Mon 6.16.2014

Key and Peele Reveal the Roots of Their Own Special Brand of Funny

Elvis Mitchell introduced Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peele at the Los Angeles Film Festival last night as “the two black men who won the Peabody Award not for tragedy, but for comedy.” The stars of the critically acclaimed and popular Comedy Central show, Key and Peele “who fearlessly apply their mischievous minds and satirical savvy to racially aware sketches both broad and incisive” revealed the roots of their comedic philosophy and presented clips from some of their favorite sketches that have influenced their style.

Here is a breakdown of the sketches and how they described their influence on the comedians’ own brand of comedy:

“The Audition” sketch from HBO’s Mr. Show with Bob and David, starring Bob Odenkirk and David Cross
The now classic sketch, which they call their “comedic template,” features David Cross playing a character who is auditioning in front of casting agents who can’t quite distinguish the monologue from the audition process itself. For Key and Peele it’s about developing the  “invisible game of the scene,” when the audience is aware of the situation that is being played out but the characters don’t.

“Louie” sketch from MTV’s The State comedy show, featuring Ken Marino as Louie who visits Jesus and his disciples at The Last Supper.
The Louie character on The State was a recurring character best known for the line: “I wanna dip my balls in it!” The sketch, which parodies sketch comedy and its reliance on catchphrases, was a formative one for Key and Peele because for their show they started out not wanting to do any recurring characters. That hasn’t been the case, however, as fans of the show can now recognize characters like the valet guys or Luther, the anger translator. “What we did was we ended bringing back characters to scenarios that weren’t originally written for them.”

“The Last of the Timbuks” sketch from In Living Color
The sketch, in which a runaway slave who has been living and hiding in a cave since the 19th century suddenly makes it out and doesn’t realize its 1994, was a major influence on the comedians who explained that it proved how far you can push to the envelope when talking about race. The duo also cited Dave Chappelle as an inspiration. “The Last of the Timbuks” influence is best seen in “Auction Block,” they said, in which they play two slaves who are annoyed when they are not bought at an auction.

Adding a nod to Sid Caesar and Red Skelton as other influences on their show, Key made it clear that, as comedians and writers, “We always look at stuff that is la crème de la crème and reach for that.”

Diana Buendia / Festival Blogger