that his son should talk to someone...and then Wendell throws the plush out the window and tells the customer support that "Stimpy" killed himself and he needs the new Superman bed order to remember him by.
- Inelegant Blubbering: Carvel in "Trying Not to Laugh When Your Friend is Crying" does this after he's learned that his childhood friend's body has been pulled out of the river, which makes Key's fellow gangster want to laugh, which he attempts to deal with by warning the other gang members not to laugh. It doesn't help that Carvel has a huge lisp.Carvel: [lower lip wobbling] Twig and I would thpend the good part of a afternoon tryna figure out which C-Care Bear we wath.Key: [chuckles, shaking his head, threateningly] Ohhh, ho, I wish one a y'all motherf***s would just start laughin' cause y'all know you think this s***'s funny, Carvel over here, blubberin' and talkin' about Care Bears! But you know what?! [pause, almost loses it] But you... [corpsing silently] Those are manly tears! Okay? Those some manly-ass tears right now that you lookin' at! Go ahead, Carvel.Carvel: And then [hic], and then [hic], and then [hic], and then [hic], and then...[breaks down into hiccups and sobs uncontrollably in a weird ululating way]Key: [squeaks with suppressed laughter] I'm sorry, man, that was a weird-ass sneeze I just did right there, goddammit, can a brother get some ***in' Clarityn in here?
- Eventually Key just bursts out laughing, whereupon Carvel shoots him dead. There's a pause, then:Carvel: [sniff] ... A'ight. Let's go thell thome crack. [The others all get up and leave]
- Eventually Key just bursts out laughing, whereupon Carvel shoots him dead. There's a pause, then:
- 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...
- Jekyll & Hyde: The plot twist of "Ultimate Cockblocker".
- Meegan. Passive-Aggressive Kombat is her at her nicest.
- Adversity Johnson, who follows basketball player Charlie Sanders around to slap him, drink all his water, etc. Sanders claims Adversity "doesn't pick up social cues," but Adversity says he "just like[s] f***ing with [Sanders]."
- Karma Houdini: Jimmy the disruptive kid. Not only does he manage 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.
- Killed Mid-Sentence: In the "Pirate Chantey" sketch, one pirate gets shot in the head as soon as he starts singing about objectifying women. (To be fair, his song did start "There was a slut with tits to here / And an ass that—" [boom])
- Large Ham:
- 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 substitute teacher Mr. Garvey, who becomes angry whenever he thinks the students are messing with him.
- The two valets who are always fanboying over media topics such as 'Liam Neesons'.
- Adversity Johnson is loud and hyper just for the sake of being obnoxious.
- Latex Perfection: "Cunnilingus Class" is about two women impersonating Key and Peele's characters this way to lecture men on proper cunnilingus.
- Line-of-Sight Alias: In one sketch, a potentially-pardoned prisoner answers all the detective's questions based on what's in the room. Badly. "His name was Baldy Tallman Coffee Coup!" At the end, it turns out that many of the detective's responses, like "I'm getting too old for this," were actually on the posters behind the convict's side of the room.
- 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:
- "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:"Who you callin' 'negro', bitch?"
- "Auction Block" focuses on a old-timey slave auction where one of the slaves claims that he knows magic.
- "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:
- 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>
- Mistaken for Gay: In the "Town Hall Audience Member" sketch, everytime Congressman Paul Brooks (Key) talks about gay people, the camera immediately focuses on Peele's character, who try as he might, tries to quietly point out to the camera he's not gay. By the end of the sketch, the Congressman tells the audience to look at your fellow gay person, leading to everyone in the Town Hall looking at Peele's character.
- Mondegreen Gag: The punchline of "Black Ice". It sounds a lot like "black guys".
- Mood Whiplash:
- The punchline of "Negrotown."
- Da Struggle's introspective and morose rhymes of the black struggle are jarringly juxtaposed with Bling Benzy's loud, crass, violent, oversexed and offensive clowning.
