Fav Five Key & Peele Skits

Key and Peele: The funniest men on American television.

Key and Peele: The funniest men on American television.

For those of you who don’t know Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peele (aka: Key and Peele), they are simply the funniest comedy duo in America (rivaled on the English speaking world by only Daivd Mitchell and Robert Webb).  The story goes that both were applying to the position of ‘token Black comedian’ on MADtv, and whilst competing against each other, producers thought the two had such great chemistry that they hired both.  Though they had funny moments on MADtv, much of their work was diluted by the other writers on the show.  When they got their own sketch show, title Key & Peele, on Comedy Central, their brilliance shone through quickly.  The comedy is largely based on issues of perceived race, cultural and social constructs, and stereotypes, but goes beyond that and lampoons and satirizes social conventions without finger pointing, and they manage to do it in a fashion that allows the viewer to laugh at themselves.  Below are my Fav5 Key & Peele sketches.

 

5: Phone Call:

In ‘Phone Call’, Key and Peele employ their sharp wit to demonstrate how far reaching the hegemonic institutions that encourage stereotypes based on perceived race really are.  Many might assume that it is white people who often stereotype people of colour, but in this skit, two men of colour who happen to be walking in an unfamiliar neighbourhood project stereotypes onto each other as they pass, both transitioning from their authentic selves into a projection of a stereotype which they think will give them an austere that will dissuade a perceived threat from engaging them, only to revert back to their true selves and reveal that stereotypes can be used as a defensive mechanism in more ways than one and that our perceptions are indeed our realities. 

Soul Food:

Similarly, the skit ‘Soul Food’ demonstrates how cultural constructs of ‘Blackness’ can transform authentic culture into archetypes or stereotypes that are used as measuring stick to determine how ‘Black’ somebody is, and that such constructs can fail to accurately represent an authentic person who allows their own identity to be usurped by a cultural identity that is prescribed to them.

4: Slave Auction:

There is a tradition handed down from the slave generation known as ‘the dozens’.  The tradition involves demonstrating one’s quick wit and mastery of the language by throwing insults at the person with whom they are competing. The source of the phrase is not clear, but it has been suggested that during slave auctions, ‘slaves’ who were considered inferior, be it due to a perceived physical or mental deficiency, were lumped into with a dozen or so other slaves.  Referring to another man as having belonged to ‘the dozens’ then, would have been one of the common insults, though this has not been verified.  In the skit ‘Slave Auction’, Key and Peele recreate the slave auction setting and employ similar insults, at once swearing to fight the bonds of slavery, whilst simultaneously being insulted that they are passed up for other men.  The resulting scenario is at once hilarious, offensive and in all likelihood, tragically accurate. 

3: Anger Translator:

It’s no secret that the stereotype of the ‘angry Black man’ has been one which Barack Obama has had to be very cautious not to reinforce.  Indeed, there is perhaps no sitting president who has been the target of so many overt insults and instances of disrespect in the house than Obama, but he has managed to remain calm at all times, despite the fact that Republicans have not.  Key and Peele’s ‘Anger Translator’ serves to offer the kind of response that the Republican ought to be getting, whilst at the same time pulling out the subtext of language often employ by politicians, especially a politician like Obama who has to skirt around issues like his place of birth and religious allegiances.  The resulting scenario is priceless. 

Driving Lesson:

And for those who enjoy Peele’s Obama impersonation, the ‘Driving Lesson’ skit demonstrates that despite the fact that there is a man of colour in the White House, doesn’t mean that prejudices based on perceived race no longer exists.

2: Substitute Teacher:

In the Black community, many parents opt to reject Anglicized names when assigning a name to their children, or take ownership over such names by creating unique spellings that make the names unique.  This has been a point of misunderstanding within ‘white America’, as those with European heritage often fail to understand the purpose of this tread and frequently malign the pronunciation of such names.  In ‘Substitute Teacher’, Key reverses the role, so rather than a white teacher who is out of touch with Black subculture, a teacher of colour is bastardizing the pronunciation of Anglicized names.  On the surface it seems ridiculous and absurd, but ultimately it shows that when there exists a disconnect between educators and students, the obstacles created by cultural biases can impact performance.     

1: I Said ‘Bitch’:

Quintin Tarantino’s film Reservoir Dogs encapsulated this skit when Mr. Orange and Mr. White were talking about how Black women and Black men interact, but Key and Peele just explode the perception of how the word ‘bitch’ is employ, by placing it in a more practical setting.  It is not secret that in hip-hop the word ‘bitch’ is used excessively.  Some argue that is a term of endearment, others that it is a cultural word that has a different meaning, whilst more reasonable minds see it as a problematic term that encourages misogynistic mentalities and dehumanizes women.  Key and Peele seem to be of the latter group, and like the men of which Mr. White and Mr. Orange, are not likely to use insulting terms when addressing the women with whom they share their lives.  When boasting to each other about how they called their wives ‘bitch’ when chastising them, they demonstrate how there are expected to maintain a certain indifferent control in their relationships, whilst the reality is that the wives command far more respect than they are willing to concede to.

Honourable Mention:

Das Negro:

Speaking of stereotypes, the skit ‘Das Negro’ does an excellent job of demonstrating how invested people can be in their stereotypes, so much so that more identifiable methods of categorization, such as skin colour, can be missed by those who are too preoccupied with certain constructs. 

Office Homophobe:

Stereotypes related to perceived race are not the only ones Key and Peele satirize.  In ‘Office Homophobe’, Key and Peele demonstrate that amongst sub-cultures, prescribed or popular characteristics do not dictate identity.  It encourages us to consider those who stand outside of stereotypes. 

 

 

Rambler About Rambler

Jason John Horn is a writer and critic who recently completed his Master's in English Literature at the University of Windsor. He has composed a play, a novella and a number of short stories and satirical essays.

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