If someone had told me that from the duo of Key and Peele, one would go on to be a visionary film director, winning an Oscar for his film, thereby leaving his partner in the dust of the culture zeitgeist, I would have laughed at you.
For one thing, was Key and Peele an amazing, groundbreaking show in its own right, that really had no business winning an Oscar when compared to Academy’s traditional standards.
Of course, Get Out is not Key and Peele. Who could have predicted that?
Moreover though, the genius of Key and Peele was the Key AND Peele portion. The two were just as an integral to get the vehicle in motion. Sure other duo based sketch shows have existed, Mr. Show with Bob and David (which really was more of an ensemble based show with two front men), Portlandia (which starred Fred Armisen, a by then seasoned veteran of the sketch show Saturday Night Live), and even going as far back to some of the British hits like Peter Cook and Dudley Moore (not quite a sketch show, but travelling duo nonetheless).
I’m not here to argue or say that Key and Peele is better than any of those shows or groups, but something about their years of performing together for MadTV seemed to create a cohesiveness that was uncanny. They entered the world together, as a joint entity. Even when the two got their first motion picture, Keanu, they made eachother the co-stars. They went on to host award shows together. They performed at functions and on online webisodes together.
In some respects, they were such a tight unit, that to see them apart was almost jarring, even though it happened all the time.
And I think just as interesting as Get Out was for horror and cinema and comedy and prestige, so was how they both have managed to transition to their next phases of career. Jordan Peele finding himself behind the camera more and more and Keegan-Michael Key being thrown across large Hollywood blockbusters and independent projects.
And while Peele has a revolutionary moment in filmmaking and storytelling, I would still like to pay my respects to Keegan, a true screen-stealing talent who manages to captivate me with his presence in nearly everything he is in.
This weekend, Comedy Central released a YouTube Best Of for his performance on its parody Cops show Reno 911, where he played a criminal who would call the cops on himself only to hypothetically confess to his crimes.
The bit is as dumb as it sounds, which equates, of course, to comedic gold in Reno 911, a show where stupidity is king.
My favorite of the scenes is this one below where Key has called the police because as a self-proclaimed vagabond he was going to spend the night in a car parked on the street. Horrifyingly enough, he happens to stumble across the severed head of a “23-year-old male.” A hyper-specific description which is the first tip off to the dim-witted cops themselves.
Later as the cops continue to interrogate him, all of course in hypotheticals, he blurts out the name of Jerome, his cousin. When the police question him on Jerome’s whereabouts, he assures them, “He is alive. He is alive…with the Lord.”
He is bagged right there on the spot.
For a show that literally never had a script written, to consistently bring the heat and funny the way that he does in this compilation is actually really impressive. Anyone who can hold their own on that show is truly talented and every once in a while we should be reminded as such.
I’m not sure if we realize how cool it was that Key and Peele happened. There is some revisionist history on it. Dave Chappelle came out and sai he felt like they were doing his show, which while it was certainly inspired by the things Chappelle’s Show was able to do, it feels a bit over the top to call it the same thing.
And the truth is that Chappelle stopped doing his show. And he had his reasons, which I have adamantly defended before and will never condemn him for walking away when he did. That was his right and his choice. But there was a void. And these two black guys created interesting, thought provoking, culturally resonant, and most importantly hilarious content for 5 seasons.
Also, I think there is often times a narrative to pit two people in duos against each other. People want to create narratives with winners and losers. And the great thing about Key and Peele, is that when they win, we win. So I’m not rooting for one over the other, I love that they are both succeeding.
I went to Wreck-It Ralph 2 to this weekend and they did a delightful PG take on their valet characters, this time as an animated stuffed bear and duck for Toy Story 4. It was cute, funny, and great.
And then later that day I saw the video of all of these Reno 911 sketches. And it was again, fucking great.
It is probably unnecessary to have a post dedicated to Key and his comedic genius. We know. His resume is ridiculous: Mad-TV, a slew of movie and TV appearances, and then co-creating a watershed moment in comedy with Key and Peele. A show that brought a specific level of production value and aesthetic chops to sketch comedy.
He could rest on his laurels for the rest of his career and still have accomplished so much.
But still he pops in shows and movies and continues to entertain. To make viewers laugh.
And as this Reno 911 compilation reminded me, he is one of the best we have at doing just that.