- Morton's Fork: The insult comic in Insult Comic finds himself in this situation; exclude an eager, yet deformed audience member from his act because of his condition at the risk of enraging his audience, or insult someone with severe deformities.
- Motor Mouth: The "East/West Bowl Rap" shows that Dan Smith is actually the fastest rapper out of both teams. While most of the other players' verses are simply saying their own names, Smith has fast and verbose Boastful Rap.
- Shaboots and T-Ray in "Cunnilingus Class" have hilariously sped-up delivery.
- 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.
- Must Be Invited: The twist ending to a sketch with two Jamaican ladies. Peele's character just dropped by the other but is too polite to come in, despite Key's character saying it's okay, leading her to formally invite her friend in. Turns out the friend was a vampire, who wasn't being polite but just needed to hear those exact words to come in and suck out her victim's blood.
- My God, What Have I Done?: About telling off someone at a dance circle, no less.
- 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).
- Neck Snap: Parodied mercilessly in the "Strike Force Eagle 3: The Reckoning" sketch.
- Negative Continuity: Between "Retired Military Specialist" and the second sketch starring Decker. The first sketch ends with Decker being denied the mission, shot in his gut and both shoulders and implied to have been killed with one final shot in the head. In the second, not only has Decker been recruited for the mission, he's totally fine.
- Never Mess with Granny: Esther and Georgina, two church ladies who take on the devil.
- No Indoor Voice:
- Luther. This is justified since he's Obama's anger translator.
- The valets do this every time they talk about movies.
- 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.
- Obvious Stunt Double: Invoked for laughs: the hero riding in "The Power of Wings" video is obviously not Wendell, who is shown to be too obese and clumsy to even mount the horse.
- 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. The same gag returns at the end of the sequel, where the last player is another Token White from Morehouse College (a historically-black college) named A.A. Ron Balakay.
- Off-the-Shelf FX: The Power Falcons sketch uses repainted Quinjet toys from the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
- 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).
- One Dialogue, Two Conversations: In "Driver Conversation", a businessman jokingly tells his chauffeur, who he believes isn't paying attention, that he is going to do a lot of terrible things during his presentation. When the businessman arrives at his destination, the chauffeur, without a hint of irony, suggests that he should use a serrated blade to cut his victims' faces off. It is then revealed that the chauffeur is actually a Nazi.
- The Oner:
- The Tea Party "Chosen One" sketch.
- The "How Not to Remember Where You Parked Your Car" sketch appears to be an unbroken two-minute shot.
- Or Was It a Dream?: In-Universe use of the trope — in "East/West Bowl Rap Showdown", the eastern team's rap video opens with Leoz Maxwell Jilliumz asleep on a bench and dreaming of the team dancing around and rapping as a framing device. At the end, he wakes up and mutters that it was All Just a Dream... before noticing he still has glitter in his hair, giving the obligatory "or was it?".
- Our Zombies Are Different:
- In "White Zombies", they're racist.
- Subverted in "Zombie Attack". Key's character thinks racoon bites turn people into zombies. They don't.
- Overcomplicated Menu Order: In the "Outkast Reunion" sketch, André 3000 (as portrayed by Key) orders a half-caf half-decaf mint mocha latte with green food coloring, foam on the bottom, served in a flower vase.
- 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 entire point of the "East/West Bowl" skits as almost all the names for the players venture into this territory.
- Overly-Nervous Flop Sweat: The "Clear History" sketch. It's taken up to eleven, of course.
- Paper-Thin Disguise:
- In "Das Negros", Key and Peele plays as two World War II African American pilots who hide in a town occupied by the Nazis by using whiteface. Despite how obvious it is to the audience, the disguise works as the Gestapo agent searching for them is fooled and believes they are white Germans.
- One Save the Children ad has the host (Peele) ask the audience to buy fake beards for African kids so they won't be kidnapped and forced to become child soldiers. And despite how silly it sounds, the disguises work when a warlord (Key) and his militia try to find more children to kidnap and become child soldiers but only found "old people" instead, a.k.a. the children wearing fake beards.
- 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.
- The Pirates Who Don't Do Anything: This is Carlito's problem in "Loco Gangsters". Fellow gang member Eduardo gets admitted to the gang because he does things that are legitimately loco, like break a bottle against his own forehead. Carlito's idea of being loco is to imitate a duck, or drop his shorts to his ankles. When he does attempt to break a bottle against his own head, it doesn't break; it just really hurts his head. When he uses a staple gun on his own hand, Key's character informs that that was loco, "but not in an entertaining way."Key: This is like watching the British version of The Office. Like, it's funny, but awkward, and sad at the same time.
- Averted when Carlito plays with a gun and drops it on the floor, whereupon it goes off and shoots Eduardo in the head, whereupon an exasperated Key informs him that, yes, he is, "by process of elimination", the most loco guy in the gang. Cue tiny Fist Pump from Carlito—whereupon Eduardo leaps to his feet and reveals that he caught the bullet in his teeth. The others immediately declare that to be the most loco thing they've ever seen.
- Pluralses: The two movie-loving valets refer to actors such as "Liam Neesons", "Annie Hathaways", and "racist ass Melly Gibsons". They also have an entire sketch about how "you don't mess with the Batmans".
- 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 Overcorrectness:
- Mocked in "Offensive Boss", where a company's vice president calls a gay man, a woman, and a black man 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. Mind you, this is all before he even gets to start his speech. When he finally does:Vice president: Okay, here goes. 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 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 company's vice president calls a gay man, a woman, and a black man 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. Mind you, this is all before he even gets to start his speech. When he finally does:
- Politically Correct Villain: "Pirate Chantey" features a crew of pirates holding some rather enlightened ideas... Because their captain will shoot anyone who sings sexist songs.
- 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.
- Pragmatic Hero: Played for Laughs with Otis Carmichael, an incredibly important actor and civil rights leader who spent the first part of his career playing grotesque racial stereotypes.
- Pretentious Pronunciation: 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 like Ghetto 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".
- 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:
- Pulling Your Child Away: In the sketch What Happens When Zombies Are Racist, the child zombie attempts to eat the two men, but are quickly pulled away by the parent zombies.
- 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!!!
- 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.
- Realistic Diction Is Unrealistic: "Everyone gets their turn" is 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.
- 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 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 University,note Fudge, Firstname Lastname, Benedict Cumberbatch, Jammie Jammie-Jammie, A.A. Ron Balakay...
- Racist zombies.
- Just the punchline to this one.
- "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.
- The "Aerobics Meltdown" sketch does everything it can to imitate the look and feel of the '80s, specifically the Crystal Light National Aerobics Championship broadcasts.
- "Strike Force Eagle 3: The Reckoning".
- Reverse Psychology: How Obama deals with Republicans that always disagreed with his proposals.
- Rich in Dollars, Poor in Sense:
- Peele as Jaden Smith asks his agent in one sketch to try to get him a part that's not science-fiction, wanting to play a normal, down-to-earth role; the agent, in turn, offers him the lead in Street Ball, a drama about a poor kid who has to choose between pursuing his dreams as a basketball player or quitting to support his single working mother instead. To Jaden, the concepts of houses ("tiny mansions"), supermarkets ("mansions full of food" where "the butlers go"), working ("like [what] a maid [does]"), the outside, and being denied things are also sci-fi.Jaden: [uncomprehending] Choooooose...
Agent: Yeah, "choose" is when you have to make a decision between two things you want, but you can have only one.
Jaden: But... there's two?
- Wendell has $15,000 to spend on "Power of Wings" but, instead of sensibly spreading out his budget to complete his project, blows it on expensive aerial shots and special effects and gets hosed by an actress who appears on screen for all of ten seconds.
- Peele as Jaden Smith asks his agent in one sketch to try to get him a part that's not science-fiction, wanting to play a normal, down-to-earth role; the agent, in turn, offers him the lead in Street Ball, a drama about a poor kid who has to choose between pursuing his dreams as a basketball player or quitting to support his single working mother instead. To Jaden, the concepts of houses ("tiny mansions"), supermarkets ("mansions full of food" where "the butlers go"), working ("like [what] a maid [does]"), the outside, and being denied things are also sci-fi.
- 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.
- Running Gag: Anytime one or more fictional sports teams appear, expect one of them to be named the Rhinos, usually the one that is being focused on.
- Scary Black Man: When Key is on the phone and Peele walks past on his phone, speaking in a very tough gangster voice. Key deepens his voice in order to not come across as a pushover, then when Key is out of earshot, Peele's voice goes up an octave as he says, "Oh, my god! I almost got mugged!"
- Schmuck Bait: The "god drug" in the "Scariest Movie Ever" episode. Even though the dealer only lists all the horrible side effects, Key's character tries it anyway, convinced that the high you get from it must be amazing if the users are willing to go through all of that for it.
- 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.
- Sesquipedalian Loquaciousness:
"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."
- The gang leader in the Latino gang sketches has a surprisingly adept vocabulary in "Loco Gangsters":
- While trying (and failing) to get the rapper Young Bidness to listen to him again after accidentally angering him in "The Morty Jebsen Show Goes Off the Rails", Mort the talk show host at one point tries calling him "Youthful Commerce".
- Mr. Garvey from the "Substitute Teacher" skits sometimes goes from cursing "disrespectful" students out to berating them for being such things as "insubordinate and churlish" or "chicanerous and deplorable". Overlaps with Sophisticated as Hell.
- 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 is named after The Keymaster in the original Ghostbusters.
- 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.
- 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.
- There is no Jaleel... only STEVE!". Later, when the actor playing Carl tries to shoot him, he says: "Yippie-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 too. In the "Family Matters" sketch, "Steve Urkel" at one point says: "
- The Michael Jackson sketch blends several of the late artist's signature songs: "Thriller", "Smooth Criminal", "Bad", and "Black or White". However, Noah runs them all together in a mishmash.
- Star Magic Jackson Jr. in "Gremlins 2 Brainstorm" is essentially Hollywood Montrose, gaudy elaborate sunglasses included.
- In "Fighting Meegan's Battles", an angry Meegan tells the bouncer who prevents her and Andre from entering a club that he looks like Common meets The Incredible Hulk and asks him what it's like to have bees coming out of his mouth (in reference to Tony Todd being a very tall man).
- 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.
- Slave Market: The "Auction Block" sketch is about two slaves in a slave auction complaining that no one is bidding on them.
- 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.
- Southern Belle: Hillary Clinton's Anger Translator Savannah is this. She is hyperactive, with the pronounced twang, and very bold makeup with double lashes!
- 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 quinceañera! Yeah, shot up everybody— dead, killed! Yeah! Yeah! Then I got sucked into a wormhole.
- Special Effect Failure: Invoked for laughs in the "Power of Wings" video. As Wendell's budget starts to get low, the effects and production values start to get hilariously cheap.
- Spiritual Successor: To MADtv (1995) and Chappelle's Show. This is even lampshaded in a Dave Chappelle special, when he notes how mad he gets "watching Key and Peele doing my show."
- Spooky Photographs: Continental Breakfast Buffet, 1935.
- Spotlight Stealing Character: Parodied in "Family Matters," where an angry Reginald VelJohnson complains to the producer about Steve Urkel's increasing presence in his show:Reginald VelJohnson: In a couple of weeks, Harriette, Eddie, Laura, Grandma, Aunt Rachel, Little Richie, and the other little kid are gonna get teleported to another dimension! And then Steve injects Carl with his own DNA, so Carl turns into another Steve Urkel! That's two Steve Urkels and no family ON A SHOW CALLED FAMILY MATTERS!
- Steampunk: Peele gets into the style in When Your Friend Goes Steampunk. He describes it as "Jules Verne and shit".
- Stepford Snarker: Peele plays one in "That One Friend Who Makes Everything Awkward" and gets majorly dismantled by Key's character, right down to his true pitiful, sorry self — turns out he passive-aggressively snarks at everyone who expresses an unpopular opinion without ever being more direct because he's embarrassed that he doesn't have any strong opinions, himself, and just follows the herd.
- The Stoner: Levi, from such sketches as "Where My Dookie Go" and "Lightning in a Bottle". He swings back and forth between being an Erudite Stoner and just being sort of an airhead, to the chagrin of his buddy Cedric.Levi: I am a-leg-ted to marijuana...
- 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:Latrell: Ohhhh, I get it... I'm not persecuted, I'm just an asshole.
- Samuel, Camp Gay LaShawn's husband, who also plays the Straight Man (ha-ha) to LaShawn's Cloud Cuckoolander.
- 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:
- Stupid Evil: Exaggerated in the "Pawn Shop" episode. For starters, the guy claims to be Christmas shopping in April.
- 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.
- Wendell`s "The Power of Wings" music video goes from an epic-looking tale of swords and sorcery to a cheap-looking backyard piece with no cast, crudely-made props, shoddy picture quality and rough sound. Even the plot gets worse, going from just being minimalist and familiar to downright cliche (the masked warlock that Wendell fights is revealed to be his doppelganger).
- Sub-Par Supremacist: While the show doesn't sugarcoat the level of power racists have over non-white communities, the supremacists are usually depicted as idiotic or oblivious to their own bigotry.
- 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!"
- Suddenly Obvious Fakery: In one sketch, several friends having a party panic when they see what appears to be an incoming drive-by, when it's really an acquaintance pulling a prank. When Peele's character first shows up, he's in a black jacket and fancy car and drawing a pistol, but when his prank is revealed, the jacket is now made out of a garbage bag, the pistol is made of licorice, and the car is just one painted wood panel.
- Super Gullible: An segment of the "Severed Head Showcase" episode had an prison guard at the Bloomsville State Penitentiary that the prisoner tried playing mind-games on and consistently fail at lives being this when the prison guard's acts of gullibility would later reach into the Too Dumb to Live territory when it shows that 2 years later, he becomes a Cloudcuckoolander-like Spanner in the Works for the other prisoner's comical but ill-fated defeat.
- Surprisingly Creepy Moment: A notable number of skits racket up the absurdity before the punchline takes it to some kind of horror:
- The end of "Damn, Check That Shit Out" is a good example — the very last moments of a skit about two goofy guys ogling a woman at the park involve the guy who seemed not to be getting the other guy's sexual comments suddenly gaining The Voice Of The Legion and Hellish Pupils as he thanks the other guy for explaining to him what a vagina is right before disappearing into thin air, leaving the other guy to freeze up before running off trying to process that he just talked to an undercover alien.
- "Ultimate Cockblocker" is probably one of the most notorious examples of this — it's goofy enough at first as Key's character can't understand how Peele's character always seems to be able to get to women he finds attractive within seconds of him expressing that he finds them attractive, and it's just wacky at first when this ends up extending to a reporter Key's character sees on TV and a stick doodle he draws of a woman... but then Key's character hugs his wife when she comes home, and catches a glimpse of what the reflection of that looks like...
- Surprisingly Realistic Outcome: The "Negrotown" sketch. It's actually Played for Drama.
- Take Care of the Kids: Rashida Jones in "Lying to Your Dying Wife" plays a terminally ill wife in hospital, whose list of things she makes Peele promise to do includes this—and also sliiiiightly less reasonable things, such as that he'll never sleep with another woman, he won't look at porn and that he will never, ever think of someone else while masturbating. Peele's increasingly absurd attempts to get out of promising to do these things irritate Rashida considerably. When she asks him to promise to go and see her mom every day, he shouts "NURSE! FIX MY WIFE!" and bursts into tears.
- Take That!:
- To dubstep.
- "Loco Gangsters" has a jab to the British version of The Office, where the gang leader mentions that the show is funny, but "awkward and sad at the same time."
- In the "Family Matters" sketch, Reginald VelJohnson rants about how the increased focus on Steve Urkel and his transformation machine has turned a blue-collar show into "goddamn Quantum Leap".
- Teeny Weenie: In one sketch where a teenaged Peele is about to get laid, but is worried that his white girlfriend would be put off when she sees his biracial-ness caused him to have a white dick. The day after, he complains that his girlfriend was also biracial and has a black vagina.
- There Can Be Only One: In "A Capella," Troy makes it clear to Mark that there is only room for one popular and non-threatening black guy at this white school.
- Said out loud in the climactic battle at the end of "Magical Negro Fight", when Mr. Stanley and Carl have a magic battle which ends up destroying them both.
- The Tape Knew You Would Say That: At the end of "Rap Album Confessions", Gun Rack apparently knew exactly how and when he was going to get caught when he recorded the bonus track.Ha-ha ha! That's right, I'm a murderer, come get me!
I'm down the hall, you can't get me!
Oh- oh, ok you got me! You got me. Oh whoah whoah, damn damn damn chill! Ow, OW!
- This Loser Is You: The Wendell sketches.
- This Is Gonna Suck: Andre feels compelled to duke it out with much more formidable guys who have insulted Meegan, despite knowing he's gonna get clobbered. He gets bonus points for punching himself out for calling Meegan a bitch in a moment of anger.
- Toilet Humor: "Where My Dookie Go":
- Token Black Friend:
"Those are my seven white boys!"
- 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!"
- "A Capella": Parodied. Peele's character is the only black guy in an all-white a capella group, and he gets territorial when Key's character tries out. Later, Peele's character shows up at an all-white improv group Key's character has joined.
- Token Minority: Downplayed, since every player is technically a minority minus A.A. Ron Balakey, but three non-African American minorities show up in the second East-West Bowl sketch.
- On the East team, there's Decatholac Mango, from Georgia Tech, whose accent implies he is an immigrant, though where exactly he is from is a mystery.
- On the West team, there's Huka'lakanaka Hakanakaheekalucka'hukahakafaka from the University of Hawaii, whose name and alma mater imply he's at least partially Native Hawaiian, and Benedict Cumberbatch from Oxford University, who's Black British rather than African American.
- Token White: Always the Odd Name Out at the end of the various East-West Bowl sketches.
- Too Kinky to Torture: Tyrell, who wants to win Fronthand Backhand.
- 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".
- "Bling Benzy vs. Da Struggle:" The single mother not only fails to react to Bling groping and jiggling her breasts, she doesn't seem to notice someone snatching her baby from her arms.
- 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.
- Weirdness Magnet: Levi has somehow come into possession of a variety of fantastical creatures and items, from a rat that can prepare food (granted not without nibbling and crapping on it as it goes) to literal lightning in a bottle. He doesn't seem to realize how out-of-the-ordinary any of these things are to encounter in real life.
- 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 one-upmanship 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.
- Doubly funny in that the restaurant not only has these things in the kitchen, but the waitress pleasantly asks them if they want hot sauce with that.
- One of the West Coast players introduces himself as "Benedict Cumberbatch - Oxford University" in a high-brow British accent.
- Who Names Their Kid "Dude"?: The East/West Bowl skits are loaded with examples, including one player 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.
- Wholesome Crossdresser: Peele will commonly play a woman in some sketches, though Key has dressed as a woman too.
- Word Salad Lyrics: The lead singers of It's Happenin'! 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.
- Writing About Your Crime: The sketch "Rap Album Confessions" has a rapper being interrogated by a cop about committing murder and denying he did it despite writing an entire song that talks about how he committed the murder.
- 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.